Patient Perspective: Sally's Story

Sally's Story - Running and working out when you have incontinence

Once both my kids were in elementary school full time, I finally started working out. I became a runner, and devoted most mornings after they were in school to jogging through the neighborhood. I entered races and started doing small 5Ks, until I finally worked my way up to a full marathon last year. Things were going great and I was feeling strong and happy.

So, imagine my surprise, after years of being an avid runner, to suddenly start experiencing bladder leaks. My kids were not little anymore – they were both in high school at this point and I thought that I bypassed this type of problem that usually accompanies childbirth.

I spoke to my doctor, and found out that, to my surprise, this problem often accompanies serious runners too. Turns out that pounding the pavement every day isn’t so great for your pelvic floor. In fact, my doctor told me that up to 30% of female runners experience incontinence while running.

My doctor said there are lots of things that can weaken the pelvic floor over the years; childbirth, age, and surgeries can all take their toll (I unfortunately check all three boxes). Add to that running several miles per week, and I saw how my activity was contributing to the problem. 

I wasn't ready to give up running, and luckily my doctor didn't think I had to. While there are many therapies available (medication, surgery, exercise), he started me on a regimen of kegel exercises. I do them first thing in the morning, and 3 other times throughout the day.  He also recommended that I try some other behavioral tactics: limit my fluid intake right before my run, make sure to empty my bladder before running, and try planning a route that has some bathroom stops along the way. 

These changes have been helping me a lot and while there might come a time that I consider something like surgery, for now, it helps to know that I’m able to take matters into my own hands and manage my bladder leaks without stopping the activities I love. 

I'm glad I opened up about this condition and can continue my passion!

Sally S., Atlanta, GA

Patient Perspective: Merrell's Story

Patient Perspective: Merrell's Story, new mom, stress urinary incontinence

I gave birth to my first little bundle of joy a year ago.  My pregnancy was a dream – no morning sickness, no stretch marks - it was a total breeze, apart from the occasional leaks I had leading up to the birth. I had heard leaks were totally normal though, and figured that after baby came, everything would go back to the way it was before, so I didn’t really give them much thought.

After my baby was born, things changed dramatically. Suddenly, I was dealing with breastfeeding problems, sleepless nights, and a fussy baby that needed me 24-7. Not to mention those little leaks that I had before baby came - they were still lingering and I found myself changing my own pants almost as often as I was changing my baby. Every sneeze, laugh, and jump, caused me to leak and it really started to get me down. After all, I was in the middle of learning a new job – the most important job of my life, being a mom – and I couldn’t even get my own body to behave appropriately.

I finally talked to my doctor about it and he recommended physical therapy. I didn’t even know that was an option!  But, turns out that strengthening your core and  your pelvic floor muscles can really help control your bladder. This was great, because I wasn’t prepared to undergo surgery (not recommended if you’re planning on having more kids, like I am), and was really hoping to find a more natural option. So this seemed like a perfect fit for me.

My therapist started by reviewing my anatomy and showing me how all my muscles are connected. She also told me that I had diastasis recti, which is when your stomach muscles separate during pregnancy. This can really weaken your core, which affects your pelvic floor muscles too. She showed me exercises to help bring these muscles back together and strenghten my core. After baby, it’s also important to do your kegels to help get your strength back – my therapist told me that this would help me control those little leaks that I had when I placed stress on my bladder (like when I coughed, sneezed, or laughed).

It’s been 6 months since I started physical therapy and I’m happy to say that I’m leak free! I feel stronger and more in control of my body, and, more importantly, I feel better able to focus on and care for my growing baby.

I’m so happy I sought help. It makes me feel empowered, and better prepared to handle future pregnancies and babies.

New moms – don’t keep quite about this. Talk to your doctor and get help. There’s no need to suffer in silence. 

Merrell N., Austin, TX

Don't Quit Exercising Because Of Urinary Incontinence

Working Out With Incontinence

Living with incontinence can pose many challenges. The condition can cause you to limit the life you once had - foregoing social events, distancing yourself from family and friends, and even missing days of work. So, it comes as no surprise that your workouts may also be affected. In fact, studies have shown that up to 20% of women have reported quitting their physical activities due to incontinence. Experiencing leakage when running or doing certain types of exercise is very common, but it’s not normal. You shouldn’t have to live with incontinence, and the good news is you don’t have to.

Why do I leak urine during my workouts?

Bladder leakage during your workout is due to a condition called Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI).  SUI is incontinence that occurs when you have a weak pelvic floor or sphincter muscle, and increased pressure is placed on your bladder. This can happen with things like sneezing, coughing, and, yes, certain forms of working out.

SUI occurs commonly with childbirth, but other conditions can also contribute to the condition. Chronic coughing, surgical procedures, menopause, and obesity can also contribute to SUI.

How To Manage Bladder Leakage During Exercise

The tips listed below can help you manage and treat the issue of bladder leaks. As always, when thinking about treatment options, it’s best to consult a trained physical therapist that can give you a proper examination. 

1. Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor.         

A weak pelvic floor can make you more susceptible to SUI. To learn how to strengthen it, make an appointment with a physical therapist who will teach you not only how to correctly perform a kegel, but also how to strengthen your whole core. You see, while the pelvic floor is important, it’s only one part of the equation. Your core muscles, hips, thighs, and glutes all play a part of maintaining proper alignment so it’s important to include these muscles in your daily workouts too.

Your PT will also teach you how to properly relax your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscles that are too tight can also be an issue with SUI, so you must learn to relax these muscles as well.

2.  Use a Pessary.

SUI often occurs in women who have experienced Pelvic Organ Prolapse. A pessary can be a great tool for this condition, especially when working out, since it helps hold everything in place, resulting in less pressure on your bladder.

3. Use Protection.

It goes without saying that if you’re experiencing leaks and want to continue to work out, you may need a little extra help. There are several absorbent products available that are designed specifically for working out. Experiment with different styles and fits to see what works for you.

4. Go Easy On The Fluids.

You should make sure you stay properly hydrated, but try limiting the amount of caffeinated beverages you’re drinking, especially before your workout. Caffeine can irritate the bladder making accidents more likely.

5. Watch What You Eat.

Similar to caffeine, certain foods can cause bladder irritation in some people. Spicy or acidic foods are especially common bladder irritants and should be avoided.

6. Empty Your Bladder Before Starting Your Workout.

Make sure to use the bathroom just before any strenuous workout, like running to avoid extra strain on your bladder.

7. Try Retraining Your Bladder

Just like any muscle in the body, your bladder can be trained. Try scheduling your bathroom visits in intervals and slowly work up to longer stretches of time.

8. Wear Black Pants.

This is a simple trick, but can help you prevent (or at least cover up) any embarrassing leaks. The color black can help hide any leaks. Loose fitting clothing can also help hide any extra protection that you may be using to prevent leakage.

As you can see, there are several options for managing urine leakage while exercising. Try incorporating some of the above tips and don’t let incontinence keep you from getting your work out! 

Have you tried any of the tips above, or do you have others you’d like to share? Tell us about them in the comments below!