If you know the terror that seeing three rounds of 40 double-unders in a WOD can strike in your heart, you may be someone who pees during jumps.
Or, your problem may not even be double-unders but box jumps, heavy deadlifts, or even squats. Perhaps you also find that you pee when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or even vomit.
No matter what move it is, the result is the same: Either you scale things back to something that won’t cause you to pee, you put on black leggings and hope for the best, or you skip that day.
None of these are great options, of course, and while stress incontinence is common in women, it’s not considered “normal.”
One CrossFitter, Holly Mosack of CrossFit 309 in Peoria, Illinois, knows the problem all too well, and she developed a line of absorbent leak-proof workout bottoms to help women tackle those double-under WODs with confidence.
After a year of CrossFit, Holly decided to try out her first Open in 2015. One of the WODs included a lifting ladder.
She was doing well in the WOD, with her husband and 14-year-old son cheering her on to a PR. Holly felt comfortable going up in weight on her next clean and added weight to the barbell, successfully completing another clean.
“I looked down and I had made a small puddle on the floor,” she said. “I looked at my husband and he was just yelling at me, ‘Keep going!’ But I looked at my son and he had this look of confusion and disgust as he looked at the puddle.
“So I dropped the barbell, shook my head, and I was done.”
After that experience, Holly started talking to other female CrossFitters, asking if they had similar experiences. Many reported that they did, but hadn’t found anything that really worked for them.
To get through those troublesome WODs, Holly tried a variety of remedies. Pads and pantyliners shifted and bunched up during workouts, and the leak-proof underwear were out for her because she didn’t want extra bulk under her leggings. She tried the Poise Impressa inserts, but finding the right size was a journey all its own that ended up being fruitless during WODs with squats.
She finally settled on a wad of toilet paper, but that created its own mess.
Holly finally became so frustrated and thought, “‘Surely, if this was a “men’s issue,” there would be a solution.’”
This frustration led her to create Moxie Fitness Apparel, a line of shorts, capris, and leggings that feature an absorbent insert to make them leak-proof but without extra bulk so they look just like every other pair of workout wear.
During her research for an entrepreneurship class at Bradley University, Holly talked with more than 100 women, all with similar stories of stress incontinence. What was surprising to her was that less than half the women – 48% – either leaked before they had children or do not have children at all. This roundly dispels the myth that “only moms leak.”
Of the women she talked to, many did just what she did – muddle through with a series of quick fixes and partial solutions, never even talking to their doctors about the problem.
If you, like Holly, suffer from stress incontinence when you jump, lift heavy, squat, or during regular daily activities, here are some things you can do to help make your WODs easier:
Limit Fluid Intake
When you’re facing down a WOD that’s got a move likely to make you pee, doing your best to limit fluid intake for a couple of hours prior to working out may help.
If your bladder is empty, you won’t have anything left to pee during those double-unders. And, even when you’re limiting fluids, be sure to make a quick trip to the bathroom before the clock starts ticking to ensure your bladder is nice and empty.
Also, caffeine can make incontinence issues worse in some people, so if you’re an afternoon CrossFitter, consider skipping your morning coffee the day you’ve got a WOD that could be problematic.
Wear Absorbent Gear
Thankfully, the modern market is full of great absorbent gear to help cover you in the event that you do start peeing.
Absorbent underwear, often marketed for women to wear during their periods, can double as pee-soaking underwear during your workout. Although the price point on these is higher than typical underwear – averaging around $25 per pair as opposed to $10 or less per pair – you likely won’t need more than a pair or two per week, so you can easily wash them between WODs.
If you’re not into wearing underwear to the gym, absorbent workout bottoms such as the Moxie brand developed by Holly, can give you the protection you want without the extra bulk.
And for those who prefer a more disposable option, packs of disposable absorbent underwear can be found in the drugstore, usually in the same aisle as pads and tampons.
Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
In many women, stress incontinence is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles, sometimes brought on by childbirth.
To help strengthen these muscles and prevent incontinence, you can do kegel exercises daily.
Here’s how to do kegels:
- Make sure your bladder is empty. Sit or lie down in a comfortable spot.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, as if you’re trying to stop the flow of pee. Hold them tight for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Relax the muscles and count 3 to 5 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times, three times a day (morning, afternoon, and evening).
For many women, just remembering to do kegels is half the battle of actually doing them. If you need to, set a timer on your phone to remind you to get your kegels in three times a day, every day.
There also are some other exercises you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor, including:
- Glute bridges
- Bird dogs
You should see some improvement in your stress incontinence after 4 to 6 weeks of routine pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
Most of the women Holly spoke to – about 88% – hadn’t talked to their doctor or sought any sort of help for their problem. And while peeing yourself during a WOD may not greatly impact your everyday life, it’s definitely not “normal” and something you should talk to your doctor about.
Your doctor can help you by making recommendations for further testing or treatment, including a referral to a pelvic floor therapist.
Holly began seeing a pelvic floor therapist in the hopes that she’d help her own stress incontinence problem, but also to show other women that they should seek help for their issues.
This type of therapist usually is a trained physical therapist with special certification, such as women’s health. A pelvic floor therapist can provide a series of strengthening exercises, such as the pelvic floor exercises listed above, to help the incontinence, while also helping you walk through other types of incontinence you may face and why.
Your doctor can also recommend other treatments for stress incontinence, including:
- Medical devices that block or capture urine
- Electrical stimulation devices to help return any injured muscles to their original fitness
- Hormone cream to restore the tissues of the vagina and urethra to their normal thickness
- Surgery to repair or lift the urethra or bladder neck to provide extra support
While none of these remedies is expected to be a full cure or a quick-fix, you can minimize stress incontinence to the point where you don’t even notice it during your workouts, and you can jump fear-free.
Do you suffer from peeing when you workout? What solutions have you tried?
Michelle Tipsword is a professional writer who tried CrossFit on a whim in May 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. When she’s not writing or at the box, she can be found with her husband, kids, or cats, usually drinking coffee.