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Why Does Running Give Me ‘Shrinkage’?

A deep dive into the medical phenomenon known as ‘runner’s dick’

Exercise isn’t just about health. As much as we’re all aware of the endless health benefits of being in good shape, anyone who claims it isn’t at least slightly about trying to look better is lying. Maybe, you think, I’ll be incredibly sexy after this.

It’s a shame, then, that those at the less-fit end of the spectrum look appalling when exercising. Scarlet, malcoordinated, limbs flailing, sweat patches in gross places, fat bits jiggling, weak bits shuddering… The human body is a hellscape.

Running is, for the most part, one of the more pleasant forms of exercise — there aren’t a lot of mirrors outdoors, which is something. However, going for a post-run pee can present you with quite a shock: an incredibly small, sweaty penis, like a cannellini bean with a urethra. And, as an informal poll among a few runners shows, the phenomenon is not limited to extreme beginners:

  • “The furthest I’ve ever run is a half-marathon. I felt amazing after crossing the finishing line, then when I went for a pee, it was like I’d swapped dicks with a baby. It really took the wind out of my sails.”
  • “I run most mornings, leaving the house at 7 a.m. when it’s often very cold. This, combined with whatever other biological stuff is going on with my junk when I run, means that going for a post-run piss can prove challenging, largely from a ‘safe grip’ point of view.”
  • “I’ve done about 10 marathons and a bunch of ultra-marathons, and it happens. There’s a lot of wind cooling the area, and so on. It comes back though. I’ve got children.”

So, what’s actually happening when a workout convinces your body to replace its regular hog with one from Baby Gap? 

“From an evolutionary perspective, running is a mechanism to either hunt or escape,” says Lee Chambers, wellbeing consultant at Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing. “With this in mind, reproduction is rather far from your mind’s eye when you’re about to get eaten or make the kill.”

However important you may think the dimensions of your penis are, your body has other things to worry about, and other uses for the blood hanging out in your schlong. It’s all a fairly straightforward matter of priority — you have a finite amount of blood in your body, and the harder you’re working, the more of it your muscles and joints need, because that blood is filled with oxygen. Every time a muscle contracts, it uses oxygen, which is why you get out of breath and your heart beats faster when exercising — your lungs are putting more oxygen into your bloodstream and your heart is pumping it around your body more.

“When we’re exercising, the body’s blood flow priority changes,” says Lee. “More blood is sent to your joints and muscles, and less to your genitals. This ultimately displays itself as a smaller penis. The effect is temporary, and it’s also amplified by your overall cardiovascular health — the more out-of-shape you are, the smaller your penis will appear.” 

The fitter you get then, the less out of breath you get, the slower your heart rate and the less teeny your weenie. Push yourself hard enough, and one day maybe you’ll finish a run with something to hang your medal off.

Obviously in an ideal world, we’d move beyond the vanity of exercising with the goal of looking good rather than purely for its health benefits, and we’d leave our ridiculous societal obsession with penis size behind, but we don’t live in an ideal world, and sometimes, doing a teeny-tiny wee-wee when already really tired and sweaty just sucks, you know, it just sucks, it sucks.