Running Film Review: “Limitless”

“Limitless” is a heartwarming and inspiring documentary that follows eight women from different parts of India who have taken up running at various stages in their lives. The film is an intimate portrayal of the women’s journeys, as they share their personal stories of why they started running and what it has meant to them. We see the women train, sweat and sometimes stumble, but always getting back up again with a smile on their face.

The film is a beautiful celebration of the human spirit, The candid stories capture the essence of these women who are making things work for themselves.

I’m not sure what I expected when I sat down to watch this movie, but I wasn’t expecting to find women just like the women that I coach here in Australia. Well almost the same – I don’t know that I have ever actually coached anyone to start running wearing a full burka or a sari!

The underlying theme is that running has helped women gain self confidence. It gives them an opportunity to have time to themselves. One of the runners shares here insights into the ingrained nature of putting ourselves second. As women we fit our time into whatever space we can carve out for ourselves. Everyone else is looked after, and then we look after ourselves. It’s deeply ingrained, frustratingly so, even though we know that it doesn’t have to be that way. And it’s no different for these women in India.

I found myself nodding and smiling throughout the film, hearing almost the exact words I’ve heard from some of the runners I have coached, seemingly worlds away.


“As women, none of our lives are ours. That hour is my time”

“The day I ran 30 minutes together [without stopping] I was really glad… It gave me back my confidence”

“All women who can walk should try to take to running”

“I can’t run. I’m not made for running”


The film is not just about running. It’s an insightful snapshot of the lives of these Indian women, who have chosen to run. Interesting cinematography and evocative sound track. A good way to spend an hour.

You can view the full documentary on Netflix


Running in Humidity

Once upon a time, February used to be the humid month in Sydney. You could pretty much guarantee the humidity would be layered upon a hot Sydney summer, bang on February 1st. Then spot on March 1st, the humidity would lift and we’d get back to enjoying our weather again. 

But, over the past 10-15 years, the humidity has spread its wet sticky tentacles all the way out from November through to April. 

I’ve written before about running in hot weather, how it impacts your performance, what you can do to minimise drops in performance, and how to pre-cool before training and events.  All of that is relevant for running in humidity as well, so make sure you check those articles out if you’re struggling a bit running in this weather. 

Why is it harder running in humidity?

Listen to this Hooked on Running Radio episode on hot and humid running

When you layer humidity on top of the heat, it adds a whole new dimension to the discomfort level when you are running, or doing anything more energetic than kicking back at the beach. 

What we commonly refer to as humidity, is actually a measure of relative humidity. It is the amount of moisture in the air, as a percentage of the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold. 100% humidity is when the air is at its maximum moisture capacity. And here’s the kicker. Hot air can hold more moisture than cold air. 

At -40C, no more than 0.2% of the air can be water molecules. So if 0.2% of the molecules that make up the air are water molecules, then relative humidity would be 100%. At +30C, the moisture carrying capacity of the air is 4%. So at 100% humidity, at +30C, the air will consist of 4% water molecules, plus the other molecules that make up air (nitrogen and oxygen mostly)

70% humidity, would mean that the air is carrying 70% of the moisture it is capable of holding. 

How does humidity impact running performance?

Your body sweats to cool down. Sweat evaporates off the skin, providing a cooling effect. At high levels of relative humidity, it is harder for the moisture on your skin to be absorbed into the air. There is a limited amount of moisture the air can hold. At high humidity, it is already holding a lot of moisture, so doesn’t have the capacity to absorb as much from your skin. Hence, the body’s natural cooling mechanism doesn’t work very well when you’re running in humidity. 

And that has implications for performance, and how you feel. Mostly, our bodies operate with a core temp of around 36.5-37 degrees C. If that core temp rises to around 39C, your body will start diverting blood to the skin to keep it cool. That decreases the amount of blood going to working muscles. That means your muscles will not be receiving as much oxygen, (as it is blood which carries oxygen around the body). Oxygen is needed for the release of energy in the muscles, so when your core temperature heats up, your working muscles literally don’t have as much energy, leaving you feeling fatigued, or at the very least, sluggish. 

