Why Do Women Pee While Lifting?

Why Do Women Pee While Lifting?

 By Malia Warren

Let’s get this out of the out of the way before you keep reading. We’re going to talk about a glaring subject that no one else likes to talk about: pee.

 

Urination. Involuntary Incontinence. Whiz. Whatever you want to call it, we don’t care, we’re talking about it… openly.

It’s always been a taboo topic, but here’s the thing: the more we talk about it the more we can normalize it and stop shaming athletes for it. More on that later.

This subject has been addressed in articles by doctors and other professionals, even other weightlifting clubs. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel here by providing you with yet ANOTHER explanation of what Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is. For the medical breakdown, please check out this Mayo Clinic article on the topic.

 

Shame, Shame

One weightlifting club took to social media to shame women and their followers went WILD. In a good way. Comment after comment criticized the club for making women feel ashamed until they took the post down after a few days. The whole experience inspired us to write this post, to share the story, and help women feel like they're not alone.

If you’re a functional fitness athlete or lifter, you know that it happens.

Your friends most likely poke fun at each other about letting a little pee slip out when they’re doing double-unders.

The reality is this: your friend (or you) is dealing with a weak pelvic floor. This is either something you’re genetically predisposed to or something you develop with life, such as having a vaginal birth or another form of traumatic stress to your bladder.

A Backstory

Here we'rgoing to turn the floor over to one of our very own athletes, Kristin Sanders, who is a Nationally Ranked Master’s weightlifter and experiences involuntary urination on the platform.

Looking back on her childhood, Kristin says she’s always had this issue. It used to happen to her growing up, most notably jumping on the trampoline or laughing really hard: some of life’s experiences that define childhood. 

Imagine avoiding the trampoline because you’re worried you’ll pee your pants.

Fast forward to her adult life: 3 months into CrossFit and the Workout of the Day (WOD) had double-unders. Uh Oh, she thought.

So she asks her CrossFit coach at the time, also a female, if she could sub out the double-unders for something else. She was afraid to pee her pants in front of everyone!

Guess what coach said?

“We all do it. It’s not abnormal. It’s common.”

Sooooo cool, half of us pee our pants a little while working out. Actually, maybe a little less, but still! According to American Medical Systems, 24% of women between the ages of 18 and 44 experience this.

But here is the real issue – it predominantly occurs for Kristin doing her most favorite thing in the world: Weightlifting.

Have you ever had to pee when lifting heavy? What is your automatic gut-check reaction when that happens? To STOP what you’re doing right?

Yea, dropping the weights isn’t fun. Especially if it’s a PR. How are you supposed to feel comfortable with going up in weight, if you know that you’re going to pee (again), and you know people will see?

 

An Unforgettable Experience

Here’s a true story from Kristin:

Just picture it: My first ever CrossFit competition was the Festivus Games and one of the workouts was a max Squat Clean.

I was so effing stoked for it, it was my first solo competition and to be honest, I knew I had this event in the bag. Lifting is my jam. But when I went for, what would’ve been at the time, a PR weight, I missed the weight (multiple times) because I kept peeing. I literally pee’d everywhere, in front of every one at the competition.

So not only did everyone see me pee myself. I didn’t have extra clothes. It was such a new thing for me at the time (and the world of CrossFit competition as it is), I didn’t think to bring extras.

But after that experience, SO many people came up to me to offered support for my badassery and commitment to making that lift. Absolutely no one said anything that made me feel bad about what happened, albeit embarrassing AF.

From that day forward, I’ve owned it. I bring extra pants with me every time I lift, talk to everyone I know about it, and help others understand it happens.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Now, there are things that can help it, along with some pretty invasive surgeries that supposedly help. Most people will not do surgery, so our next step should be to see a Physical Therapist (PT).

You should see a PT for Pelvic issues? Oh yes, girl.

Especially for women that have carried a baby for 9 months.

Organs were shifted, you endured hours of labor, while contracting severely, and pushing a human out of your most sensitive areas on the body. Even if you have a cesarean section surgery, it’s effing traumatizing to your body.

We talked with Dr. Krystyna Holland at Inclusive Care, LLC to get the lowdown on this topic. She says pelvic floor dysfunction is SUPER common and can look like a lot of things, including:

  • Stress urinary incontinence
  • Painful sex
  • Pelvic pain
  • SI joint issues
  • Hip pain that doesn't resolve
  • Pelvic organ prolapse, and more

Things that may impact UI are - age, hormones, strength, amount and type of training, whether someone has been pregnant, etc.

