7 ways to eliminate pee problems for women on the run

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7 ways to eliminate pee problems for women on the run

How many times do you hit the bathroom or porta-potty before a run? Do you plan your route carefully with available toilets? Are you the one wearing dark bottoms with a change of clothes? Or – the one with the shirt wrapped around her waist?

While there are many ways around plumbing problems and running – issues like leakage or an overactive bladder can make your run uncomfortable and embarrassing.

According to a study in the Journal of Human Kinetics, more than 40 percent of elite female runners report leaking during running or other high-impact activities. Doctors call this stress incontinence.

Countless other athletes of every pace and gender experience frequent mid-run urges to urinate, says Susie Gronski, D.P.T., a certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner in Asheville, North Carolina.

But “common” and “normal” don’t mean the same thing, Gronski points out “You don’t have to run wetting yourself,” she says, nor do you have to accept the need to stop every few miles.

Most people should be able to last two to three hours between pee breaks—if you can’t, there’s help.

Coughing, sneezing and exercise get blamed for unwanted bladder leaks

But stress incontinence isn't something you have to live with. Leaking, also known as urinary stress incontinence is either tolerated or considered grounds for avoiding healthy activities that can trigger it.

How to stop the leaking while running?

Tip # 1 - Start with your breathing

The pelvic floor is one part of the muscle system that makes up your "deep core".

Think of it as the bottom of a canister that provides stability and support for your internal organs and urinary and bowel function. The top of the canister is your diaphragm, and around the sides are abdominal muscles.

Ideally when you breathe in, your diaphragm and pelvic floor both relax downward and your ribs and belly expand outward. When you breathe out, they naturally draw up and in. That healthy range of motion is important because it helps to absorb impact and manage pressure.

If you grip your abs or squeeze your pelvic floor to try to prevent leaking, you can actually make it worse.

If you do have weakness in your pelvic floor, doing lots of Kegel exercises alone isn't the answer. Practicing how to coordinate your breathing with a Kegel contraction can help: Inhale, relax and expand, then exhale, contract and lift the pelvic floor while drawing in the abs.

Tip #2 - Perfect your running form

For runners, good alignment can help your core to better absorb impact, preventing leaks. For example, a slight forward lean helps to put your deep core "canister" in the best alignment to do its job.

Think about stacking your rib cage over your pelvis, something that comes naturally when running uphill.

Tip #3 - Eyes at the horizon

  • Look out about 20 feet ahead with your neck long, chin gently tucked.
  • Don't overstride. Think about propelling yourself from your glutes rather than pulling through your hip flexors in the fronts of your thighs. You should land with your foot underneath you.
  • No chicken wings. Swing arms forward and back rather than side to side.
  • Land like a 'whisper.' If you hear pounding, see what you can do to soften your steps. Landing in the middle or front of your foot instead of your heel reduces the force by about half.

Tip #4 - Strengthen your hips and glutes

The pelvic floor is a helper muscle, and it loves to take over and help stabilize the body when your hips or glute muscles aren't doing their job. But the pelvic floor will easily fatigue and stop working correctly.

If weakness in these areas is a problem, exercises such as squats, lunges, dead lifts, bridges and hip thrusts can all help.

For runners, focus on single-leg exercises whenever you can since running is a single-leg dynamic activity.

Tip #5 - Work up slowly over time

Once you get a feel for the correct breathing pattern and alignment, it can take time to build up your endurance. Rather than keep running no matter what, try alternating running and walking (walk when you notice you're not maintaining the right form or breathing).

For a more intense workout that won't derail your progress, try running up hills and walking down.

Tip # 6 - Get help from a professional 

Still struggling? There are lots of possible reasons your pelvic floor might not be functioning the right way, and surprisingly overly tight muscles are actually more common than weakness.

A pelvic floor physical therapist has special training in pinpointing the cause of this type of dysfunction and can tailor a program that can help.

Tip #7 – Wear washable absorbent underwear or liners

Our popular special bladder leak underwear shows you just how common a problem this is. While both pregnancy and childbirth can be triggers, it's not just a Mom problem.

Wearever Canada Women's Washable Absorbent Underwear

Wearever washable incontinence underwear for women

One study found that 45% of female athletes experienced some symptoms — and 76% of those were not mothers.

Absorbent underwear can help soak up the evidence. You can use pads but they can flop around when they are wet – and they can chafe the inner thighs!

Conni Women's Washable Absorbent Underwear

Conni washable absorbent incontinence Underwear for Women

Made-for-your-period pantyliners or underwear are not designed for faster-flowing urine. Their lack of absorbency can create an infection and an unpleasant odour.

Instead, have a look at Conni's Washable Absorbent Panty Liner for Women, designed to deal with bladder leaks:

Conni Washable Absorbent Panty Liner for Women

Conni washable absorbent incontinence underwear liner for Women

Consider Wearever Canada or Conni - each line offers a range in capacity - holding from as few as 3 ounces to as much as 20 ounces.

Both have a sewn-in absorbent pad and are washer/dryer friendly. Rated for hundreds of washes, both offer a environmentally friendly alternative to disposable pads. Have a look - and get back out there!

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  • Cindy Clegg
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