Stress Incontinence: The Strong Mom Series S14E3


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Bekah & Anna Marie take on the elephant in the room when it comes to females lifting: stress incontinence. They provide helpful tips and strategies whether you struggle with this yourself or you are a coach who has clients who struggle with this (whether they tell you or not). To be clear, we’re discussing what happens if you pee when lifting, usually at heavier weights.

Different types of incontinence exist, and they specifically discuss stress incontinence. Even when it comes to stress incontinence, different types exist and you may find that stress incontinence occurs along familiar patterns for different lifters.

When it comes to stress incontinence, you typically two diametrically-opposed reactions: shroud of same or badge of honor. Lifters may feel ashamed that it occurs and not want to discuss and even consider not lifting anymore, or they celebrate it and see it as evidence of hard work, like some CrossFitters may feel or have felt about puking during an especially hard “met con.”

Some things tend to make this more likely. Below are some features or events that will likely make stress incontinence more likely to occur:

  • being female
  • having had kids, especially 2+
  • wearing a belt
  • heavier weights
  • during a particular portion of the monthly cycle

Don’t worry, though. There are ways to deal with this, beyond diapers or pads to absorb the issue at hand.

Below are some important things and potential ways to address this:

  • proper instruction on bracing
  • incontinence RPE, where this issue limits intensity
  • limiting rep ranges
  • don’t wear a belt
  • adjust exercises: high bar
  • don’t drink caffeine before training on training days
  • NOT emptying your bladder repeatedly between work sets
  • adjust training during the portion of your cycle where this is more likely to occur
  • think about this like a form error that you can address (and potentially a form error that you don’t allow and adjust training if it occurs)
  • prescribe tonnage goals

Thinking about bearing down like you’re going to the bathroom is definitely NOT helpful. Learning proper bracing and valsalva can help, and these muscles can actually be strengthened alongside your other muscles. You may find that these muscles lag behind your others, but you can still get seriously strong even if you limit stresses that tend to cause this to occur. It’s more like clenching like someone is going to hit your stomach.

Kegels and other exercises can help, but they simply aren’t similar enough to holding a properly braced position for a hard set of squats or deadlifts.

People tend to find that this occurs at a fatigue threshold or intensity threshold. Some women find that longer sets make it harder to prevent this, so lowering rep ranges and doing more sets can help.

Other women may find that a certain intensity causes it. In this case, limiting intensity can help.

If you find that it occurs during a certain time of the month, then you can adjust that portion of the month with lower weights or reps, no belt, tempo squats and supplemental squats that make it easier to control and lower the intensity.

Another thing to note is that trying to empty your bladder before every work set likely only creates an expectation in your body that you need to pee when you train, so this is ultimately counterproductive.

Bekah and Anna Marie have found that this often occurs alongside form breakdown (as, if you think about it, you tend to adjust your body in certain ways when you pee). Just like other form errors, you can learn to prevent them as much as possible and, of course, adjust training when they occur.

There’s the mental side to this. You may feel embarassed from this. You may get upset that your platform or clothes get urine on them. There's fear and apprehension, especially when you train in ways that tends to cause this to happen (higher reps or intensities).

Finally, after hearing all this you might feel guilty or not normal if you’re a woman and don’t struggle with this. That’s fine too! Different people struggle with different things in life and lifting, and you don’t need to feel bad whether you struggle with this or not.

We should be able to talk about this and help people alleviate and address this issue. This podcast is here to help.


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