Working Out Makes Me Fart, And Apparently I’m Not Alone
Most people have an embarrassing story that involves passing gas. Everyone farts, yet the act of doing it in public — at least audibly — seems to be one of the most taboo things you can do. We’ve all been there; the pressure builds and one slips out or you decide to let it go for fear of your insides exploding. But “there” is variable, and whether you’re in the grocery store, classroom, conference room, or airplane, the best you can hope for is a silent one that can be passed off as someone else’s or one that isn’t too rank. I’m not above occasionally crop dusting if I have to, but I try to keep it together when I’m in public spaces because that’s gross and I expect the same from others.
But I can’t keep the same promise if I’m working out. My body doesn’t give a fuck if I’m in a yoga studio or CrossFit gym. My ability to be okay with this is knowing I’m not alone: Working out makes us fart.
When my kids were babies and had what I called stuck farts, I would put them on their backs and gently push their knees to their chests and then bicycle their legs for them. Or I would gently bounce them up and down on my knee. These compressions changed the way they were breathing and physically moved the uncomfortable air out of their bodies. I was moving my baby’s body to get them to fart. In unintentional ways, exercise does the same thing to adults. I’m not the only one who has struggled through happy baby pose or a front squat without letting one go.
Peyton Berookim, MD, director of the Gastroenterology Institute of Southern California, says, “Any exercises that involve physical bending or twisting can cause the air in our digestive tract to be literally pushed out.” Has anyone gotten through a yoga session without farting?
Strength training and weight lifting sessions are often my most flatulent times. I show no restraint during home workouts and am thankful for the social distancing during CrossFit classes.
Breathing is an important component to weight training, especially for those of us who practice Olympic style lifting or lift heavy loads with dumbbells. To be clear, breathing is important at all times when you’re working out, but the technique often used when weight training is called the Valsalva maneuver.
The idea is to take a deep breath and hold it through the full range of the lift’s motion, exhaling at the top or finished part of the lift. For example, when squatting most lifters will take a deep breath before they begin to lower themselves into the squat then hold it until they return to the their upright, standing position. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth reduces air build up in the body. But if all of that held air isn’t released through the mouth, it’s likely to come out your ass. What a sport, huh?
This type of breathing also reminds lifters to brace the core, but squeezing the midline means squeezing the colon; bracing your body to push out that rep means you’re also likely to push out a fart.
Sticking to aerobic exercise won’t save you either. If you’ve never started a jog or jump rope session without a few puffs of gas pushing you along then what kind of cyborg are you? Dr. Berookim reminds us that jostling our insides speeds up the digestion process which causes the gas in our GI tract to escape at higher and more powerful rates. See runner’s diarrhea for proof. Dehydration can cause diarrhea too, so be sure you’re drinking enough water while working out.
But don’t gulp it if you don’t want a gassy anus. Wait until your breathing has slowed down and you’re able to take small sips, otherwise you’re just inviting more air into your body that will need to make its way out.
Beware of what you eat before working out too. High fiber foods like beans and veggies or wheat and whole grains are good for you but can create a lot of gas. Add some jumping, power snatches, or downward dog to the mix and you’re likely to clear the gym. Sugary energy drinks or carbonated water will do the same. Because I don’t need to add fuel to the intestinal fire, I stick with granola and yogurt, oatmeal, or a spoonful of peanut butter about an hour before I work out. You know what’s not good? An egg, sausage, and potato bowl. Thankfully that was a home session.
I’m not advocating being an inconsiderate jerk when you’re at the gym, but know that you’re not alone if you suddenly realize you need to fart or realize it too late. Holding it in can be painful so if no one is around, let it go. If people are around, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom — or at least to an empty part of the gym. Letting a fart squeak through your cheeks while working out is not the end of the world, nor are you the only one in the world who this has happened to. It is what it is — and sometimes it stinks.
Enjoy your workout, friends.
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