Stress Incontinence - What Is It and What You Can Do About It
Why am I peeing when I work out?
Have you ever peed yourself during a workout? Whether running, lifting, jumping, or doing all of the above? You are not alone.
This is a common problem that affects both men and women. Many may associate this as an issue after giving birth or with aging, and while that is true, these are not the only times that you can experience this. Some studies have shown that more than half of female trampolinists and volley players experience leakage. And there are many instances in powerlifting or crossfit competitions where there are people on “mop duty” to aid in these situations.
If you are in a situation where you are embarrassed to talk about it or think you are the only one going through this, this goes to show that more people than you might think experience it! And while I am glad that these situations in athletes and competitors are giving more reasons to “normalize” this issue, this should not give you reason for just accepting this and learning to live with it.
Why does this happen?
This phenomenon is called stress urinary incontinence, which is the loss of urine with physical exertion. This can occur due to coughing, sneezing, laughing, or in this case, exercising. Sports or activities that involve jumping and running can commonly cause leakage due to the impact of the exercise on the bladder and pelvic floor, which are the muscles that support your bladder and can aid in holding in urine. Leaking also occurs during lifting. The heavier you are lifting, the more often you may need to increase intra abdominal pressure to provide more stability, which can also put more pressure on the pelvic floor and make it harder for those muscles to do their job.
Now, why do some people experience it more than others? You may have more weakness in your pelvic floor, making it harder for those muscles to do their job. However, leaking can also occur due to tightness in your pelvic floor. If you have more tightness in your pelvic floor and have difficulty relaxing, then those muscles are constantly shortened and have less ability to contract or generate power when they need to. These muscles can be tight and weak at the same time! In addition, these muscles could also just have difficulty coordinating with the rest of the body and with movement or breathing, which can contribute to leaking.
What can you do about it?
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is one solution to helping your leaking. Now, this does not mean just doing “kegels,” or a pelvic floor contraction. While this can be an effective way to learn how to strengthen or activate your pelvic floor, you cannot just contract the muscles over and over again and expect that to translate to your exercising. You need to learn how to make it functional, and incorporate strengthening into your activities (and this does not just mean doing kegels when you are running...you can try to do that, but that is a pretty difficult thing to do and not recommended). However, for those individuals who have tightness in your pelvic floor, learning how to relax and lengthen your pelvic floor muscles will be what you want to do first, before going into any strengthening, if that is even something that you need.
Another very important part of getting rid of leaking with exercise, is working on different breathing techniques while exercising. This is an effective way to help coordinate the pelvic floor with the rest of the body and manage impact or pressure.
Now, if you are unsure of how to effectively strengthen or relax your pelvic floor, or how to work on different breathing strategies, then you are a very normal person. And this is what a pelvic floor therapist is there to help you with! Every person is different so not everyone will need or require the same exercises or strategies, but there are many ways that a pelvic floor therapist can help guide you through this and help give you the tools you need for a leak free workout!
What does all this mean?
If there is anything I want you to get out of this blog, it is that leaking is common but also preventable. You should not feel embarrassed or that there is anything wrong with you, but you should also not just learn to accept that this is how you need to live your life. There are many things you can do to improve your leaking, and most of the time, it isn’t even as hard as you think it is.