Peeing… Just a little bit
Peeing, just little bit, when you jump. Peeing, just a little bit, when you sneeze. Peeing, just a little bit, when you laugh. It’s something that isn’t often discussed among groups of women but get them one-on-one and many admit it’s a problem. The older the age group the more likely it is to happen. About 1 in 3 women will experience stress urinary incontinence in their lives.
A trainer once told me that before skipping they instructed women to go to the bathroom, and warned them it was normal to feel the urge to pee or heaviness as they jumped. Many women accept the fact that they will pee during high intensity exercise as normal. A surprisingly large amount of women wear pads during exercise to catch the leakage.
Leaking under pressure is common, but it is not normal. Your body is not designed to leak, and if you are experiencing leakage there is something you can do about it. Feeling heaviness in your pelvis is not normal, and if you experience it there is something you can do about it. Using the bathroom before jumping, ignoring it, or accepting leakage are not solutions.
Leaking under load, i.e. when you jump, sneeze, laugh, or cough is called Stress Urinary Incontinence. Stress urinary Incontinence may be a symptom of a weak pelvic floor.
I will preface this by saying that if you experience incontinence or heaviness your first course of action should be to book an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist. A pelvic floor physiotherapist is trained in pelvic floor health, and can perform an internal exam to learn about the strength and responsiveness of your pelvic floor muscles.
Your pelvic floor is designed to maintain your continence, i.e. stop you from leaking pee uncontrollably, and if it is not doing this there may be a weakness or lack of coordination in the system. Ignoring the situation will not improve it. Jumping despite leakage is not the solution. Feeling heaviness or leaking during high impact activities is common but it is not the way your body was designed to work, and there are things you can do about it.
The fitness industry and most commercial gyms today developed out of the commercialization of bodybuilding in the 1950 and 1960s. Many of the training strategies used in bodybuilding and Olympic weightlifting were based on male physiques and the studies were performed on male athletes. As the fitness industry began marketing weightlifting to women many of the same training principles were used, ignoring the fact that the female body is not the same as the male body, and does not respond to load in the same way. It is only in the last 10 years that research has been done into female athletes.
Women have different bone structures to men, lower levels of testosterone, which impacts muscle growth, and go through several hormonal shifts in their lifetime from pre-menopause to peri-menopause to post-menopause. Should a woman become pregnant, she will experience more pyshiologicl changes in 9 months of pregnancy than a man will experience in his lifetime. Around 80% of women will have a child in their lifetime meaning that many women entering training programs have had adaptations to their core system which they may not have rehabbed postpartum. Women often think of being postpartum as recently having had a baby, but while pregnancy is temporary, postpartum is forever. An adapted system may need adaptive strategies.
Women are not the same as men and women cannot be trained the same as men. Pelvic floor issues are much more common in women. A study of self-reported urinary incontinence revealed that 4.4% of men reported it compared to 35.3% of women under 69 years old, rising to 51.9% of women in aged 70 – 74 years of age. Men have a smaller, narrower pelvis than women. A theory is that women’s broad pelvis and broad base of support make it more susceptible to falter under sustained, unmanaged loads. Women have an additional sphincter in their pelvic floor than men, an additional hole from which pressure can escape. Women have a hole in their pelvic floor muscle which is designed to be able to expand enough to allow a human to emerge from it, leading to an area of potential weakness than is not evident in men. Pelvic floor exercises should be an important part of any woman’s training program yet this is often neglected.
The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that make up the base of your core system. They help support your hips and lower back. The pelvic floor is designed to co-contract with the abs. According to statistics up to 90% of women with chronic lower back pain also have some level of pelvic floor dysfunction. A strong pelvic floor can help reduce lower back pain and help improve core strength. Like all muscles, the pelvic floor muscles respond to progressive loading. For many women if the coordination and the strength of the pelvic floor is improved they will see an improvement in their symptoms.
Pelvic floor exercises go beyond kegels. Your pelvic floor is dynamic and responds to pressure and loads and should be trained in a way that respects this. Many women don't know how to incorporate their pelvic floor into their fitness routine, and we at the Racquet Club are working to bring you a program about all things abs, back and pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor is literally the floor of your core, your foundation of strength. Without a strong foundation everything built on it is weaker. Pelvic floor training is an important part of your overall core health.
If you experience leaking during exercise, chronic lower back pain, hip pain or heaviness or a general feeling of instability in your core, email me at MummyFitness@live.com.