Urinary incontinence may be defined as the involuntary loss of urine either due to external forces or certain medical conditions. Stress incontinence, which is more prevalent with women, results from the physical movement of your body during activities like laughing, coughing, and sneezing. Some of the health-related conditions that might cause incontinence include Parkinson’s disease, spinal injury, and brain tumors.
In most cases, this problem is either due to highly diuretic foods or an easily treatable condition. In such situations, all you need to do is follow a specialist’s instructions, and you’re good to go. However, there are also cases where incontinence can be quite persistent.
If this describes your condition, then you already know that it can be somewhat difficult to prevent it, but that’s not to say there are no precautionary measures that you can consider.
In fact, there are many ways to ensure that you go about your daily activities, such as running and other extreme exercises, without worrying about any urine leakages. For instance, special incontinence underwear has been developed to help absorb any involuntary urine leaking out of one’s urinary tract.
Before we dive into the nits and grits of this article’s subject, let’s have a look at some of the risk factors associated with incontinence.
Risk factors of incontinence
Inasmuch as anyone can be a victim of incontinence, there are some factors that increase the risk of developing this condition. They range from the daily diet to your overall health and lifestyle.
According to statistics, the prevalence of incontinence in the female population is relatively high as compared to males. The normal female anatomy, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are some of the factors that contribute to stress incontinence in particular. (1)
It’s worth noting that your organs age with time. As such, it reaches a point where your bladder no longer has the strength to hold too much urine, which can lead to incontinence.
The more weight you pack, the higher the risks of incontinence. The extra fat in your body increases pressure on your bladder, which may ultimately allow urine to leak.
- Family history
Genetics plays a role in this condition as well, especially in the case of urge incontinence. If one of your close relatives has this issue, then you run the risk of developing it at an early age.
How to deal with incontinence as a runner
Running helps you become more active and offers an escape from your daily environment. However, bladder control issues have made this refreshing activity quite stressful and unbearable for many people. Dealing with urine leakages rather than focusing on physical exercises can be frustrating.
Based on the prevalence statistics discussed earlier, it would be wise for both professional and non-professional athletes to take the necessary precautions before the situation becomes persistent.
1. Strengthen your pelvic floor
Your pelvic floor muscles are very important when it comes to controlling the floor of urine. This is the part of the body you normally call upon whenever you want to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. As such, it goes without saying that strengthening these muscles will have a significant impact on the issue at hand.
Are you familiar with Kegel exercises? These are done specifically to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and ensure that you have control over your bladder. Kegel exercise can also help prevent the involuntary passing of gas or improve one’s sex life. (2)
Adding a few minutes, preferably five to ten minutes, of these exercises into your routine can go a long way in improving your condition. You can either sit upright or lie down on your back then ensure that your muscles are relaxed. Exhale while tightening your pelvic floor and relax the muscles again when inhaling. Repeat the same process for a few minutes every day.
2. Try bladder training
Some people experience urine leaks even when their bladder is moderately full. If you have the same issue when running, then your bladder might be quite weak. As such, one of the best options you could try is bladder training. As the name suggests, it’s all about exercising your bladder and strengthening it to a point where it can hold more urine at a time.
So, where should you start? Well, your first step is to avoid emptying your bladder regularly. Try holding your urine for as long as possible despite the urge to release it. For instance, if you’re used to emptying the system five times a day, you can reduce it to two or three visits to the bathroom.
Another way of training your bladder is to take in more liquid per day. As you increase the number of drinks—healthy ones for that matter—you take in, your urine also increases, hence filling your bladder a lot quicker. Try to combine the two if you can handle it. However, be careful not to cause more complications in the process.
3. Evaluate your pre-run fuel
Solid foods may not seem like much of a trigger for the bladder, but they actually play a significant role. There are certain foods that can irritate your system and increase the likelihood of unintentional urine flow while running. So, how can you avoid such issues?
First, you need to find the best runner’s diet that works for you. Eggs, edamame, and sweet potatoes are some of the things you should consider consuming. Avoid as much as possible any food that contains a lot of caffeine, carbonation, or artificial sweeteners. Spicy and acidic food should also be scrapped off your menu.
4. Focus on your breathing
As mentioned earlier, one of the best solutions is to try Kegel exercises. This pelvic floor training works best when coupled up with breathing. Apart from the normal inhale-exhale process required for any Kegel exercise, you might want to coordinate your breathing process to match the contractions.
When you feel you’ve mastered all the basics, you can start trying them while on the move. Control your breathing while running and make sure the inhale-exhale process matches the contraction and relaxation of your pelvic floor. In the long run, you’ll be able to prevent the involuntary flow of urine.
5. Invest in quality clothing and footwear
Sometimes all the training you put in practice to strengthen your pelvic floor might not be effective. If you’re in such a situation and your incontinence issue is persistent, then the best option is to find comfortable clothes and footwear.
For one, you can invest in special incontinence underwear, which can absorb the urine every time there is a leakage. This ensures that you continue feeling comfortable as you do your daily runs and exercises. Another issue that many people don’t consider is footwear. What you might not know is that the quality of your shoes may have an impact on your pelvic floor.
Also, if your shoe collection is full of high heels, then that’s another problem that needs solving. Remember, the more time you spend on high-heeled shoes, the higher the chances of having your pelvic floor squeezed.
Your overall body may end up assuming this position even after you’ve taken off the high heels, and that might be an issue during your running sessions. The solution, therefore, is to transition gradually to flatter shoes and avoid high-heeled ones as much as possible.
6. Visit a specialist
Running while dealing with pelvic floor-related issues isn’t recommended because these movements contribute to the leaking of urine. However, that’s not to say you should end your career as an athlete when these problems arise. You can start by trying the tips discussed above, but if there’re no changes, then it might be time to consult an expert.
It’s always a good idea to seek the help of a female physiotherapist if you’re a woman, and vice versa. Gender might not seem like a huge issue in such situations, but it actually gives you the courage and freedom to explain everything. An open and honest talk makes it easier for the specialist to narrow down your problem and advise accordingly. Pelvic floor dysfunction may come in different forms depending on your health status and genetic structure. It’s important to understand the root cause of your problem for you to treat it effectively, and that’s where a health physiotherapist comes into play.
Runner incontinence is an issue that can affect almost anyone, but there are some risk factors that have skewed its prevalence according to statistics; they include age, weight, and gender. If you’re already a victim of this bladder dysfunction, there are some steps that you could take to avoid any embarrassment during your running sessions.
For one, you should consider strengthening your pelvic floor through Kegel exercises. While at it, focus on your breathing patterns and the contractions of the pelvic floor muscles.
Also, remember that whatever you take in before running may have an impact on your bladder. Therefore, be careful with the diet you choose before and after your daily exercise. It might also be a good idea to visit a specialist and get their advice regarding your situation before moving on to other options.
- “Urinary Incontinence”, Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/symptoms-causes/syc-20352808
- “Kegel Exercises”, Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/kegel-exercises