Let’s Talk: Peeing Your Pants

Filed in Running by Lisa on June 20, 2012 29 Comments
Porta Potty...

via women-running-together.com

If you are a man, you might want to skip this article.  You’ve been warned.

When my daughter was an infant, I joined an exercise group called Stroller Strides. We would work out with our babies in strollers, burning off that extra baby weight. I had recovered from pregnancy well and was enjoying the workouts. One day, the instructor directed us to do jumping jacks. As I halfheartedly jumped, sort of crossing my legs as I did, one of the moms looked at me curiously. I was mortified. Could she see?  Did she know my dirty little secret? She slid over to me and said, “are you a pee-er too?!”

Relief washed over me. Was it possible that I was not the only woman who peed her pants when doing jumping jacks (or ran or coughed or sneezed or laughed)? We started commiserating and other women joined in the conversation. It turns out that many women have that problem, but few are comfortable talking about it. Six years later, I still can’t sneeze without crossing my legs and I wear a pad every time I run or work out. My friend has the same problem and she won’t wear a pad, she just lets it drip.  I met a three-hour marathoner last year who suffers from the same thing and she also wears a pad. We do what we have to do to run, right?

Wikipedia defines stress incontinence as:

“the loss of small amounts of urine associated with coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising or other movements that increase intra-abdominal pressure and thus increase pressure on the bladder.”

WebMD states that stress incontinence is more likely suffered by older women (*ahem*) or women who have given birth (two almost-ten pound babies here). Often, this problem is most prominent the year or so after giving birth, but doesn’t get better for some women, myself included.

The number one advice given to post postpartum moms is Kegels, Kegels, Kegels. What is a Kegel, you might ask?  *Men, here is your second warning that you might want to skip ahead. Bailey has a cool post about snakes that might be more interesting to you.*

Kegel exercises, also called pelvic floor exercises, help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowels. By strengthening these muscles, you can reduce or prevent leakage problems.  *Source: WebMD

Doing Kegel exercises uses the muscles that stop the flow of urine. You can practice this while going to the bathroom.  Once you isolate those muscles, you can do sets of them throughout the day. You can do five of them right now. Come on, do it…no one will know. Believe me, I have done Kegels until the cows come home.  Unfortunately, they didn’t help me.

There are various treatments for stress incontinence when Kegels don’t work.  There is something called a pessary. It artificially lifts the pelvic floor to avoid the pressure on the bladder. Inserting something up there  just isn’t for me. There is also surgery. It worked for a friend of mine. I went to see a doctor to see if I was a candidate for the surgery. It was definitely the most awkward doctor’s appointment I have had. He asked me a bunch of questions and tested my ability to do Kegels–awkward. It turns out that I am the perfect candidate for the surgery–I have tried Kegels, I am physically active, I don’t smoke and I don’t have any weight to lose. I even gave up caffeine for a while. I didn’t do the surgery for various reasons (changing insurance, weeks of no exercising during a peak training cycle, awkward physical therapy etc.).  I am still considering surgery as an option.

I recently listened to a podcast from Another Mother Runner that discussed this very subject. It was interesting, but didn’t give me any new information that I didn’t discover from my own trip to the doctor and research about this issue.  It was definitely worth a listen, however.  Once again, it reiterated the fact that I am not alone.

Here are some tips that I have discovered to make the best of the situation since I have started running:

  • Empty your bladder– While this seems obvious, it should be mentioned. When urinating, lean forward a bit to completely empty the bladder.  This is a tip I learned when I was pregnant.
  • Stay hydrated–What? That seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?  In fact, when someone is dehydrated, the urine becomes more concentrated, which irritates the bladder.  Keep that pee clear, ladies!
  • Wear a pad– Ugh.  This is no fun. I had a lot of trial and error to find a brand that I like that causes the least amount of irritation. I prefer Poise Hourglass Moderate Absorbancy. For long runs, I use some Aquaphor to avoid chafing–ouch!
  • Carry a towel in your car to sit on after runs.
  • Learn to laugh about it.  It is likely that one of the women you are running with is dealing with the same issue.

Ladies, do you pee your pants when you run? What do you do about it?

EDIT: Lisa recently reviewed a pair of underwear that is supposed to help with leakage. Check it out here.

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About the Author ()

I am a mom, a runner and a coach. I discovered a passion for fitness and running in my early forties while trying to "find" myself after becoming a stay-at-home mom. Since 2008, I have run one ultra marathon, seven marathons, twenty half marathons, numerous trail races and various shorter races. I am certified as a running coach, in pre- and post-natal fitness, HIIT classes and am pursuing my certification as a personal trainer.