If your core temperature creeps up another degree or so to around 40C, your brain will start to inhibit the recruitment of muscles fibres, to stop you from doing yourself damage.  Fewer muscle fibres will be available to move your limbs, so moving will feel much harder. 

Why is it harder to breathe when you are running in humidity?

Most people, if not acclimatised,  find it harder to breathe in humid conditions. This is particularly so if you have a respiratory conditions such as asthma. 

A given volume of gas,  at any given temperature and pressure, will hold a set number of molecules. That number cannot vary. Dry air is made up mostly of oxygen and nitrogen. As humidity increases, and more water molecules are suspended in the air, some of the oxygen molecules are shunted out of the air to make way for the moisture. There is less oxygen in air with high levels of humidity, than in dry air, so if you feel like you are struggling to get in enough oxygen in hot humid conditions, you are! 

A study in Nepal compared physical performance of residents living in hot humid conditions at sea level, with that of people livning at an altitude of 3800m. Not super high, but high enough for you to feel it if you are not used to living at altitude. 

The researchers concluded that the hot humid conditions at sea level negatively impacted  performance as much as the low oxygen levels at high altitude. If you’ve been at that level of altitude or higher, you’ll know you have to work a lot harder to get things done, than you do at sea level. 

Here are a couple of videos which show the impact altitude can have on your breathing. The first is me at 4600m. We’d been walking all morning, but had been pretty much at rest for 10 minutes – as much as bossing my husband around and telling him how to video can be considered resting!



This video is that very same husband after running about 100m up a slight rise, at 5300m. You can see he’s struggling to keep his breathing under control whilst he’s talking. 

Impact of humidity on asthma

If you have asthma, you get the double whammy. Breathing hot humid air can trigger airway resistance in people with asthma, as well as triggering coughs. Even if your asthma is generally only mild, it’s a good idea to take some preventative measures before running in hot humid conditions. 

Using dew point, or “feels like” temperatures to schedule your training 

The dew point is the temperature to which the air needs to cool for dew to form. It represents how much moisture is in the air. A higher dew point temperature indicates there is more moisture in the atmosphere, which will influence the way you feel. If you look at the dew point, rather than the temperature or the humidity alone, then you’ll get a better idea of when it will be more comfortable to run.

Have a look at this detailed weather forecast. You can see this info by searching on detailed forecast and your location – eg “Sydney detailed forecast” in the search box on the Bureau of Meteorolgy site.


Best time of day for running in humidity


You can see that it will be 32C at 2pm, with relative humidity of 41%. AT 11pm, the temperature drops to 25C, but relative humidity rises to 70%. The dew point at 2pm will be 17, whilst the dew point at 11pm will be 20. With the higher dew point later in the night, it might actually be more uncomfortable running than it would be at 2pm. I’d put a caveat on that – if you were running in the sun at 2pm, I think you would still find it more uncomfortable running then, than later.

Looking at dew point and the feels like temperature can give you a good idea of when will be a better time to run. Don’t forget to look at the UV index as well. (Though you don’t have to be Einstein to know that the UV index in the middle of the day will be higher than 11pm)


Running in Humidity: Dew Point Comfort Levels


I don’t mind a humid run, but if you really find running in humidity difficult, plan for a race in the less humid months for peak performance. 


Edt: Just spotted this article on Sydney’s record humidity in January 2022- Sydney Morning Herald



European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012 June; 112(6): 2313-21
“Influence of relative humidity on prolonged exercise capacity in a warm environment”
Ronald J Maughan Hidenori OtaniPhillip Watson

How To Start Running Again After COVID

It’s been around a month since I tested positive for COVID. Yesterday was only my second run since then. So why so long to get back to it?

I simply haven’t felt like it. And thanks to having the booster 10 days previous to exposure, I had a pretty mild dose. I put some of that down to post viral fatigue – I definitely was in need of a Nana nap or two early on in my recovery. Some of it I’m putting down to the weather – high humidity and heat, and some of it I’m putting down to pandemic fatigue. Like many, I’m a bit over it (and I really wish everyone would stop reminding us we are going into the 3rd year of the pandemic – like I just did!)

