Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chafing

Know what happens when wet skin rubs against more skin, for an hour or so?

No, not that! Seriously, is that all you think about?

The other thing that happens when wet skin... yes, that one... chafing.

Chafing: noun \ˈchā-fiŋ-\ portable grate raised on a tripod, used for heating foods that require gentle cooking, away from the heat of direct flames.

Really? That's what you think we're talking about? Rubbing wet skin creates a buffet warmer? Um... no, that's a chafing dish. What keeps you from wandering into traffic?


Chafing: noun \ˈchā-fiŋ-\ wicked abrasion of the skin, especially painful, and often first noticed, in the shower and usually accompanied by an involuntary scream of agony and/or profanity. Caused primarily by running long distances while carrying a bit too much weight, and by carrying weight we don't mean bags of kitty litter, we mean you're skin is too full of stuff, making it rub against the skin across the way. - Webster's 73rd edition*

Runners chafe primarily in 3 areas. Here they are in order of prevalence:
  1. Inner thighs - That paints a lovely picture, doesn't it? Two thighs rubbing against each other... Oh boy! Yeah, well just wait...
  2. Between one's butt cheeks - See? A little worse, isn't it?
  3. Inner arm and just below one's armpits - You were kinda scared that this one was going to be really gross, weren't you.
Armpit chafing is less prevalent. It's usually caused by a lot of arm swings and a lot of sweat on a really long run. Chubby arms will make it worse, but skinny arms are almost as susceptible.

Inner thigh chafing is pretty much always caused by having a little extra thigh meat down there. When you swing your legs back and forth, that extra meat can't help but bump into each other. Introduce a little sweat into the equation and you've got the makings of Frictionpalooza.

An easy way to avoid Frictionpulooza is to corral those rogue thighs inside appropriately high-tensile Lycra shorts or tights. Properly contained, they can't rub. Problem solved. Kinda.

The squeezing nature of Lycra can be used for good and evil. What confines thighs will also squeeze cheeks, leading to skintastrophy #2 (unfortunate number for this one). That's not to say that #2 can't occur all on it's own, but cramming your trunk into an elastic vice is going to make it way more likely.

So what are chafing sufferers to do? Choose between smoldering thighs or a crack flame-up? Just accept that for a day after a long run we'll have to hold your arms out to your sides in the classic "Look Mommy, I'm an airplane" pose?

"They called my row. Will someone please pickup my purse?"

No, of course not.

The solution to chafing, and so many more of life's unpleasantries, is lubrication. No not Vaseline. That goop stains clothes and doesn't last very long. Plus, application goes something like this...

No one wants to see this.

The best way, in my educated opinion**, to avoid turning your skin against itself is BodyGlide.** Yeah, I know it sounds like it might be something kinda, you know, dirty... but I assure you, it's not. It comes in a tube just like a stick deodorant.

And you apply it just like one too, right on the hot spot. But, remember to apply it BEFORE your run. A couple swipes on each inner thigh, or above and below your pits, or, you know, right there in the crack of dawn, and you'll avoid that big surprise/scream of agony in the shower. And you won't spend the day walking around like this...

"No. No. Don't touch me! I ran 20 this morning and I'm chafed like a baboon's butt."
- Nicole Richie


Good running,
Doug

*Not actually in dictionary, not that way at least.
**I'm a fan of BodyGlide because it has worked well for me for years. No money, no sponsorship, not even any free BodyGlide, though I would gladly accept all of these and man I'd whore myself out like you wouldn't believe.
***BodyGlide also works well preventing the dreaded bloody nipple syndrome, and hotspots on your feet from running shoe friction.

Images from here and here and here and here and here and here.