It has been thirteen years since I started running, again. Over the past thirteen years, a silent little (mostly) woman’s issue has been swimming about in my thoughts before, after and during running. Predominantly, when I run fast, run uphill, or run downhill.

Sometimes I am caught out because I genuinely forget I’m female. Sometimes I plan in advance and later can be found high-fiving my operational skills.

What am I talking about? Only a widely felt but little discussed issue of running incontinence.

The reason I’m talking about this is that I don’t come across such articles very often when I’m reading sports material on a plethora of platforms. Yet, it’s usually the first thing that I want to ask someone—does it happen to you too? Last year I recall a tweet sent out via RunWales with the message to Ask Paula (Paula Radcliffe) questions about running. And it was honestly the only question I could think of—Paula, does it happen to you too?

img_6587-e1485045662306I decided to google a search for recent articles on the topic and the top results were by Dr Juliet McGrattan (author of Sorted: the Active Women’s Guide to Health) on Women’s Running UK and Rose George for The Guardian. Both articles are full of great content which reveal, to me especially, that this is not only normal, but more common than I ever imagined. Because there was a gap between running as a youth and then taking up running again after my children were born, it is highly likely that I have been contending with Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) since I was 23 years old. What I did not factor in was that I wasn’t powerless to stop it, though I just presumed that it would go away by itself.

When running can make a huge difference to your life for all the right reasons, this is something that can take the shine out of the bling. I’ve done all sorts of races—mostly fell or cross-country, with short, sharp hills, fast downhills, sprints here and there, to long mountainous endurance trails and multi-stage adventure races where there was no option to change my shorts—and I’ve yet to manage any of them without emptying a bladder that I had thought was already empty. I’ve often felt let down by my own body, and brain, for tricking me into a false sense of comfort!

IMG_7639I’ve longed for patterned shorts, tights and skorts (noted by Rose George too) simply to camouflage what is probably noticeable (but I’ll do my best to avoid acknowledgement of it anyhow). My ideal running would be in light wind and rain because then no-one would be any-the-wiser (although I’ve now let the cat out of the bag). I’ve often had to pull back on my effort on the track, field or road because maintaining a speed is starting to really turn the taps on. Not great for trying to get that PB!

So I will put it out there, that yes, if you haven’t figured out by reading this article by now, I deal with SUI on practically every run. Reading Dr Juliet’s article has reminded me that I’ve also been rather lazy at the pelvic-floor training sessions, only remembering every now and then, and never for more than a week or so.

I urge you to check out both articles and if you feel you need to get some help with this issue, then know you’re not alone. Dr Juliet McGrattan recently forwarded a link to the Squeezy app, available for both men and women. Take a look!

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As an aside, I wrote this article before I headed out on my Fierce Mind {strength through adventures} gambol up and down this British island. I ran slower than I normally would, and this meant that I didn’t suffer with my usual SUI. This was a real issue before I left, I really worried that each day I’d have to carry spare knickers and shorts in my bumbag or else the chaffing would be unbearable! But, the symptoms didn’t provoke any such catastrophe! So I really do think I’ll be enjoying my longer sauntering bimbles from now on…

Updated since first published 11th March 2016

8 Comments on “Just a wee bit of running

  1. Thanks for posting this. I have found that it has got worse post-menopause and I now carry a Shee-wee with me on trail runs longer than an hour. However reading the post has encouraged me to download and use a Kegel app so hopefully I can at least stop things getting any worse. Here’s hoping I can keep the motivation to do the exercises regularly and see progress!

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    • Hey, sorry for the delay in replying. I’m glad you found some positive action from it! Dr Juliet keeps telling me to exercise, so doctors orders 🙂

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  2. This is such an important topic Yvie. Well done for highlighting it and bravely speaking out. I firmly believe it’s a major barrier stopping many women being active. Women need to know it’s nothing to be ashamed of and plenty of help is available if they seek it out. Thank you for the blog and book recommendation too, there’s a chapter on the pelvic floor with lots of tips, advice and a section dedicated to exercising with urinary incontinence.

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  3. Thanks Juliet! Wouldn’t have a post to write here if it wasn’t for your educational content though 😀 Can’t wait to read the book!! xx

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  4. Some of my tennis friends complain of this. I don’t have it. I theorize that those of us who delivered via c section aren’t as prone to this. But before you think we’re lucky….know we’ve got our own issues!! Tummy upset issues. Hmmm which is worse? Both!!

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    • Something I appreciate you sharing, and very glad I’ve never had to deal with! I’d say they’re two sides of the same coin, though ultimately different experiences. Discovering that I can potentially sort mine out if I keep to the programme is good, but what about c-section issues — is there also a remedy?

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      • Not sure? And it’s only an unconfirmed theory based on anecdotes.

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