Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beginners' Guide: The Proper Application of Body Glide

I don't think that I've ever chafed as much as I did at this last race.

There are always blisters, mind you. There's always at least one toe that gets rubbed a little raw, and I walk funny for a couple days after.

But this time, I have blisters on the ends of most of my toes, the back of my heels, a nasty-looking cut from where the chip-timing band cut into my leg, and a little spot on my right hip that's from God-only-know-what.

All that to say that lube is important. And if you're a newbie, you might not know that.

Body Glide is probably the most popular choice for triathletes and runners, but you have other options as well. I've found that Chamois Butt'r, which is more popular with cyclists, works just as well and is easier to apply, in some cases. I'm sure there are other suitable options, as well. But Body Glide seems to be the one that most triathletes use, so I'll stay within that realm for the purpose of not confusing the hell out of everyone.

Body Glide looks like a stick of deodorant. It's a lubricant that will help prevent chafing in . . . all kinds of uncomfortable places. It's an important thing to have in your gear bag, whether you're swimming, cycling, running, or doing all three.

But where do you put the stuff? Are there any sort of guidelines for which areas need to be covered?

Before I answer that question, understand that Body Glide is probably not something that you want to share with your friends or teammates unless you are very, very close.

That said, there aren't really any guidelines as far as where you use Body Glide. The main thing is to put it wherever you find you blister or chafe. But here are a few places that I find it to be really helpful.

Backs of the ankles, tips of the toes, side of the big toes, in between the toes (particularly between the fourth toe and the little toe), and the inside of the medial sides of your feet. Body Glide will help prevent blisters, so be liberal with it on your tootsies, especially if you're planning to race without socks. I also like to put Body Glide on the backs of my cycling and running shoes, where they rub my ankles.

Sometimes I have trouble with chafing along the elastic leg-gripper bands on bike shorts; this isn't usually an issue with silicone grippers, I've noticed. More importantly, hit the creases of your thighs with the stuff, right where the leg joins your hip. I've had that area rubbed raw by the flat-lock seams of the chamois in my tri shorts; it seems like it's worse in tri shorts. If you have thighs that rub together (like me) when you run, you can also rub Body Glide in that area, and you'll be much less likely to deal with those uncomfortable quarter-sized patches on the insides of your legs that take forever to heal and hurt like a mofo.

Armpits, especially if you shave them. Even a little stubble can be excruciating if your arms are swinging back and forth for hours at a time. Also hit the insides of your arms all over. It's entirely possible that you'll have a seam in your top that can rub the soft inside of your upper arm raw. That's another place that's very uncomfortable and takes a while to heal.

Very important to have some Body Glide if you have a wetsuit swim. Put body glide on your wrists and ankles first, to make it easier to slide the suit over your hands and feet. Also put body glide all around your neck, or wherever the suit hits you, and on the insides of your arms, if you have a sleeveless suit.

In addition to Body Glide, you can do yourself the favor of not wearing cotton for racing or training, and that includes socks. Technical clothing is more expensive, but it's well worth it in terms of value and comfort. So drop the extra $20 for the good stuff. Improper run mechanics and ill-fitting shoes can cause blistering, so work on your run form and make sure you have quality shoes. These seem like things that wouldn't be a big deal, but they can make a big difference in how you feel on race day, which translates to a better race.

Beyond those basic (and very common) guidelines to prevent chafing, you need to find your own way. For example, I have got this spot on my hip about two inches above my ASIS that is rubbed raw. I have no idea what did it; it's never happened before; but you can bet that I'll be putting some lube over that spot before my next race.


  1. Do you ever find it necessary to add body glide during a race or does your initial application seem to last the entire race?

  2. Great question! I found that lubricant was less vital if I got all my equipment sorted really well in training. For my Ironman, I put Body Glide on before the swim and took the time in T1 to put Chamois Butt'r on under my bike shorts. I reapplied Chamois Butt'r halfway through the bike when I got my special needs bag. I didn't have any chafing issues during the run, but I did have a pair of fresh socks that I put on halfway through the run. For something less than a full-distance, I don't think I would bother re-applying lube. I would definitely re-apply sunscreen frequently, though! And I think the best way to approach it is based on what you find in training. Do some long brick sessions and see how your body holds up, apply and re-apply based on that. Hope that helps!