How Long Should It Take to Return back to pre-COVID fitness levels?

I have done a reasonable amount of walking since I have been out of isolation, and a bit of swimming. I ran a bit in a couple of walks, but for the most part, it has taken me a month to feel like running again. My energy levels have been really knocked about.

It’s going to be different for everyone, and it may not necessarily correlate with the severity of your symptoms. My son and husband have bounced back much more quickly than I have, and their symptoms seemed far worse than mine. Fair to say though, they did have a much worse strain – MOVID (Man-COVID).

If you’ve recently recovered from COVID, make sure you give yourself enough time to recover fully before you go at it hammer and tongs.

How Much Running is Too Much?

If you are not sensible about this, you run the risk of developing long COVID. Any virus should be treated with respect when it comes to post recovery resumption of exercise, to reduce the risk of long-lasting effects.

As a general rule, you should be feeling fully recovered within an hour of your exercise bout. If you have to take to the couch for the afternoon, you’ve done too much. The next day you should feel happy to do it again.

Post-COVID Running Plan

  • Start slowly. Before your first run, have a couple of walks and see how you are feeling. You might have been feeling fine sitting around your house not doing much, but a small amount of exertion after any virus can be pretty tough.
  • If walking or other light activities, such as gardening or housework (especially housework) fatigue you, stop. Try again tomorrow.
  • Build up to being able to complete a 30 minute walk whilst being able to hold a conversation without it taxing you too much. When you can do that, you are ready to try running.
  • Plan to include walking breaks in your runs. Don’t try to pick up where you left off. Even though you may have only had a week off, you have been sick with a virus about which we still don’t know a lot, so err on the side of caution.
  • If you are feeling tired whilst you’re running, take an unscheduled walking break. It’s quite ok to be walking more than you run.
  • Spend a few weeks doing low intensity exercise before you get back to anything more than a 3-4/10 effort.
  • Make sure you are well hydrated before, during and after your run, particularly on those high humidity days.

Things to Watch For When You Return to Running

Excessive breathlessness. You are likely to be a bit more breathless when you first start running, but if you are really struggling to breath and you are running slower than a snail, that is not good, and you should stop exercising.

Watch out for excessive fatigue in your day to day activities once you start exercising again. If you’re finding exercising is causing you not to be able to do your day to day stuff, then you should cut back on the exercise.

Be on the lookout for the return of symptoms you have previously had, or new symptoms. You probably don’t need a reminder, but we’re talking dizziness, excessive breathlessness, racing heart, a cough. These are all a sign you need to cut back.

If you experience chest pain, see your doctor.

And just a tip, if you have kids who have COVID, ask them specifically about symptoms. Don’t expect that they will be as hyper-aware of the clues to overdoing it as you might be.

Listen to your body and take it easy if you don’t feel up for a run. There is no shame in taking things slowly. You’ll get there eventually!

Stitches: What causes them, and how to get rid of them

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has never experienced a stitch before, yet despite this, to date, we are still not sure what causes stitches, nor how to prevent them. Not what you wanted to hear, I know!

In the literature, stitches are known as Exercise-related Transient Abdominal Pain (ETAP). According to researchers Morton and Callister, 70% of runners experience stitches, and in a running event, 20% of participants can expect a stitch. (2)

What Do We Know About Stitches?

  • Side stitches can range from a dull ache to a crampy stabbing feeling, or a pulling sensation
  • They occur most commonly on the right side in the middle third of the abdomen, adjacent to the navel 
  • The next most common area is in the left, middle area of the abdomen
  • The next most common area is around the navel
  • Around a third of people report non-injury related shoulder tip pain (STP) associated with stitches
  • The prevalence, severity and frequency of stitches decreases with age
  • BMI does not affect prevalence and frequency of stitches, but athletes with higher BMI have reported more localised stitches, and more severe 
  • Men are more likely to report a stitch as an achy type of pain, and women report it more as a stabbing, sharp pain
  • The frequency of stitches seems to decrease with frequency of training, but frequency of training has little effect on severity or prevalence of stitches. 
  • The frequency and severity of stitches seems unrelated to number of years of training and training volume
  • Athletes of all levels, from inexperienced to elites are just as susceptible to getting a stitch, however elite athletes will tend to have fewer stitches


The location of exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) reported by the combined symptomatic subjects (N = 818) in the studies by Morton and Callister [1] and Morton et al. [2].

