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Peeing When Running… Is It Normal?

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Lady runners… have you ever been running or participating in some other physical activity at max effort and either suddenly had to urge to urinate or suddenly realized it was already too late?

Stress urinary incontinence is not uncommon in women during physical activity. For a long time, I thought that only women who had given birth to a child had this issue. Still, as I have become more capable of exerting myself to the max during a race, I have realized that this can happen to me as well… it happened for the first time recently during an obstacle course race. I felt embarrassed, but at the same time, I was working so hard I was not willing to stop mid-race a relieve myself, so I just went with the flow… quite literally. 

I have also noticed my fellow competitors talking more about the issue, and as they spoke out about it, TONS of women started speaking about their own personal experiences with the same thing. Women who had competed in college-level track sports seemed to have a lot of experience with it and little shame for it. 


Why Do Women Pee While Physically Working Hard?

Stress urinary incontinence is defined as involuntary leakage during effort or exertion as well as coughing and sneezing. This issue occurs in about one-third of adult women. When there is pressure within the abdomen, this pressure is greater than the urethral pressure. This essentially causes an internal mechanical error with the functioning ability of the urethra sphincter. Some women may become so concerned with this happening that they are encouraged to or feel like they should quit exercise altogether to avoid it.

However, science says that women should actually continue with physical activity and that doing so is not going to increase their risk of urinary incontinence dramatically. The impact of exercise on general health is far greater than any negative impact. It should also note that women who have reported struggling with an eating disorder and have lower estrogen levels are also more likely to struggle with stress urinary incontinence. 


Just Go With The Flow

One of the worst parts about this struggle for women is that it can take away from our ability to focus on our sport/activity because we are too worried about having an accident and other people seeing. Some women choose to wear bladder leak protection such as certain pads/liners or underwear, but those things are not always comfortable to wear during sport so honestly, embrace it! It happens to over 50% of female athletes, so GO WITH THE FLOW.

It can be tough not to focus on participating in a sport where you wear minimal or tight-fitting clothing. Still, the chances are that the women around you will not judge or think much of an accident during sport. Men may not get it, but just let them know it’s science and female bodies can do amazing things regardless of bladder leakage. It washes off, and as women, we should not let our anatomy that we cannot control impact our performance or confidence!


  1. Heath, A., Folan, S., Ripa, B., Varriale, C., Bowers, A., Gwyer, J., & Figuers, C., Stress urinary incontinence in female athletes, Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy
  2. Jiang, K., Novi, J. M., Darnell, S., & Arya, L. A., Exercise and urinary incontinence in women, Obstetrical & gynecological survey
  3. Nygaard, I. E., & Heit, M., Stress urinary incontinence, Obstetrics & Gynecology

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