For Kristin the pee instances aren’t predictable – some days it’s the heaviest weight that triggers an “episode” but then other days she’ll hit the same weight, and nothing. She’s literally tried everything: using the bathroom often during lifting sessions, wearing black pants, in fact, her mom even brought her some Depends to her 2nd ever weightlifting meet.

Dehydration, or avoiding water to avoid peeing, won’t work either. Alternatively, it makes your muscles weaker.

Weaker muscles and weightlifting do not go together well.

 

 

Some professionals out there suggest wearing pads.

Do you wear pads, or have you ever worn pads? Do you not feel like everybody knows you’re wearing a pad because obviously they can HEAR it right?

Crink. Crackle. Crink.

Not to mention, wearing a pad will show off underwear lines. Most of us don’t wear underwear under our singlets while lifting at meets.

 

Some Big Jerk Energy

When I read that article calling out women for peeing on the platform, it really didn’t make sense. They suggested fining athletes for peeing. 

 Yes, fining, like money. Money for someone having an accident on a platform.

It’s not like these athletes want to pee in front of a bunch of strangers on the lifting platform.

 

 

Sooo we're going to start fining owners of dogs because their dog peed on a certain patch of grass? Or parents of children because their kid had an accident at a theme park?

Come. The F*ck. On.

This is something we should be helping our athletes with, not shaming them for.

Regardless of ignorance like this, it’s not something that should ever deter you from competing.

And why should it?

While there is no clear solution that will work for everyone, I’m here to tell you to embrace it. Whether you’re looking for a remedy or you want to keep rocking on with your bad self, my recommendation would be to TALK about it.

 

Kegels are your Bestie.

Talk to your doctor, your friends, your family and don’t be ashamed of it! The louder we are about it the more we can normalize involuntarily incontinence.

You’ve heard of Kegels right? Kegels are pelvic floor contractions. Dr. Krystyna says they are like bicep curls for your pelvic floor, which is a sling of muscles that run around your urethra, vagina, and rectum.

Strengthening this muscle can help some women.

Here is a another helpful exercise you can try to help with strengthening your muscles down there:

  • Contract the muscles of your pelvis like you are trying to stop the flow of urine and hold for 10 seconds. You might have more success with trying this while actually going to the bathroom.
  • Work up to 3 sets for 15 seconds.
  • If you're primarily experiencing urinary leakage, it might be useful to lean forwards when you do them - it works a slightly different part of the muscle group.
  • You also want to try to train fast kegels in addition to the ones that you hold, because there are both fast twitch and slow twitch fibers in your pelvic floor, and the strategy you need for a really lift heavy is a little different than the one for double-unders. 

If this doesn’t help, you can try a tampon. Originally hearing this suggestion, I too was skeptical, but the idea behind it is that it puts pressure on your urethra when properly placed, and actually helps the muscle function.

No – It’s not there to absorb anything. And it won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot.

Dr. Krystyna provided us with a ton of helpful information, and we thank her so much for it. If you employ some of these exercises and don’t see any improvement, contact her or another PT in your area for some one-on-one guidance! Pelvic Floor Therapy is a newer practice but the need for it is spreading like wildfire - and we're here for it. 

Together we can find some relief in knowing that there is support out there.

People vomit and bleed on the platform all the time, in all types of competitions ranging from wrestling to Olympic Weightlifting.

Please don’t be ashamed or let anyone make you feel less than human for a little bit of pee.

You can find Dr. Krystyna on:

  • Instagram: @Krystyna.Holland
  • Facebook: @Krystyna.Holland
  • E-mail: Krystyna@InclusiveCareLLC.com
  • Her Website: www.InclusiveCareLLC.com

 

If you have any questions or you would like to be a guest blogger, please email us at blog@liftingthedream.com

 

Do you struggle with SUI or Pelvic Issues? What resources do you wish you had to assist with this issue?

Woman lifting a barbell

Malia is the force behind Lifting the Dream and a proud mompreneur. When she's not lifting heavy weights, she's probably at the beach or Disney with her family. She is a Cali girl born and raised, with salt water in her veins and sunshine in her heart. She and her family now reside in Florida soaking up the sun, heat, and all the amazing outdoor activities this state has to offer.

 

 

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