Comments (29)

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  1. Lucy says:

    Hi,

    This article made me laugh, as I too am a pee-er! Two other things to add to your list of things that help…..

    no coffee – my runs are alot ‘drier’ if I abstain….
    wear black on your bottom half – just in case of leaks…..

    Thanks for an honest article!

    Lucy

    • Lisa says:

      Oh yes! The black/dark bottoms are key! I am convinced that running skirts were invented by women who pee. Thanks for the added tips!

      • Jill says:

        Nicole de Boom of Skirt Sports (who invented the running skirt) just had her first baby, I wonder if she’ll realize this was a whole other benefit she never dreamed of at first!

        Perhaps this will be another reason for me to switch to skirts… I’ve already found I like them more during pregnancy!

        Thanks for giving me something else to look forward to! ;-)

  2. Debbie says:

    Yep, I’m a pee-er too. I wear pads when I race, and oftentimes when I’m just running. Don’t always need it, but it sure helps to know it’s there. Quite a few times, I’ve had to stop running and struggle through that Walk of Shame to get back home – made worse by wet shorts or pants :o(

  3. Nikki says:

    You have no idea… I am only 25 years old- no kids (i’m not sexually active) and I stumbled across this forum as i was obviously googling “why do i pee in my pants when i run?” It’s usually right after I run up a large hill that I feel the sudden urge, and i’ll fight it and fight it and then finally i’ll let just a weeee bit dribble out… before you know it it’s dripping down my legs and i’m MORTIFIED by the time i have to run along-side the main road and back to my house. It doesn’t keep me from running- or pushing myself. But i do wish that I could figure out why it happens :( I do a lot of high intensity interval training workouts the require jumping (burpee’s and the like) but i never experience a similar problem. Does anyone here ONLY have this problem when running?? I’m wondering if it has something to do with my body perhaps preserving oxygen?

    • Stephanie says:

      I just recently noticed that I pee a little bit while running. Now I am not a runner that runs super hard or everyday..but I’ve been increasing how much I run. I don’t feel the urge to pee, it just trickles out. My husband was the first to notice, I smelled not just of sweat but of something else..super embarrassing. At least it was my husband and not someone else. I decided to google “why do I pee when I run” as well. I have heard of this before so it wasn’t a surprise but didn’t really notice it until last week. Last night we went running and sure enough, this time I knew it wasn’t just sweat! I don’t want to wear pads but I think I might have to. It only happens when I run too. It’s super fun to be a woman!!

    • Ashley says:

      It just happened to me for the first time yesterday. I’m 21 and have never had kids. I was running my usual and towards the end I took a few steps and a little came out (I thought it might have been my period, as it’s that time of the month) but then another few steps and it all came out. It was extremely mortifying and I had to stop running! I always pee before I run, and the only difference I can think of is that it was so hot outside I brought a water bottle with me and drank too much? I leak a little when I sneeze as well, but I’m not sure about the jumping jacks.

  4. Gina says:

    So, here I am googling why I pee while running. Last night, I was mortified and wondered why the heck I didn’t wear my normal black pant while running. So horrified was I that I had to stop the 30 minute sprint test 20 minutes into it. Epic Fail!!! ugh…I’m glad I’m not alone and I can laugh about it, sort of, but sheesh, it’s so embarrassing in front of my coach. Of course, he’s a 26 year old super runner and I’m a 51 year old beginner. I’m not giving up though and someday I’ll be able to joke about it. From here on out though, it’s black pants and an Always, Odor-free, night-time pad.

  5. Holly says:

    I hav this problem and I’m a fourteen year old gymnast no one has noticed but I’m scared it happens wen I’m just wearing a leotard at a compitition wat do I do

    • Emilie says:

      Holly, have you talked to your doctor? She or he might be able to give you some tips that will make you feel more comfortable. If you wear underwear with your leotard, you could try a panty-liner. It might also help to start doing Kegels, which are exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor. I’m not a doctor, though, so don’t take this advice as medical gospel!

    • I' says:

      In reply to 15 year old gymnast i am a 15 year old who does
      Cross country
      Winter track
      Spring Track
      Marching Band
      And I have just started peeing halfway through my winter track season and now its continuing through spring track now it only happens when in a race not at practice I’m very scared about this I’m 15 years old I pee before I run I don’t drink coffee I’m not having or ever had sex this is very embembarrassing

      • Chris says:

        Although I don’t want to give advice (being that I’m not a physician), but judging from all the comments, I suspect this is normal. You may want to consider mentioning it to your physician during your next checkup, though, as he/she may have advice on how to prevent it from happening.

  6. Hannah says:

    Hey! I’m a sixteen year old girl (so yeah, haven’t had kids!) and this happened to me yesterday when I was working out using a jump rope. It was like a bad dream! It’s happened before on the trampoline. I will wear a pad if need be, bad is it BAD to jump if it causes you to wet yourself? Is it harmful to me, or is okay to keep jumping?

