Normal is a bit of a misleading term. You see, it’s common for runners to need to pee or leak urine during a run, but it is not a normal body function.
Just because a lot of runners deal with this issue, it doesn’t have to be accepted. In fact, you shouldn’t just accept it as ‘one of those things.’
If you’re finding that you need to pee during a run, or you’re leaking while running, you should speak to your doctor to work out why it’s happening.
Most of the time, female runners are the ones who struggle with mid-run pee problems. This is because of the way the pelvis area is configured. In women, the pelvic floor muscles are like a shelf. They suspend the bladder and the reproductive organs above the orifices below.
The pelvic floor can be weakened by childbirth, pregnancy, hormones, and even just gravity and time. When weakened the pelvic floor sags which means all the organs it holds also droop and sag. This puts pressure on the bladder making it more prone to leaking. If you add extra pressure, like the high impact jolt of running, your bladder just can’t hold on to urine.
Often, women are told to do Kegel exercises to strengthen these muscles. However, Kegels don’t help if the issue is overuse of these muscles.
Sometimes the problem is that a woman might constantly clench her pelvic floor. This often happens after an injury, but it could also be caused by stress.
Eventually, the muscles get tired and just let go. When the muscles ‘collapse’ from overuse, the same sagging situation occurs, and pressure is applied to the bladder.
As previously mentioned, just because this happens to a lot of runners, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it. You can fix the issue by talking to your doctor.
Does Running Make Incontinence Worse?
Unfortunately, running can have a severe impact on any incontinence issues you are already having. It can also encourage the development of incontinence issues.
The problem is running is a high impact sport. Every time you put your foot to the ground the shockwave goes up your leg and into your pelvis. The shock acts as the final nail in the coffin for weak or overstressed pelvic floors.
If your pelvic floor has already dropped or sagged, then the shock of running is going to literally squeeze the urine out of your poor bladder.
The other thing to be aware of is that your pelvic floor has to work a lot harder to hold your organs up when you’re running. If you imagine the pelvic floor as a trampoline, when you run, your organs bash into the pelvic floor with more energy. This means that the muscles need to work harder to stay in place.
If the pelvic floor isn’t strong enough or if it’s too fatigued, then it will collapse during your run.
How Do I Stop Leaking Urine When Running?
The first thing you’ll want to do is to visit your doctor. They will help you work out whether the issue is with weakened pelvic muscles or overused pelvic floor muscles.
Once they’ve identified the issue, they’ll be able to tell you what kind of exercises to do to help.
Outside the muscular or breathing exercises that your doctor prescribes, there are a few things you can do.
First and foremost, you want to work on reducing the impact of your run. Do this by wearing cushioned and supportive shoes and perfecting your running alignment.
The right shoes should help absorb some of the shock of running. This in turn reduces the amount of shock your pelvic floor absorbs.
The other thing to think about is your form. If you work on and perfect your running form, you will reduce the amount of force travelling through your legs to your pelvis.
Another thing to try is supportive clothing. Shorts or leggings that have abdominal and pelvic support are great for managing incontinence. These clothes will offer external scaffolding for your pelvic floor. They assist the muscles in holding the bladder and other organs in place.
You could also try softer terrains. Running on grass or sand is easier on the body than running on concrete. Again, this is all about reducing the shock that ends up in your pelvic floor.
When it comes to your actual running training, try to stop before the incontinence kicks in. You’ll have to build up the distances gradually so that your pelvic floor has time to strengthen, respond, and repair after training.
Pushing yourself to run further than your body can manage will do little for you or your bladder. You need to treat this issue like any other muscular injury and go through the rest and rehab stages.