Why Some Women Pee Mid-Workout (and What to Do About It)

Let’s set the scene: you just screwed your heels into the floor, your hands are chalked up, your fingers wrapped courageously around the barbell, you close your eyes, nod affirmatively to yourself, and begin to deadlift the bar for a 3 rep max PR. On the second pull you pee a little, you keep going, and on the third lift you pee a bit more. You bless the leggings higher-ups that you’re not in your favorite grey leggings and add some more weight to the bar because you’re a badass and something like a little pee isn’t going to stop you.

A little trickle during double-unders? A feeling of “need-to-pee” during box jumps? A small puddle on Olympic weightlifting days? You’ve taken these little accidents as a way a life, so much so that your coach and other weightlifting girlfriends joke about nervous wees and poor bladder control. Or if you’re not joking about it, you’re just not talking about it. Because of all the common (yet not talked about and maybe even a little embarrassing) things that happen while you workout, incontinence might be at the top of the life.  

Rest assured, a little leakage is totally normal. About 1 in 3 women in the U.S. experiencing something called urinary stress incontinence (or SUI), which refers to pee escaping for any reason: jump roping, laughing, deadlifting, dancing, coughing, physical exertion, etc.

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The rumor that women who have had kids wet themselves is not completely false, and in fact incontinence is more common among women who have had children. One out of every 3 women who have vaginal births wet themselves, and a woman who has had a baby is three times more likely to wet herself than a lady who hasn’t had children.

But there’s a misconception that if you haven’t had children you can’t and won’t experience bladder leakage. For women, the strain of pregnancy and childbirth, hormonal shifts, and the force of gravity over time can weaken and stretch pelvic muscles and ligaments. The entire structure sags, squeezing the bladder and creating traction that pulls the urethra downward. That means that all women are are susceptible to a little leakage.  

Actually, research suggests 43 percent of elite female dancers and athletes have involuntarily peed during a workout. High-impact and high-intensity workouts like dancing, CrossFit, and Zumba are more likely to induce incontinence because of jumping, common in each of these workout fads, has been reported as the most common culprit of leakage.

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So what can you do other than quit your box immediately, burn your speed rope, swear of jumping jacks, and get a doctors note that’ll get you out of box jumps forever?

Editor’s Note: If you experience discomfort or persisting issues, it’s always a good idea to talk to a medical professional.

1. Wear Patterned Leggings.

Wearing patterned or black leggings won’t stop the incontinence (wouldn’t that be something?), but it will certainly make it hard to tell if you leak during your class or workout.

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2. Invest In Some Leak Prevention Products

Panty liners and pads are made for your period, not for urine; their lack of absorbency poses a risk for infection and could cause chafing. Good news is a market of leak prevention products has sprung up and is truthfully, thriving. Poise recently introduced a new tampon-esque device called Poise Impressa that tackles bladder drama, while Thinx launched a new line of “pee-proof underwear” called Icon last fall. Fannypants has a new line called Viita is also available in drugstores, that also “gets the job done.” Again, while products like these won’t stop the problem, they can make the problem less embarrassing.

3. Skip Coffee Pre Workout

Skipping the java before cardio can help provide some immediate help as loading up on coffee as pre-workout may contribute to the problem. Alcohol, citrus fruits, spicy foods, chocolate, milk, and carbonated beverages may have similar effects.

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4. Visit A Pelvic Physical Therapist

Research suggests the key to minimizing future leakage lies in strengthening hard-to-reach muscles that support your urinary system. So while kegel exercises will help, there are other muscles such as deep core muscles that need to be strengthened to ward off leakage. Seeking out a private session with a trainer who specializes in deep core work is a great way to see results in a few weeks. Though it’s intimate and can be uncomfortable at first, the long-term results can be impactful.

5. Try An App

Yep, there’s an app and device for that, and it’s called Elvie. Elivie is a device that helps women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles via Kegel exercises that you can track on an app. Seriously. 

How does it work? You insert the sea-foam green device inside like a tampon that’s a little wider. Once it’s inside, you begin the workout. Each “workout” consists of different on-screen games that involve moving a little gem that appears on screen. 

6. Kegels

It’s going to take more than a little mid-day clenching to get SUI under control, but pelvic physical therapists are likely to prescribe those as part of a pelvic floor strengthening “training” program. Plus, kegels can help strengthen bladder control, heighten orgasm, improve vaginal tone, and restore pelvic elasticity after childbirth… and you don’t have to go to a fancy specialist to practice them. It’s not quite a bicep curl… but a muscle is a muscle. #gains?

Featured image: @reebokwomen on Instagram

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