QUESTION: I’m 51 and a strong recreational cyclist who does about 250 miles a week, including two hard 40-milers with local racers (who seem to look younger every year). Recently, my body began “helping” me prepare for each week’s two competitive rides by sending me to the bathroom several times on those days. I worry that I’ll have diarrhea while riding, though I never have. The rest of the time, my bowel habits are totally normal. I psych myself up for these race-like rides and perform well. Should I be worried about these frequent trips to the bathroom? — D.K.
RBR REPLIES: I think your intestinal activity is a result of nervousness. You probably don’t feel especially nervous because the hard rides aren’t “real races.” But if you’re getting psyched up to deal out some hurt to the youngsters, your body is preparing for action just as if it were the Tour de France.
Thanks to the gut-brain connection, the the pre-race jitters before a very hard group ride can also move right down from your brain to your gastrointestinal system, giving you the urge to poop. If you’ve ever seen the lines at the portable toilets just before an actual bike race, you’ll know that this isn’t an issue that only affects you!
The more accustomed you become to the stresses of “race day” the better your system should adapt. Don’t fight it — consider it a benefit to be empty during stressful rides.