Flip open a magazine to the latest athleisure-wear advertisement and you may think it’s normal to look like an effortless, floating swan when you work out, nary a stray ponytail hair out of place. But when it comes to fitness, it’s not all green smoothies and effortless updos. There’s a whole lot of embarrassing things that can go down when you’re working out, from digestive problems to skin issues and beyond. We’ve been there, which is why we’re answering your so-called embarrassing fitness questions to show you that for everyone, the quest to get fit can be, well….a little messy. Read on to find the answers to those fitness q’s you’ve always wanted to ask. Yes, you’re 100% normal, we promise.
1) Why does my face turn beet-red after a few minutes of working out?
For many people, a bright red face during or after exercise is as normal of a reaction as sweating. Some people experience it more often than others, and fair-skinned individuals may be more susceptible. In some cases, rosacea may be the culprit, as exercise is one of the most common triggers for a rosacea flare-up. If you suffer from rosacea, you likely experience facial flushing at other times asides from your workouts, too. Contact your dermatologist to see what skin treatments or medications are available to help lessen your symptoms.
2) Why do I let out a little pee when I exercise?
This is very common amongst anyone who’s had a child—the term is stress incontinence—meaning you involuntarily leak out a little urine. It can happen when you exercise, laugh, or even sneeze. First and foremost, don’t be embarrassed. Nearly every woman that’s given birth has experienced this. There are, however, two things you can do to improve stress incontinence: learn how to do kegels, and practice engaging your pelvic floor in Pilates-based exercises. Both of these actions can help strengthen your pelvic floor and reduce the severity of your stress incontinence. This article shows you both of those simple steps to improving stress incontinence.
3) Will running make my boobs sag?
As OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck tells Women’s Health, “Sag happens to all breasts—it’s natural for the collagen that keeps breasts firm to stretch out thanks to gravity, time, pregnancy, weight gain, or weight loss.” There’s limited research, but Dweck says the up and down motion of running could logically contribute to sagging as well, but the health benefits of running definitely outweigh that possibility. If you wear the right sports bra, your girls shouldn’t experience a lot of movement anyway. So keep running!
4) My workout clothes seem to have a permanent odor, even though I wash them. What gives?
The nature of sportswear is that often, it’s made up of fabrics that naturally repel water (good for wicking away sweat; bad for absorbing water from the washer). A helpful way to give your workout gear a more thorough cleaning? Pre-soak in cold water combined with one cup of white vinegar before tossing it in the washer. No, it won’t leave a vinegar-y smell after all is said and done and your clothes have been washed and dried. You can also try adding a cup of baking soda to the wash cycle instead. Either option will give your laundry a little boost to get those hard-won odors out of your gym clothes.
5) Why do I seem to sweat so much more than other people at the gym?
How much you sweat is really individual, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything positive or negative about your exercising ability. On average, men tend to sweat more than women, and if you are overweight you may sweat more near the end of your workout because it takes more for your body to cool itself down. But ultimately, it’s not a bad thing if you find yourself drenched in sweat while the person next to you on their machine seems to be relatively dry.
Related: The Skinny On Sweat
6) Why does running long distances make me have to poop?
Long distance running can aggravate some people’s digestive systems, particularly if you suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). But you don’t necessarily have to have pre-existing digestive issues to get some unpleasant stomach symptoms on long runs. For example, studies show that as much as 50% of runners in a 10k race experience digestive issues, including runner’s trots. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but there are things you can do to combat the unpleasant reality of urgent, frequent bathroom trips. Avoid high-fiber foods a few days before a big race, stay well-hydrated, and don’t go overdo it with caffeine.
7) Ok, if I’m working out all week….how long is too long to go without actually washing my hair?
Dry shampoo addicts, unite. We’ve been known to go quite a few days without succumbing to the shampoo, condition, and blowdry routine. When you’re exercising at high intensities, though, your hair will naturally get greasy, sweaty, and dirty a lot faster. So use common sense: if you’re sweating it out 5 days a week, you might not want to go an entire week without washing your mane. But, if you’re like us, you’re not dripping sweat every single morning; maybe a high intensity workout one day, a light cardio workout the next. If your hair feels greasy and dry shampoo won’t do the trick, then yes—it’s time to get it wet.
8) Why do I tend to pass gas during certain yoga poses?
Passing gas during the occasional downward dog is extremely common. Why? You’re bending and stretching, which massages the internal organs—which can sometimes stimulate your digestion. (There’s even a yoga pose called “wind reliever” if you can believe it). To help avoid it, try to limit any high fiber snacks beforehand, and do a bit of stretching before your actual class to, er, get anything out ahead of time. Try these 7 yoga poses for digestion to ease a troubled tummy either pre-class or any time.
9) I get out of breath just walking up the stairs. How do I truly start exercising again?
What holds many people back from exercise is intimidation. But everyone has to start somewhere. A great place to start? Walking! Try these walking workouts and consider purchasing a Fitbit or other device to track your steps each day. Aim to gradually increase your intensity and mileage (or number of steps) each day and you’ll soon find movements that once left you breathless feel empowering and easier. After walking, set new goals for yourself like jogging, incorporating some light strength training, or following a 28-day workout calendar with different routines each day.