How To Prevent Chafing When Exercising In Hot Weather

two people running on a road alongside a beach on a hot day. they're wearing shorts and likely to be suffering from thigh chafing in the hot weather.

The hot weather brings ice cream, it brings paddling pools and water balloon fights, it brings BBQs and Pimms, and it brings long lazy days filled with the sounds of lawn mowers, aeroplanes and kids having fun in the garden. However, as nice as the summer sunshine is, it also brings out a few nasties too. We’re talking hayfever, wasp stings, sunburn and perhaps the most annoying and most embarrassing of the lot… chafing.

Chafing, or chub rub as it is often delightfully known, is damage caused to the skin through repetitive rubbing either from skin on skin contact or skin against material.  Although you can experience chafing in all weathers you are much more likely to suffer from it in hot weather, particularly if you exercise in it, as sweat is one of the biggest culprits for the dreaded chafe. You see when you sweat, salt crystals begin to form as the sweat dries and this creates friction between your skin and whatever else it comes into contact with. Imagine attaching sandpaper to the inside of one of your thighs, yep makes you shudder thinking about it right? And the more it rubs, the more tender and irritated the skin becomes, to the point the surface of the skin may break causing painful bleeding and potentially infected areas of skin.

Some bodily areas are more prone to chafing than others and a lot of it will depend on the type of exercise you’re doing. For example, runners and walkers are prone to inner thigh chafing and sometimes also nipple and armpit chafing. Whereas cyclists are more likely to get a bit, well let’s just say… saddle sore! And irrespective of the name chub rub chafing is not solely reserved for those of us who are, well let’s just say on the larger side of life. Because unless you are miraculously sweat free (in which case I beg you to let me in on your secret) or you’ve got a whopping great thigh gap, then I’m sorry but there ain’t no one immune to the chafe!

It’s only natural during the summer to want to don the shorts and exercise more outdoors – hey it’s one of the only times us Brits get to top up the Vit D levels and be in with a vague chance of catching a tan – and with our 4 step technique you’ll be able to enjoy doing it without worrying about chafing.

Hydrate Well To Prevent Chafing

Drinking plenty of water is always a good idea when it’s hot, but when you’re exercising it’s even more important. Guidelines recommend you should be aiming to drink:

  • 450 – 550ml of water 2 to 3 hours before exercising.
  • 225ml of water 20 to 30 minutes before exercising.
  • 200 – 300ml every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
  • 225ml of water within 30 minutes after exercising.

But what’s being well hydrated got to do with chafing?

Half full red water bottle on a pavement to indicate hydrating well to prevent chafing

Remember those sweaty salt crystals I mentioned earlier… well the better hydrated you are, the easier it is for your body to sweat, and the more sweat you produce the less likelihood of that sweat drying into salt crystals on the skin. I mean it makes sense really doesn’t it? Sweat is for the main part water, so drink more therefore sweat more.

Keep Dry to Avoid Chafing

Basically you want to be lovely and hydrated on the inside, but as dry as a bone on the outside. And yes I know I just said the more you sweat the better, but it’s all about trying to control the areas in which you sweat. Remember those key chafing areas I spoke about earlier… armpits, thighs, nipples, crotch? Well they’re the places you want to focus on keeping dry and the best solution is to use a product that will help do the job for you.

Talcum powder and cornflour are great at absorbing excess moisture, however that’s all a bit old school right, I mean who even has talcum powder these days?

You can also buy anti-chafing rubs and sprays, such as this new unique skin contact spray from Smoovall. It works a bit like a deodorant by locking in moisture but still allowing the skin to breathe. The smooth invisible layer that it forms helps protect against any potential irritation and will last up to four hours, making it great for endurance races.

Another handy anti chafe hack is to use a simple roll on deodorant in the places that you are most likely to sweat. Just remember not to use this in any sensitive areas, especially around the crotch as this is likely to cause way more irritation than if you had left the chafe to its own devices!

Appropriate Clothing Limits Chafing

The type of clothing you wear when you exercise in hot weather can really make a difference to whether you’re likely to experience chafing or not. And sure, loose floaty clothing that lets the air blow through may seem as though it’s the best choice, but actually the tighter the better.  Cycling or compression shorts are designed to give that skin-tight fit that will prevent chafing to the lower body, thigh and groin area. You can also buy skin-tight polypropylene, lycra, spandex or compression tops for you upper body if you suffer in that area. Check labels to see whether clothing is made with anti-wicking fabrics as this helps draw out moisture and also try to go for garments that have smooth seams, or ideally none at all, as this will reduce friction and lower the chances of irritation.

Headless chot of cyclist focussing on what clothes to wear to help prevent chafing

Chafing can occur even if you’re not taking part in physical exercise. Even simply walking to work whilst wearing a skirt or dress in the hot weather can be enough to bring on the chafe. It’s obviously too hot to even consider wearing tights, but you may want to think about wearing a pair of lightweight and skintight shorts underneath.

Lubrication Deters Chafing

And finally there’s good old lubrication. Whether you invest in a pot of branded sport specific lube or simply opt for a trusty tub of Vaseline, lubricating your vulnerable areas offers a slippery barrier to help prevent soreness. If you are applying lubrication beneath your clothes then it is best to choose one that has anti-staining properties and you may also want to go for an odour free version.

Prevention is obviously better than cure, however if you are already suffering from the discomfort of chafing you’ll need to use something that will help relieve the pain and irritation. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, snap one of the leaves and rub the cooling gel directly onto the affected area. Alternatively there are many aloe vera based products and gels available on the market, which contain fatty acids that have pain relieving qualities.

These are all great solutions to a summertime problem and the one that works best for you will only be decided through a bit of trial and error. Remember to always seek the advice from your doctor should an area of chafing become infected or if the skin breaks and become itchy.

Hot weather needn’t be a sight for sore thighs. Prepare your body and enjoy the many benefits of exercising outdoors in the glorious summer sun.

Have you got any tips to share with us on how to beat the chafe?

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