I’m talking about Urinary incontinence. So this is a big fancy word that basically means that you involuntarily pee you pants when you run or do any high intensity activities.
I spoke to a few other ladies that run with me, and I’ve discovered that this in not actually such a lonely secret to keep, well not really a secret when everyone can see it anyway.
I always felt very self-consciousness about it and I still do – After races I would just disappear, and not make an effort to chat with friends, but now I’m making so many new friends, I want to chat and have coffee after without feeling like a shy toddler that wet her pants.
I started to do some research and again, this is actually a real issue! I was so shocked. According to my knowledge bladder issues only came with age…Apparently not, So if you suffer from this, don’t feel to embarrassed there are allot of us out there, young, old, fit and unfit!
Urinary incontinence is basically when you are unable to control you bladder. This could be due to 2 different reasons. There are two main types. One is stress and the other is urge.
Stress incontinence, is when urine leaks out when your bladder is under pressure. This is likely to happen when you sneeze, cough or run.
Urge incontinence is when you suddenly have to go to the bathroom unexpectedly and you don’t quite make it in time.
You might find that you suffer from both, but the most common one is Stress incontinence.
Your pelvic floor is supposed to keep your urethra closed. The urethra is a tube that runs from your bladder to the outside and is only supposed to open once your brain tells it to. When the Pelvic floor muscles become weak they are unable to basically listen to you brain and urine will leak when you have a sneeze, cough or run.
Age and Childbirth weakens the pelvic floor, So after doing the research I feel like really concerned, because I suffer from both, I’m under 30 and I haven’t even had kids yet, I mean what’s gonna happen when I have kids, is my bladder basically just gonna fall out?!
So what I’ve started to do is - Before a race stop drinking anything at least and 30-45 min before the race, but if the race is early you want to have a coffee, or some energy drinks? And when I’m running long distance trail you have to run with a hydration pack or some form of hydration with you. So at some point in the race I still end up running and clenching, squeezing, doing everything, to hold on to dear life and not pee my pants which is inevitable because I’m not gonna slow down.
So there has to be a cure, or a remedy of some sort – because this is not nice and even if you wear dark tights you can still see that the pants is wet and its not nice being restricted from all the pretty running gear you get these days just because of your bladder.
Here are a few tips I’ve found, I’ve yet to try them so I’ll let you know what works:
- Losing weight: when your over weight there could be extra pressure on your bladder, by losing weight you will reduce the pressure that is placed on you bladder.
- Empty your bladder just before you go out for a run, also try not to drink to many fluids before your run.
- If you are running a long distance it’s important to stay hydrated and take in fluids, maybe work your route around a place where you can stop for a bathroom, I have one route that passes an open mall with a public bathroom that I can easily pop into if I need to wee.
- Now I don’t like this tip, but it was suggested and could help - Use a thin sanitary towel or incontinence pad. They suggested that if it makes you feel even more self-consciousness then consider wearing a running Skort.
- It was also suggested that you squeeze your pelvic floor whilst running to help prevent leaks, this can be hard, so it’s a trial and error, don’t get to frustrated if it doesn’t help right away.
So I don’t have to lose weight, I try to empty my bladder, I have a bathroom stop and I refuse to wear a pad, (No just no….) and I Squeeze the hell out of my pelvic floor, but still I get caught of guard every now and then. So I kept looking.
The other more serious option that you can consider is having an operation called Tension-free Vaginal Taping (TVT), and this will help support the bladder. These are usually very successful. But I don’t want to go that route yet, it feels a little drastic.
You can also ask your doctor to refer you to a physiotherapist or a continence adviser. They can work with you to help improve your pelvic floor muscles. But if you’re not at the point of seeing a doctor just yet, I’ve read that you can improve your pelvic floor by doing Kegel exercises.
Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. You can do Kegel exercises or also known as pelvic floor muscle training an almost any time of the day. They are quite tricky to do, it takes concentration and you have to fully understand what it is what you’re doing.
I found this great step by step info on Mayo Clinic website that said the following:
Kegel exercises can be done to try and prevent urinary incontinence.
Keep in mind that Kegel exercises are less helpful for women who have severe urine leakage when they sneeze, cough or laugh. Also, Kegel exercises aren't helpful for women who unexpectedly leak small amounts of urine due to a full bladder (overflow incontinence).
How to do Kegel exercises
To get started:
- Find the right muscles.To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you've got the right muscles. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first.
- Perfect your technique.Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
- Maintain your focus.For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
- Repeat three times a day.Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.
Don't make a habit of using Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can actually lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection.
So don’t be embarrassed if this is something that happens to you, you’re not alone and there are more people with that issue than you think!
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Jani du Toit
Blogger and Pattern maker from Pretoria
Age group: 27
Club: ASICS FrontRunner
Coach: Brendan @ Runners Creed Coaching
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