What Don’t We Know About Stitches?

Exactly what causes them, and therefore how to prevent and treat them!!


Some Theories on What Causes Stitches

Diaphragmatic Ischemia 

More simply put, limited blood supply to the diaphragm. 

This would account for some of the things associated with stitches like shoulder tip pain. The diaphragm is mostly innervated by the phrenic nerve, which refers pain to the shoulder tip region. The outside portions of the diaphragm are innervated by other nerves which could account for the sharp and localised pain in the region just below the ribs. 

But the evidence against this theory is quite strong. Stitches are reasonably common in activities that don’t demand a lot of the respiratory system, such as horse riding and off road car racing, so a lack of blood supply to the diaphragm is not very likely. 

Also, it is very unlikely that the blood supply to the diaphragm would be limited, whilst blood supply to the working muscles would not be limited. The good functioning of the diaphragm is more important to sustaining life than is the use of the legs and arms for running, so the brain is more likely to shut off supply of blood to the working muscles before blood supply to the diaphragm shuts off – as a working diaphragm is necessary for breathing, therefore life!

Mechanical Stress on Ligaments Associated with Organs

Some of the organs in the abdomen, of note the liver and stomach, are supported by ligaments that attach onto the diaphragm. One theory on the causes of stitches is that there is mechanical stress on these ligaments, causing pain. 

This does explain why you can get a stitch in activities that have a jolting nature but low demands on the respiratory system, such as horse riding. Also, eating and drinking prior to exercise could cause a stitch by the increase in the mass in the digestive system loading the ligaments that support the stomach. Also, when you take in beverages with a high sugar content, you increase your risk of a stitch. Higher sugar content drinks (over about 10% carbs) can slow down gastric emptying, causing the fluids to stay in your stomach for longer, and therefore put more stress on the ligaments supporting the stomach. 

But… this theory does not account for stitches lower in the abdomen, nor does it account for the fact that increased BMI, which would likely put more stress on those ligaments, does not correlate with an increase in the prevalence of stitches. And another nail in the coffin for the mechanical stress theory. Pain arising from these ligaments would be likely to be similar to pain related to organs, which is usually dull, and diffuse. The pain of a stitch is more often localised and sharp. 

Gastrointestinal Disturbances

The main reason stitches have been thought of as a gastrointestinal problem is because they have been associated with eating prior to exercise. But, the pain is also commonly felt when nothing has been consumed several hours prior to exercise. Typical pain of gastrointestinal problems usually results in writhing movement to try to get relief from the pain, whereas with stitches, reducing movement and/or pressing on or massaging the area of pain has been reported to help. So the pain patterns of a stitch aren’t consistent with gastrointestinal problems. 

Muscle Cramp

In a couple of large studies, 25% of stitch sufferers described the pain as “cramping”, which led to subsequent studies which measured localized electromyographic (EMG) activity while a stitch was present. Muscular cramps are associated with high levels of EMG activity . EMG activity was not elevated at the site of the stitch during an episode of the pain, which means the muscle cramp theory is also a no go. 

Pain Causes By Nerves

This one does have some legs. 

It does seem that stitches can be affected by poor posture, particularly in the thoracic region. That’s the mid region of the back, between your neck and your lumber region (the lumber region is the bit above your backside that curves inwards). 

It’s been found that putting pressure on the vertebrae in this region of the back, specifically T8-T12, which innervates the abdominal wall, can reproduce symptoms of a stitch. In one study, a stitch could be exactly reproduced in 8 out of 17 people assessed, and the site of pain corresponded to the nerve root being pressed. 

