You know that feeling – you are going along, feeling strong in your workout, and then you have to do jumping jacks…
‘Are there tears running down my legs?’
If you check F in the gender box, then you probably know what I am talking about. The scientific term for that leakage is Stress Urinary Incontinence – an involuntary loss during sneezing, coughing or physical activity – and you should not be ashamed. You actually have quite a bit of company; whether they are willing to admit it or not, many women suffer from this condition, particularly if they have gone through childbirth. As a fitness instructor, I see two common reactions to this problem.
First, there is the “badge of honor” mentality seen in the CrossFit culture where urinating is thought of as a gauge of how hard we went in our workout. To cover the embarrassment, leakage is lauded as something of which to be proud.
There is also the idea that this is just how it is, and we have to endure it. A client once said it so eloquently to me ‘With all that jumping, I am going to have to stop exercising or start wearing depends to class.’ A lot of women “fix” the problem by resigning to wear uncomfortable, bulky leak protection.
I do not condone either of these attitudes because it doesn’t resolve the problem. As if exercise itself isn’t hard enough, incontinence adds another dimension of discomfort and strain to working out, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you are struggling with incontinence in your workouts, it means your pelvic floor is weak and needs strengthening like any other muscle. This is done through pelvic floor training. As with any muscle strengthening, it takes time to see results so be patient and keep after it.
In the meantime, here are some practical ideas to help you through the incontinence (don’t just give up on exercise all together).
– Go to the bathroom before your exercise.
– Exercise in the morning. You have just gone through a 6 – 9 hour stretch without fluids so your bladder is empty.
– If you can’t exercise in the morning, reduce your fluid intake an hour or two before you work out.
– Wear a panty liner. It is thinner and more comfortable than a pad, while still giving you a little added protection.
– Wear black pants as they will disguise any accidental leakage. Light heather grey is NOT your friend in this instance.
– Avoid your trigger exercises as much as possible.
In the end, realize that you aren’t the only one with this problem, have a good laugh with your friends and then, start fixing it!