Body odor is an inevitable consequence of being an athlete. Runners are not an exception. Tell me, have you ever been to a race and noticed how much of the population have not really hit the showers before they showed up at the starting line? Almost half! Why you ask? Well, let me ask you back. Is taking a shower your usual routine before hitting the asphalt in the morning? I’ll bet my Asics you’ll say no.
It is a great feeling to be running with hundreds of runners in the morning; it keeps you occupied by just observing what the other runners wear, how they stride, how they breathe and how much they sweat. It is unfortunate though that the daily aroma of freshly-cut grass, morning dew, and crisp daylight had to be often associated with a lot of sweating and bacteria rapidly mixing altogether to release a foul odor that can even scare a skunk away. Multiply that by a hundred and you still wonder why a lot of runners end up delirious at the finish line. It is truly embarrassing to be carrying that burden of being a skunk-killer and quite offensive to those who had to experience it. Before I upset someone or ruin this piece because of stink, let us refrain from using the word ‘odor’. Instead, I will be a lady and talk about scents. A runner, or an athlete for the benefit (or not) of our audience, releases a great deal of sweat (when running, of course).
However, doctors say that a lot of what really smells is not sweat but the waste products from the bacteria that are living and having a blast on one’s skin. These are the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids that your body releases while sweating. When you run and the bacteria in your body meet up with your sweat and discuss the possibilities of putting up an olfactory business, chances are every living thing within 2 feet of you either sneezes or gets a very bad case of migraine. The smell is most likely to occur in your feet, groin, armpits, genitals, pubic hair and other hair (apologies to those having their post-run meal now), belly button, and even behind the ears.
While pacing up 5:30 per mile and raising your heart rate to 175, you should be sweating normally. This is your body’s healthy response and the amount of scent you emit from sweating it out varies from the runner beside you and the hundreds of runners in that race. In fact, each individual has his own specific scent and has been used by dogs especially to identify their master from other people. So, what gives out the smell? It could be the Adobong Manok you ate last night, or the supplements you took this morning or a chemical imbalance that you never thought your body had. As it turns out, avoiding the showers in the morning is only one major cause for the stink because your scent also has a lot to do with your diet and your lifestyle. Believe it or not, you can also blame it on your genes and your gender. You may have the looks and the head-turning ass to boot, but your genes could also have influenced the amount of sweat and the modicum of smell your body excretes. In addition to this, study says that men are more prone to smelly armpits (and all other parts of the body) than women.
In keeping it simple, personal hygiene is still the best advice. Your foul scent may be altered (or reduced) by taking a bath or shower regularly and by using deodorants or antiperspirants. As much as you want to keep your body from sweating, it is still necessary because it helps prevent the body from overheating when running. Hair under the armpits is also believed to slow down the evaporation of sweat which gives the bacteria enough time to party and turn into gremlins. Thus, shaving the armpits regularly can also help control the scent in that area. Besides, it is more fashionable to wear singlets without the hair peeking out. Cutting down on spicy food such as garlic, onions and curried meals may also help moderate the stench from your sweat. Maintaining a well-balanced diet which includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains do not only help reduce the smell but ensures a healthy eating habit. However, there are some medical conditions that your body may also be experiencing which poses a threat to your quest for being smell-free. These are heart and thyroid problems, kidney failures and diabetes. These can also cause excessive and abnormal body sweat. If you would like to find out more, visit your doctor and take the sweat test (I bet there’s one in this country already).
It seems that everything you really need to know about keeping the smell at bay, you have learned from kindergarten. Take a bath, wash your hands and face, brush your teeth, eat regularly, sleep early, and check with the doctor when necessary. So, are you taking a shower before that run then? Keep it to yourself and be sure to heed my advices above, otherwise keep praying that we’ll never have skunks in this part of the country. My two ‘scents.’ (also published in frontRunner Magazine)