Smutty Fitness: Peeing and the pelvic floor
I'm writing on my iPhone in complete frustration after trying to exercise. To simply train for a 5km that everyone and their brother and friend's granny can do but for some reason, I just can't seem to train successfully. The problem I'm having today is one I've had for a while and I guess I'm just at this very moment frustrated enough by it to write in. A month from now, I'm signed up to do a "family race" weekend, with my very fit husband doing the half marathon, my seven year old son doing the kids 1.5k race, and me supposedly doing the 5k. We live in beautiful Denver, CO and after what's been a very tumultuous several years for our family we are all thankfully in good health and it is sunny and nice here and everyone exercises.
I like to try to exercise too, except for the past several years, I straight up PEE my freaking pants every time I exercise (or laugh really hard). And at first I was just like, “ha ha, it's ok, it's just a small hurdle to get over”, but frankly, it's disgusting and the amount I'm peeing is not just a small amount. What the hell is wrong with me? Is this just part of getting older (I am now 44) or does it have to do with having my son a when I was a little older (at 37) or a combo of the above?!?! My whole family exercises, especially my husband, who now has even done several half ironman competitions. My dad runs too, as does my baby sister, who is 41. I don't want to even run a marathon, I'm just asking to do a simple 5k. What can I do?
Anyway, I appreciate any advice or discussion. Thanks so much.
Can you hear it? The sigh of relief of all of the other women who are also struggling with the exact same issue as you are? Women who are relieved to know that they are not alone in this.
I want to quickly flash back to the beginning of my personal training career when I worked in a highly male dominated studio that was all “rah rah rah” about working you until you puked. I was on the floor training my client when one of the beefcake trainers came in with his client, who was in tears, and ran straight for the bathroom. I followed her, because being the only female trainer on the floor meant I was the only one who could go into the washroom, and I was the only person who noticed she was upset. Her trainer stood there, puffy chested like he had just accomplished something by making her cry, while she was in the bathroom confiding in me that she was 7 weeks post-partum and had just completely wet herself while out running with her trainer. At the time I was a rookie trainer but I knew enough to know that you do not take a newly post-partum woman out for a run on concrete!
Thankfully, 10 years later, this is something that more women are becoming comfortable with talking about and there are more professionals who are dedicating their entire health practice to helping women like you.
My first piece of advice for you is go see a health care professional who is qualified to work with women who have pelvic floor dysfunctions. We have wonderful women’s health clinics here in Vancouver, so I am sure Denver does as well. Do some research, ask your doctor and find someone qualified to help you. Most likely you can fix this through retraining your pelvic floor, however sometimes surgery is required. Seek medical attention but in the meantime, here is a little information I give my clients.
Your pelvic floor is a very important, yet a very neglected and overlooked muscle and like many muscles in our body, our pelvic floor becomes weak and tight. A terrible combination. However, simply doing your kegels is not going to solve it, and it can actually exacerbate the problem by making the muscle even tighter.
Learning how to activate your pelvic floor and teach it how to function properly is not easy. A qualified health professional can use tools, such as ultrasound, to help you regain the function of your pelvic floor but there are a few things that you can do on your own. Grab a ball which is roughly 3 or 5 inches in diameter (the tighter your pelvic floor is the bigger the ball you will want to use) and sit on it with it positioned right between your tail bone and pubic bone, as if you are hatching an egg. If you have a really tight pelvic floor this is going to feel really uncomfortable. Make sure you spine is straight and your pelvis is not tucked.
While sitting on the ball imagine your pelvic floor is a diamond, which is attached to your pubic bone, your tail bone and your hip bones on either side. As you inhale, expand through your belly, sending your breath down to your pelvic floor (the diamond). Allow the diamond to expand, feeling all four corners move away from each other and then as you exhale draw the diamond back together and gently lift it up and off of the ball. Sitting on the ball allows for feedback which will help connect you to those deep core muscles. This step number one. As you become aware of this muscle, begin to incorporate it into your other core exercises which will continue to improve its function.
In the meantime, I hate to say this to you, but you may have to lay off the running for a bit and replace it with lower impact activities such as hiking, swimming and cycling. I’m not saying you will never be able to run again, but for now it might be best to work with a professional and get those muscles functioning again. This is no different than any other injury that prevents people from running, except for the fact that you can’t see this one.
Be the cheer squad for your amazing family and while you encourage them to do their best, think about yourself a year from now crossing that same finish line with them cheering you on. I know that is not the answer you were hoping for but if you start taking care of this now, you’ll be back at it in no time.
Attached - Mel B. out in LA after a workout.