There’s nothing more frustrating than getting out of the house to move your body — whether on a run around the neighborhood or hiking on a challenging trail — only to start leaking pee the second (or a few minutes after) you start moving.
If you’re embarrassed about leaking while hiking or running, we assure you you’re not alone. Because of common myths and misconceptions, several women struggle with this problem and are hesitant to get the help they need.
Though leaking urine is common — it’s not normal. Below, we’ll dive into some ways to address this problem head-on so you can confidently hike, run, and be active!
Myths & Truths About Leaking While Hiking or Running
Several myths about leaking while hiking or running are simply that — myths! Here are a few of the most common:
Myth #1: Leaking can only happen after having kids.
Many women assume they’ll only leak while hiking or running after giving birth to children. However, that’s not true. This problem can develop at any age, from young athletes in high school and college to older women well past menopause.
Myth #2: Incontinence is a sign of pelvic floor weakness.
Urinary incontinence doesn’t necessarily relate to the strength of your pelvic floor. Rather, it is a pressure mitigation issue — tension, angles in the body, and pressure all impact leaking. This is why you might not have any problems leaking while hiking uphill, but you always tend to leak when hiking downhill.
Myth #3: Medication, surgery, or wearing a pad are my only options.
After struggling with leaking, many women assume they’ll have to wear a liner or pad anytime they run, jump, or hike to keep their underwear dry, or worse, have surgery to fix the problem — but that’s not true.
Several solutions, like pelvic floor physical therapy, can help you stop leaking without surgical intervention. If your leaking is related to prolapse, then a pessary (a supportive device inserted internally) can help lift and support the bladder, uterus, or whatever is causing the pressure and contributing to the leaking.
Why Does Leaking Happen While Hiking or Running?
When hiking or running, we tend to clench our pelvic floor muscles — especially when we leak urine. However, while we assume this is helping us from leaking urine, it actually worsens the problem. Clenching our pelvic floor muscles creates pressure, which results in less expandability and space for the bladder. So now, your bladder isn’t just getting jarred around while you run or hike — it is also getting squeezed.
How to Stop Leaking While Hiking or Running
The key to stopping leaking while hiking or running is to learn how to engage the pelvic floor and core muscles without clenching with deep, intentional belly breathing. Before starting, we usually tell our clients to establish their “fence line,” or current symptoms, to track progress.
So, let’s say you notice you usually begin to leak when you’re a half-hour into your three-mile run. Instead of running three miles straight, you should jog for a quarter mile, take a quick break to practice deep breathing and reset, and then run the next quarter mile before doing the same thing again. Usually, after a few days of following this pattern, you’ll notice your “fence line” has moved, and you don’t experience symptoms as quickly as before.
Once you’ve pushed the “fence line” enough to reach your goals — in this case, leaking while running — you can learn how to incorporate deep breathing and leaking mitigation techniques into your daily physical activity.
When Should I Come in to See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist?
The short answer? As soon as possible.
Usually, the sooner you get in to see a pelvic floor physical therapist when you start noticing leaking during physical activity, the fewer sessions will be needed to solve the problem. The more chronic an issue becomes, the longer it takes to “unravel” and reset the tension and tightness in the body causing the leaking.
During a pelvic floor physical examination, your therapist will evaluate the pelvic floor and core for areas of tension and weakness and work on balancing them out. Then, they’ll help you learn how to use the diaphragm, core, and pelvic floor together to mitigate excessive abdominal pressure that can cause leaking while running or hiking.
When Should I Seek Immediate Help for Leaking or Incontinence?
If you experience a complete emptying of the bladder instead of a few drops or dribbles, you should go directly to a pelvic floor physical therapist for treatment. They can often refer you to a urogynecologist if necessary. Additionally, if you are experiencing fecal incontinence (leaking poop), there may be some spinal cord issues that can be addressed by a pelvic floor physical therapist or, in more severe cases, a neurologist.
Get Help for Leaking While Running or Hiking with Moment of Truth Physical Therapy
If you’re located in Peoria, Arizona, or Greater Phoenix and are struggling with leaking while hiking, running, or being active — we’d love to help you solve this problem and gain confidence in your bladder with pelvic floor physical therapy and deep breathing exercises!