Other cases of stitch-like symptoms where the nervous system is implicated include slipping rib syndrome which results in trauma to the adjacent nerve, abdominal wall nerve entrapment, and spinal tumours and facet joint cysts which cause compression of the nerves of the muscles between the ribs (intercostal nerves).

Intercostal nerves can also be vulnerable to compression as a result in the reduction of the height of the discs between the vertebrae – something that can happen with the dynamic and repetitive movements of the torso in running. 

Irritation of the Parietal Peritoneum

Stay with me on this one. 

The parietal peritoneum is a layer of tissue that adheres to the abdominal wall. 

The visceral peritoneum are layers of tissue lining the abdominal organs. 

The peritoneal cavity is the potential space that separates the abdominal organs and parietal peritoneum. The cavity is filled with fluid to prevent friction between the 2 layers

Increased friction between the two might be a cause of the stitch. This increased friction could be caused by the distension of the stomach post-meal. Also, changes in the thickness and quantity of the fluid in the peritoneal cavity during exercise could cause an increase in friction. 

Poor Functional Core Stability

A 2013 study of 50 runners found that those runners who did not experience stitches had  stronger transversus abdominis muscles, than those who reported experiencing stitches either weekly or yearly (though interestingly, not than those who experienced stitches monthly). The transversus abdominis muscle is a deep muscle important for stabilising the lumbar spine and pelvis. Those who did not experience stitches had significantly thicker resting transversus abdominis muscles. Better core strength and activation of the muscles of the abdomen could lead to the lessening of symptoms of a stitch. 

How to Prevent Side Stitches Whilst Running

Eating and Drinking

Don’t have foods and drinks before your run that are likely to stay in your stomach for a long time. Avoid highly sugary drinks (greater than 10% carbs) and avoid foods high in fat and fibre. If you’re taking gels or other energy boosters, make sure you are taking in water, to reduce the concentration of sugar.

Strength Training

Core strength and conditioning is important for everything we do, so even if it doesn’t stop you from getting a stitch, you should be trying to improve it! But, it does seem that improving your core strength, and improving your posture with stretching and strengthening exercises can help if you are a chronic stitch sufferer.

Improve Your Fitness

The frequency of stitches reduces with higher fitness levels, so getting fitter could help to mitigate the problem. 

Get Older

The prevalence of stitches reduces with age, so you could just sit back and wait!!!

Immediate Treatment For Stitches

Unfortunately, the best way to stop as stitch is to stop doing whatever activity is causing it. That is rarely practical.

The most common techniques to get rid of a stitch reported by sufferers in a large study off 600:

  • The most common techniques to get rid off a stitch reported by sufferers in a large study off 600,:
  • Deep breathing – reported by 40% of suffers
  • Pushing on the affected area (31%)
  • Stretching the affected side (22%)
  • Bending over forwards (8%)

Other techniques include:

  • Breathing shallowly 
  • Forcing out and sucking in between clenched teeth
  • Bracing the abdominal muscles – my personal favourite. It does seem to stop you from feeling the stitch whilst you’re bracing, but once you stop, it has a tendency to come back.



  1. Morton DP, Callister R. Characteristics and etiology of exercise-related transient abdominal pain. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32(2):432–438. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200002000-00026.

2. Morton DP, Richards D, Callister R. Epidemlology of exercise-related transient abdominal pain at the Sydney City to Surf community run. J Sci Med Sport. 2005;8(2):152–162. doi: 10.1016/S1440-2440(05)80006-4.

3. Morton DP, Richards D, Callister R. Exercise-Related Transient Abdominal Pain (ETAP) Sports Med 2015; 23–35.Published online 2014 Sep 3



Why Lockdown is Making You Tired

Why Lockdown is Making You Tired

Photo from: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

Change can be tiring and readjusting after such upheaval takes time.

Here is why you might be feeling tired while on lockdown

Sarita RobinsonUniversity of Central Lancashire and John LeachUniversity of Portsmouth

A lot of people have been posting on social media saying they have been feeling tired earlier than usual while on lockdown. Normally able to stay up into the small hours, they are hitting the pillow at 10 o’clock now. Many are wondering how this can be when we are all doing less.

