Running is an excellent way to burn calories, increase endurance, and build overall strength.
More and more people of all ages and backgrounds are discovering that running is an enjoyable routine to add to their workout routines.
That said, when you regularly log the miles, there’s a chance that you’ll wet your pants.
Bladder leaks, ranging from mild to severe, are a real problem that many runners of all ages face.
But leaking during a run shouldn’t be a given.
In fact, incontinence doesn’t mean that you have to put a halt to your running routine.
With the right guidance, you can not only manage the issue but also cure it.
In today’s article, I’ll explain the link between running (and exercise) and incontinence and describe how you can prevent and treat it.
The Link Between Running and Urine Leaks
First, let’s learn more about incontinence.
Leaking, or urinary incontinence, is a medical condition that refers to the involuntary loss of urine triggered by increased pressure or abrupt muscle contraction of the bladder.
In other words, it’s when you’re unable to control your bladder.
Incontinence can be nothing but a minor nuisance (just a small leaks every now and then) to a complete loss of bladder control.
Surveys show that incontinence affects twice as many women as men.
This may be blamed on hormonal changes and delivery history (I’m talking about per vaginam delivery, not cesarean).
At least one in three female runners over 30 may experience bladder leaks while running, research reports.
The Main Categories and Causes
Urinary incontinence is split into three main categories: Stress Urinary Incontinence (or SUI), Urgency Urinary Incontinence (UUI), and Overflow Urinary incontinence (OUI).
Let’s break them down.
Stress Urinary Incontinence
The most common type of incontinence among runners—and the topic of today’s post—is stress incontinence.
This stress has nothing to do with the emotional anxiety you experience when having a fight with your partner or when you’re preparing for your first marathon.
In this case, the stress stems from intra-abdominal pressure, forcing urine to leak out.
This often is triggered by sneezing, couching, jumping, and of course, running.
Often referred to as overactive bladder, this happens when your bladder muscles squeeze incorrectly or lose the ability to relax, often occurring just before you can get to a toilet.
Most common in the elderly, urge incontinence may indicate an overactive bladder, a tract infection from the imbalance passage, or prostate problems.
Overflow incontinence is having the urge to urinate but only releasing a small amount.
Due to the bladder not emptying fully, it leaks urine later.
This is usually caused by something blocking the urethra, which causes urine build-up in the bladder.
How To Prevent and Stop Urine Leakage While Running
Now that you have an idea why you’re leaking urine while running, what exactly can you do about it?
Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
The ideal way to limit urinary incontinence in runners is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, the sheet of muscles that supports the bladder and bowel.
When it goes weak, you may experience urine leakage whenever stress or strain is placed on it, especially when running.
Kegel exercises might help you, in which you consciously engage, then loosen the muscles that regulate urine flow.
These exercises help strengthen your pelvic floor, rectum, sphincter, bladder, and small intestine.
Research has reported that subjects who performed pelvic floor muscle training regularly were much more likely to improve their leaking than those who didn’t get training.
To locate your pelvic floor muscle, stop urinating in midstream.
If you can do that you’ve got the right muscles.
Here’s how to perform Kegel exercises:
- Squeeze the muscle you use to stop urinating midstream.
- Hold the squeeze for 6 to 8 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.
- Perform three to four sets daily. And that’s it.
Repeat the movement for 12 to 16 times in a row—and remember to do the exercise daily.
While investing time strengthening your pelvic floor, there are other measures that can help you get back to running comfortably.
Padding is one of them.
There are many over-the-counter products that actually limit leaks before they happen.
These often consist of small, soft foam patches that gently attaches over the urethra to limit leaks while running.
You should be prepared, especially on long runs.
Bring with you wet wipes or tissue and spray stored in a Ziploc bag in case of an emergency.
Keep a Diary
Use a diary to keep track of your bladder habits and know when it’s best to hit the bathroom to minimize leaks during a run.
When experiencing bladder issues, monitoring your fluid intake, urges, and leaks can come in handy.
This not only describes and tells how severe your condition is, but it also points the way toward a prevention and treatment plan.
Also, keep track of your diuretics intake, like coffee.
Empty Your Bladder
This may seem redundant, but it’s a step many runners fail to take.
After all, a bursting bladder will leak more than an empty one.
Plus, you’ll feel uncomfortable during your workout and won’t be running at your best.
Exercising with a full bladder may also cause UT stone
So, before you venture out for a run, stop by the bathroom and completely clear your bladder.
I’d suggest that you do a double-void—as in, urinate, wait for a couple of minutes, then urinate again.
This ensures you got nothing left in the “tank.”
Plan Your Toilet Stops
As usual, planning is essential.
Plan your toilet stops before hitting the outdoor so you can relieve yourself if necessary.
Maybe it’s an open mall with a public bathroom that you can easily pop in if you need to empty your bladder.
You can also use an app like SitOrSquat that shows you where the restrooms are located along a pre-planned route.
Just remember to bring some change with you as some service stations may require them to use the restroom facilities.
So, I got you covered. Now what’s stopping you?