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.