If you leak with exercise, this blog post is for you. I explain the reasons why you might be leaking and ways to exercise leak free.
How common is leaking with exercise?
Incontinence (the leaking of urine or faeces) is very common and is said to affect around 1/3 of women. A study of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction in female power lifters and Olympic weightlifters found urinary incontinence affected 50% and anal incontinence affected 80% (Skaug et al 2020). Not surprisingly, 88% said it affected their performance and 44% did not know how to train their pelvic floor muscles.
Nygaard et al reported those who experienced severe leaking were 2.64 times more likely to be inactive, and that leaking was a barrier to exercise.
How do I strengthen my pelvic floor muscles?
Kegels or pelvic floor exercises are a useful way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Squeezy app has some useful videos on how to do pelvic floor exercises, and how many you need. Pelvic floor muscles may become weakened due to pregnancy and birth, getting older or postural problems.
But what if you are doing ALL the Kegels and you’re still leaking?
Why else might you leak with exercise?
If you have followed a pelvic floor muscle training programme for longer than 12 weeks, and you’re still leaking, it is worth looking at the following:
Coordination of the pelvic floor muscles with the other core muscles.
The pelvic floor muscles form the base of the core. They work with the transverse abdominals, multifidus, and diaphragm to manage pressure and absorb impact.
It may be that the pelvic floor muscles are not quick enough to react to (sudden) changes in intra-abdominal pressure and this is where leaking can occur.
They may be tight or restricted (or being held tight) and unable to move through a full range of motion. Again, this is where leaking may occur.
You expect to leak with exercise
This can create a more psychological response where the thought of leaking keeps the pelvic floor muscles shortened “just in case”. It’s worth looking at how you perform a certain movement. Also, looking at tension and breathing can be useful to change the way a movement is done. E.g. leaking with a high impact activity like skipping, may be improved if you relax and breathe!
The movement or activity is too hard
Or to say, it’s outside your current capacity. The great thing about training is that you can extend your capacity so the activity sits within what you can confidently do. As you build your capacity, your tendency to leak may also reduce.
Reducing or eliminating leaking with exercise may look different for everyone. A holistic approach that incorporates the pelvic floor AND the whole body (and mind) is an exercise based approach that works!
Other blogs that might be of interest:
If you’d like help exercising without leaking, you can book a free 15 minute call here