    • Chris says:

      Hannah, I think Emilie’s comments above apply to your situation too. I doubt it’s harmful, but as we aren’t doctors, we can’t really provide medical advice.

  7. Madison says:

    I’m fifteen years old and I have a similar problem except its not while I’m running its like immediately after I stop running or am doing a really intense workout but I can’t control it. Is this the same problem or something else?

  8. Jennifer says:

    What are some.of the best pads to wear. Because I don’t trickle I full on gush. So I have stopped like all excercise. So not cool. But so glad to know I am not alone.

    • Lisa says:

      I have tried several brands. Currently, the ones I use are Poise Hourglass. They are moderate, but the maximum were so thick I felt like I was wearing a diaper. They aren’t ideal, but they work. I would prefer pads just a little bit narrower as I have had some chafing issues.

      See what works for you. Make sure you completely empty your bladder before exercise. Good luck!

  9. Renee says:

    There is a worldwide campaign going on in the UK about the importance of pelvic floor health and the importance of doing Kegel’s everyday! (The company starting the campaign is Kegel8. http://www.kegel8.co.uk). Our pelvic floor muscles start to lose their strength after our teen years. “Leaking” is the first sign that your pelvic floor strength is weak – so it is time to start doing Kegel exercises. Kegel8 sells electronic pelvic floor exercisers direct to the US and around the world. Locating the right pelvic muscles is sometimes a challenge, so this device will help you locate them and do them correctly for you. Check out their products at http://www.kegel8.co.uk – they also have great information on the pelvic floor and keeping it healthy. Also, visit youtube.com and in the search bar type: Kegel8. You can see a video demo on the Kegel8 electronic pelvic floor exerciser and how it works. These devices are all medically approved. If you go to Facebook and like them you can get 10% off your order – like I said they ship direct to the US – shipping is about $19.95. I am not affiliated with this company – I am just passionate about this topic as I have some of the same issues myself. Doing Kegel’s has helped immensely – though you have to keep up with doing them everyday for about 20 minutes – for the rest of your life. I wish someone had told me about the Kegel8 10 years ago – hope this helps my sisters in life out there. Spread the word about the Kegel8 Campaign and get your life back!! It’s time all women take a stand for their health! :)

  10. Shawn says:

    Ok, so today was the second time in 3 years that I’ve peed while running. I occasionally have a little leak but this time was a gush that made it to my shoes. :( Last time I tossed the shoes; they were old. This pair is brand new! I don’t want to wreck them by putting them in the washing machine but I also don’t want to wear pee shoes.

  11. This is an incredibly common problem – that effects 28% of elite female runners. I recently launched my product line, Knix Wear (high tech women’s knickers) designed specifically for this purpose. Please check it out: igg.me/at/knixwear or http://www.knixwear.com I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me at: joanna@knixwear.com We have a Fitknix line that is designed for running. At the moment it only holds up to 30 mL but we are working on more absorbent solutions.

    With all of that said – please do talk to your doctor about this. Specifically pelvic floor physio therapy can really, really help. You can find a local PT here: http://www.womenshealthapta.org/find-a-physical-therapist/index.cfm

  12. rheanne says:

    Im only 9 and I sometimes have this problem its awful wen u jump u nlly pee and sometimes u do but its when I run around and jump I pee…

  13. Anon girl 13 says:

    Yeah i recently relized i have this problem i was jumping in gym class and leaked and when i race in cross country i always leak during or afterwards

  14. Stephanie says:

    I am a pee-er. I am 17 years old and most people are grossed out by me peeing but I don’t care. I pee so much in my pants, it’s the norm.

  15. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this article. I’m just getting back into running and training for my first 8K and OMG what is going on? I don’t have to pee when I walk, but running seems to jostle something. I will take heed!

  16. Trinity says:

    Thanks for this article, seriously. I just started running about a week ago and today it happened. Thankfully we just are running in the in-laws paddocks so there’s no one around but I didn’t feel the urge to have to pee until I was peeing!! I had to stop 10 minutes shy of my run because there’s no way I could run with wet thighs and get a rash! Ugh. I have had a kid before but I just figured it was from that.

  17. Curlydiggs says:

    Ask your doc for a Physical Therapy referral and find a Physical Therapist who specializes in women’s issues and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. It really helps!! P.T.’s who are trained in this area are specialists who can really pinpoint your issue and help you with it. Sometimes Kegels are not the solution!

  18. Lydia says:

    I too was googling this issue. I have been practicing kegals, very active, do my squats and lunges, but piss my pants the entire time I run. Gave it up in favor of surfing. Perfect sport for a pee-er.

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