Incontinence – No Laughing Matter

Having a weak pelvic floor is no laughing matter – which ironically is just one of the many things it prevents you doing, along with coughing, sneezing and exercise, especially jumping and RUNNING…without fear of an accident (and we’re not talking tripping over your laces).

As Running Coaches we know only too well the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to seek out a handily placed tree (not so handy on Northchurch Common) before, during and after a run.

So, we thought it’s about time we started talking about it – without taking the piss…

What is our pelvic floor and how can we find it?

The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles stretching from the tailbone to the pubic bone – it supports the bladder, bowel and womb. These muscles are meant to contract to stop any flow of urine and connect to your core, helping you to keep good posture. The muscles are also sometimes referred to as a “trampoline”. A poor joke for women who know trampolining is a sure way to wee yourself.

So what can possibly go wrong?

Bladder leakage means that you pass urine when you don’t mean to. It can range from a small dribble now and then, to large floods of urine. The medical term for bladder leakage is ‘urinary incontinence’ but most women don’t use the word ‘incontinence’, preferring instead to talk about bladder leakage.

Leaks may be occasional or frequent depending on the severity and type of condition. The most likely cause of bladder leakage in women is Pelvic Floor muscle weakness.

Anything from pregnancy to running to weight gain can put extra pressure and weaken the muscles, leading to bladder leakage. Lack of oestrogen as women approach the menopause can also be a contributing factor.

There are three main types of bladder leakage– stress, urgency and mixed.

Stress leakage – urine leaks at times when your bladder is under pressure; for example as a result of activity such as exercise, or when you laugh, cough or sneeze. It’s defined by the International Continence Society as “involuntary leakage on effort or exertion or on sneezing or coughing”.

Urgency leakage – urine leaks as you feel a sudden intense urge to urinate but can’t reach the toilet in time – it can happen to anyone at any age.

Mixed leakage – mixed bladder leakage – when both stress and urgency leakage are present.

How common is it?

Up to a third of all women experience a problem with their pelvic floor muscles at some time during their life, although recent research commissioned by Pelviva claimed that two thirds of middle-aged women are currently suffering (mainly in silence) and this has an effect on mental health too.  Bladder leakage can also affect men, for men it’s estimated about one in four.

What about runners?

In a survey completed in September 2019 by Pelviva it was found that one in three women over the age of 40 have experienced symptoms when running, jumping or engaging in other physical activities.   

What can you do about it?

We are firm believers that it pays to do your pelvic floor exercises on a daily basis as the best way to prevent and treat a weak pelvic floor, although we were shocked to learn that whilst 96% of women know about these pelvic floor exercises only 10% do them regularly! And, of these, as many as 50% are unable to actually perform them correctly.1,2

So, this is why we’re working with Pelviva, a revolutionary, clinically proven, easy-to-use pelvic floor muscle trainer which does your pelvic floor exercises for you, to help spread the word about the importance of looking after your pelvic floor.

Although Pelviva is a product for use by women only men can also benefit from regularly doing exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor.  Here at Jog On we have both men and women who run with us.

Like us, they firmly believe that we should be raising awareness of the issues surrounding bladder leakage, the importance of doing your pelvic floor exercises and helping more women to get the support they need.

To do pelvic floor exercises yourself, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care) recommends that you perform them 3 times each day. Find a comfortable  place to sit and then lift and squeeze your pelvic floor aiming for 10 x10 second holds resting between each one, followed by 10 short strong contractions. Remember not to hold your breath or tighten your stomach, buttock or thigh muscles at the same time. You may want to build up gradually adding more squeezes over a few weeks, making sure you rest in between each one. There’s more detailed information on doing your exercises here on the Pelviva website.

If you’re finding it tricky, or exercises don’t seem to be helping, you may want to try Pelviva, which does all the hard work for you! Pelviva is a medical device similar to a tampon that works naturally with your body, using neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles, causing them to contract. You use Pelviva for just 30 minutes (the recommendation is once every other day for 12 weeks to get the full benefits) and then simply dispose of it. You start to feel muscle contractions as soon as Pelviva starts, as it works with your body to train, tone and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, preventing bladder leakage and allowing you to run as far as you want, for as long as you want, without the need for discreet visits to trees or bulky pads. In a 12-week study, 84% of women reported improved bladder control with no side effects3.

Of course, there are other products available that help you do your exercises including Apps and vaginal cones which can benefit some people. Many people also use incontinence pads although these only mask the issue rather than helping to fix it.

It’s always a good idea to speak to your GP who can advise you on the best products for your body or if necessary, refer you to a Continence specialist.

Lastly, read on for our top tips on what else can help you prevent bladder leakage when you’re out running:

  1. Fairly obvious but worth emphasising – when going out for a run always go to the loo before leaving home, then make sure you get to the toilet/tree as close to the start of your run if possible. If you’ve entered a race, don’t forget to leave extra time for the inevitable long loo queues!
  2. If you’re caught short during your run then walk instead and find the nearest bush – there’s usually one not far away!
  3. Invest in a decent pair of trainers.  Each step sends a jolt of high pressure, three to four times your body weight, through your ankles, knees, pelvis, spine…..and bladder!
  4. Consider any strengthening around the core area including the lower abs and glutes. Try a Pilates class or better still a Strength for Runners course!
  5. Wear black leggings/shorts to mask any leakage.
  6. Try adding extra external support to your abdomen and pelvis. Start with a very good pair of pants! There are some modern and more stylish incontinence knickers that absorb urine, made by companies such as the Manchester-based Giggle Knickers. 
  7. Finally, try not to laugh at the Jog On jokes. At worst you might pee yourself and at best it only encourages us to keep cracking them!

Jog Onners will receive a 10% discount when purchasing Pelviva until the end of June 2020 – simply enter the code JOGON10 at the checkout.

1. Bø K., Larsen S., Oseid S. et al. (1988) Knowledge about and ability to correct pelvic floor muscle exercises in women with stress urinary incontinence. Neurourology and Urodynamics. 69, 261-262.

2. Bump R.C., Hunt W.G., Fantl J.A., Wyman J.F. (1991). Assessment of Kegel pelvic muscle exercise performance after brief verbal instruction. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 165, 322-329.

3. Oldham J, Herbert J, McBride K. Evaluation of a new disposable ‘tampon-like’ electrostimulation technology (Pelviva®) for the treatment of urinary incontinence in women: a 12-week single blind randomized controlled trial. Neurourology Urodynamics 2013; 32(5):460-466. doi 10.1002/nau.22326.