The feelings of fatigue that you are experiencing are more likely to be related to the mental workload associated with COVID-19 rather than the physical burden. Fatigue can have both physical and non-physical causes. After we have completed a 5km run we deserve a rest, or after an illness we can feel run down and tired for a few weeks.

But research has also shown that tiredness can be caused by psychological states, such as stress and anxiety. In the current situation, it could even be the monotony of the situation that causes us to feel tired. Therefore, dealing with the psychological strain associated with Coronavirus could be wearing us out. So how do we go about getting our energy back?

The phases of adjustment

When we look at major changes, such as students starting university or people moving to a new country, a period of adaptation and transition is needed. This takes time and comes in phases.

The first week of adapting involves disengaging from former ways of living and working, and establishing new interactions. These are usually achieved by the fourth or fifth day, after which life begins to become more settled and predictable.

Keeping a journal of your feelings and thoughts can help see how you are progressing.

People in the first few weeks of lockdown may feel low and could be tearful. This is a normal adaptation stage. Please don’t worry too much but be reassured that this will pass for most people and next week you will feel better. Transition to a new environment can be helped by writing a reflective journal. It can be helpful to note down your thoughts and feelings. You can then review your progress and see how you adjust.

Full functional adaptation to a new way of life will happen after about three months. However, there is one period to be aware of that can occur around three weeks after the start, when a person can succumb abruptly to a bout of melancholy and a loss of morale. The worry in this case may be that the lockdown situation has now become permanent. But once this phase has passed these feelings of despondency tend not to return.

Prioritising structure

The next lesson on how to keep your energy up comes from observing people in survival situations. To avoid a drift into a state of apathy and feeling low and unmotivated, it is important to establish a clear structure to your day. Structure allows us to gain some control over our lives. It helps prevent a buildup of “empty” time that could make you very aware of confinement, and cause a growing sense of “drift”. This can make people feel withdrawn and apathetic, sleep badly and neglect their personal hygiene.

One extreme case from the survival world shows the benefits of structure when we are suddenly faced with time to fill. In 1915, when Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance became trapped in the Antarctic ice, he imposed strict routines on his crew. He was well aware of a previous expedition ship, the RV Belgica, which had become trapped over winter in the Antarctic ice in 1898. The captain did not establish any routine and as a result the crew suffered from low morale, especially after the death of the ship’s cat, Nansen.

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance.

Shackleton insisted on strict meal times and ordered everyone to gather in the officers’ mess after dinner to have an enforced period of socialisation. These scheduled activities prevented a social monotony that can occur when a small group of people are confined together for significant periods.

So although it might feel good to have the odd morning lie-in, it is better for your energy levels to set up your day with a clear structure and make time for social activities, even if they need to be undertaken online.

Another non-physical cause of fatigue is anxiety. The pandemic has made people confused and uncertain, and given some a sense of trepidation. All these feelings can lead to poor sleep quality, which in turn can make people more tired and anxious.

To break this cycle, exercise is a useful tool. Going for a walk or doing an online exercise class can make you feel physically tired but in the longer-term it will reduce feelings of fatigue as your sleep quality improves.

Planning ahead and setting goals is now both possible and necessary. Aim for a set future date for release from the lockdown but be prepared to reset that date as necessary. Being optimistic about the future and having things to look forward to can also help reduce anxiety and reduce fatigue.

Sarita Robinson, Principal Lecturer in Psychology, University of Central Lancashire and John Leach, Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Survival Psychology, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to Remove Sunscreen Stains from Your Running Gear

How to Remove Sunscreen Stains from Your Running Gear

Ever put your new white running singlet in the wash, only for it to come out with horrible brownish stains on it?

Or do your shirts look like you’ve been drooling your dinner down the front of them after a few wears?

The culprit could be sunscreen… or it could be “scrud”

So How Do You Prevent Sunscreen Stains?

