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Let's talk about pee, baby

Welcome to the first Swift #mumstrong blog post!

I thought I'd start off with a topic that's been turning up a lot on social media and in my own life recently. So, I’d like to share some info, plus my own thoughts & experiences on... Peeing when exercising.

Uncontrollable urination during exercise occurs when you have increased pressure placed on your bladder and your weakened pelvic floor is unable to resist this increase in pressure. This specific type of involuntary peeing is called Stress Urinary Incontinence.

The increased pressure on your bladder could be from lifting heavy (especially during deadlifts in my case), or even when jumping and running. SUI is also the reason you pee when you sneeze, cough or laugh, so if this happens to you, read on to see what you can do to help.

The most important thing to point out is that it’s normal! Stress Urinary Incontinence can happen to men and women but is prevalent in postnatal women due to the increased stress the pelvic floor is under during pregnancy. I don’t want SUI to stop anyone from exercising so here is some information what you can do.

I'll make a separate post about pelvic floor exercises, but first I wanted to talk about other ways of managing SUI.

  1. Regress your exercises – Regression means reducing the intensity of an exercise so that is places less pressure on your bladder, for example, Star Jumps can be regressed to Side Steps and Barbell Deadlifts can be regressed to Dumbbell Deadlifts. There is way of regressing most exercises to put less pressure on your pelvic floor, a quick Google search or conversation with any postnatal athlete/trainer is a good place to start if you need to regress an exercise.

  2. Adjust your positioning – An alternative to regressing an exercise could be to change how the exercise stresses your body, to limit the pressure going through your pelvis. A Personal Trainer will be able to work with you to find the best form for you to avoid unnecessary pelvic stress, such as narrowing your stance or adjusting pelvis position.

  3. Be prepared - Of course it's important to stay hydrated during your workouts, so please do not stop drinking water because you're scared about peeing BUT be mindful and don't down a pint of water just before your workout. Small sips! You can also wear a pad to make you feel a bit more confident as leaks are inevitable. Finally, the most effective way I’ve found to stop peeing uncontrollably when exercising, is to go pee right before you do something you know will tax your pelvic floor (heavy deadlifts, I’m prepared for you now!)

  4. Pelvic Floor exercises - There are many benefits to strengthening your pelvic floor, including bladder control, improved recovery from childbirth and increased sexual sensation! It takes a lot more than Kegel exercises to build up this strength, and so I'll be making a separate post to cover this!

This brings me on to my experiences with Stress Urinary Incontinence.

You don't need to be postnatal to have SUI. I experienced it before I gave birth and it was always a worry. I only ever had a problem with it during heavy deadlifts, and it was always a worry at the back of my mind before going for a max deadlift & especially when competing. To give myself some more reassurance I would go to the toilet before every set & wear a pad just in case. This did help and I just put it down to ‘one of those things’. As a result I never really worked on my pelvic floor and was able to get away with it back then.

But then things changed. Now, after having two children, just wearing a pad and going to the toilet before max deadlifts isn’t enough. I need to address my pelvic floor health more seriously. Especially after I leaked more than usual recently on a new deadlift max, had to run inside to put a pad in & get the hairdryer on my crotch before getting back in the gym to finish my set. (Video below, apologies for portrait). It’s not just in the gym, every time I sneeze I’m worried that I’ll pee. I've been working on my own pelvic floor more consistently for around 6 months and I'm already seeing improvements, in and out of the gym! It’s great & feels so good when I get a new max AND I don't pee! Win win!

Now, I wholeheartedly support normalising this issue, and respect that part of that is people being public about their own experiences with peeing during exercise. I've seen videos on social media lately with various reactions to situations where women have experienced SUI in a public gym. I think the best video I've seen was of a woman who had a small leak, went and got a cloth and wiped it up. That’s how it should be handled, no differently from if you were sweating a lot. If you’re worried about how people will react if you do have an accident, then as long as you just clear up for the next person then nobody will care.

Leaks happen, clean up & move on, and as always be respectful.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any experiences of SUI and did you feel embarrassed or just accept it? Are you doing any pelvic floor exercises to help?

Drop me a message and let me know!

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Great blog.

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