  • Use a sunscreen that doesn’t contain avobenzone to avoid the stains in the first place
  • Use a rust remover, rather than bleach or Napisan to remove the stains. The avonbenzone reacts with chemicals in these products and makes it worse
So How Do You Prevent Sunscreen Stains

What is Avobenzone?

Avobenzone is  a chemical used in sunscreens which protects against the harmful effects of long ray UVA. Which is really good if you want to run outside in the sun, but not so good if you want to keep your running gear free of the nasty orangey stains it can cause!

Avobenzone will react with water that has a high iron content (hard water) and cause rust stains. So you can put an unstained shirt into the wash, which has invisible deposits of sunscreen on it, and hey presto, you can pull a pretty dirty shirt out of the wash!

But, the good news is there are some avobenzone free sunscreens. You can look at the list of ingredients on your sunscreen, or you can see the list I’ve put together below for some avobenzone free screens. Some of those are readily available in Australia, whilst some you would need to buy online.

When looking at the list of ingredients, be aware that Avobenzone is also know as:

  • Parsol 1789
  • Milestab 1789
  • Eusolex 9020
  • Escalol 517
  • Neo Heliopan 357
  • Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane

Avobenzone-Free Sunscreens

  • Blue Lizard Sunscreen Sensitive
  • Little Urchin Natural Sunscreen
  • Nutragena Pure and Free Baby Sunscreen
  • Sunology Natural Sunscreen SPF 50+
  • Elta MD SkinCare UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46
  • Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence 2014 SPF50+
  • Thinkbaby Sunscreen SPF 50

Don’t Fall for “Chemical Free”

When it comes to sunscreens (and most other things), there’s no such thing as “chemical free”. In it’s truest definition, a chemical is any substance consisting of matter. So that pretty much covers everything  other than energy, thoughts and gravity. Chemicals occur naturally, or can be man made.

I found quite a few “chemical free” sunscreens when I was searching for avobenzone free screens which contained butyl-methoxydibenzoylmethane, so you do need to read the ingredients list carefully.

Here’s the ingredients list of one so-called chemical-free sunscreen!!

Water, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Butyl- Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Isohexadecane, Octocrylene, Phenyl Trimethicone, Titanium Dioxide, Glycerin, Methylpropanediol, Octyldodecanol, Boron Nitride, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Iron Oxide, Tapioca Starch Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Diethylhexyl 2,6-Naphthalate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Lauryl PEG-10 Tris(Trimethylsiloxy)Silylethyl Dimethicone, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Saccharide Isomerate, Octyldodecyl Xyloside, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Terminalia Ferdinandiana (Kakadu Plum) Fruit Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Extract, PEG-30, Dipolyhydroxystearate, Cera Alba, Menthyl Lactate, Triacontanyl PVP, Zinc Stearate, Dimethicone, Magnesium Sulphate, Silica, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica Silylate, Sodium Citrate, Hydroxyethyl – Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Alumina, Disodium EDTA, Phenylpropanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Fragrance

Other Sunscreen Ingredients That Can Stain Your Clothes

Whilst avobenzone is likely to react with your washing water and cause brown stains on white or light coloured clothing, the active ingredient in many avobenzone -free sunscreens is zinc oxide. Many also contain titanium oxide.

Unfortunately, these 2 ingredients can cause white discolouration on dark fabrics.

Believe it or not, someone has actually published research on this topic, which you can read here.  It’s only a couple of pages, and does list the sunscreens which perform best on dark and light colours. One drawback of the research was that they only tested cottons.

Anything that is made to remove rust stains and hard water stains should get rid of the sunscreen stains on your clothing, but you might prefer to try to use something less harsh first.

Removing Sunscreen Stains From Light Coloured Clothing

Lemon Juice and Salt

For a far less toxic solution, try lemon juice and salt.

  • Rinse the garment in cool water
  • Apply the lemon juice to the stain
  • Spread salt liberally over the stained area.
  • Let sit overnight, brush off the salt and wash as usual. 

Citric Acid and Vinegar

Avobenzone combines with the iron in your water, holding the iron to your clothing to form stains. Citric acid is an iron chelator, so it will bind very tightly to the iron and remove it from your clothing. You can find citric acid in the cooking section of the super market, near the baking soda.

  • Form a paste of citric acid and vinegar
  • Rub gently on your clothing
  • Leave for up to an hour
  • Rinse well and re-wash

Pre-Wash Treatment

Another option is to treat your clothes before they go in the wash. Of course, it’s a bit of a guess as to what garments, and what parts of the each garment you can treat, but if you assume ALL your running gear will have sunscreen around the neckline and treat accordingly, this might work.

  • Make sure your clothing is dry
  • Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on to the suspected trouble spots. That absorbs any excess oil.
  • Leave for about 30 minutes, then brush of any excess powder
  • Rub the are with dish washing liquid and leave for 5 minutes.
  • Mix a teaspoon of laundry detergent into a bowl of hot water, and soak the garment for an hour
  • Rinse in hot water, and throw into the wash

This may work as a post wash treatment, once the stains are visible, but the point of the carb soda is to absorb the oil and remove as much of the sunscreen as possible. Once washed, particularly if in a warm wash, the oil left in the garment is probably minimal.

Hard Core Chemical Solutions

The white marks which some sunscreens leave on dark coloured clothing is caused by zinc oxide or titanium oxide.

To remove, try dabbing with rubbing alcohol. You can get rubbing alcohol in most chemists.

What in the World is Scrud and How Do You Stop It?

For several years, my husband and I put up with a washing machine that was leaving brown spots on our laundry. Not just running gear, all sorts of things from T-shirts to sheets, undies to towels, and everything in between. It was seemingly random, though it did seem to happen more frequently to sweat wicking, dry-fit type clothing.

Many washing machine mechanics later, and umpteen calls to the LG service centre, and we had to settle with being told the problem was a build up of “scrud” and we should clean the machine with citric acid.

Apparently, scrud is actually a thing. Here’s what Choice have to say about it

“The blotchy marks that are sometimes left on your clothes after you’ve washed them can be caused by ‘scrud’, which is a waxy build-up of fabric softener or detergent in the drum of your washing machine.”

Scrud is more likely to build up

  1. if you only wash in cold water
  2. if you don’t use enough detergent
  3. if you use fabric softener

To get rid of scrud, we were advised to run the machine empty several times on super hot, and also throw in  tin of citric acid into these washes (the contents of the tin obviously, not the tin itself).

I’ve since discovered a multitude of uses for citric acid, including cleaning the toilet, and of course, removing sunsreen stains from clothing.

To avoid the build up of scrud, Choice suggests you

  • Run a super hot wash every now and then if you only wash in cold water
  • Don’t use fabric softener (though we never have used fabric softener and we still suffered a scrud invasion
  • Use a bit more detergent
  • Clean your washing machine dispensers regularly

To Remove Scrud

You could try any of the solutions for removing sunscreen stains, or you could make a paste of citric acid and leave overnight, then scrub like crazy!

Have Your Best Running Year: Audit Your Life

Towards the end of last year, I recorded this interview with success coach, Georgia Bamber. Georgia shares with us just what it is a life coach does, along with some little nuggets of wisdom on how to audit your life and leverage the power you have within you. This year could be your best running year yet!

Watch the interview, and download Georgia’s Life Audit Workbook. It’s a great tool to get you started on leading a very purposeful life. Could be just what you need to get you on the road to your next PB!



Georgia has a diverse academic, professional and personal background from which she draws in her coaching and teaching. She is a graduate of Cornell University, has an MBA from City University London, a Masters in Counselling Psychology from Monash University, is a certified Life Coach and is certified in Plant- Based Nutrition (Cornell University).

Georgia runs a thriving coaching practice, is a freelance writer and a speaker.

She is also a wife and mother of two teenage boys, is an ultra- runner and ironman, as well as a plant-based lifestyle advocate. So she knows just what it is like to do the juggle between mother, entrepreneur and maintaining a healthy mind and body.