If the thought of hitting the jogging trail or doing a quick set of jumping jacks makes you cringe, you're not alone. Even sports superstars like Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton and speed skater Bonnie Blair admit they've had to cope with a condition known as overactive bladder (OAB). Don't let fears of accidental leaks or an overwhelming urge to go derail your workout— try these tips to stay on track.
Get checked out
A frequent urge to pee can signal a bladder infection or sometimes something much worse. Play it safe and talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Call your doctor, too, if it takes more than a mini pad to handle occasional leaks.
Strengthen your pelvic floor
Ever laughed so hard you wet your pants? Those little leaks are known as stress incontinence, the kind of urine loss that can happen during even mild physical activity, let alone a full workout. Try a Pilates class that incorporates Kegels, exercises which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the urethra. You have to do them right though, so it's worth talking to your doctor or taking a class designed to tone core muscles (try your local YMCA). Once you start Kegels, keep 'em up— just like any other muscles, your pelvic floor can go lax again.
Think low-impact aerobics
OK, so maybe pounding the pavement or hitting the treadmill isn't for you and your bladder. You can still swim, bike, walk, work out on the elliptical, and try other forms of low-impact cardio for a heart-pumping workout. Talk to a professional trainer for suggestions.
Space out fluids
Of course you need to stay hydrated, but guzzling water non-stop while you exercise will only make you need to go more. Instead, drink up and empty your bladder before you work out. Take a break to drink more halfway through your workout and again when you're done. (By timing your bathroom breaks as well, you'll be training your bladder when to go.) Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol, both of which can irritate OAB.
Quick, sudden moves that increase pressure on the abdomen can make OAB symptoms worse. Instead of a timed series of ab crunches, try yoga poses and other slower moves that still strengthen and tone.
Some women find inserting a tampon before they exercise helps keep the urethra stable and prevents accidents. Other women find tampons irritating, though, so stop if they bother you.
Common sense precautions like wearing a pad, bringing along a towel, and wearing dark pants— just in case!— can make you feel more assured and more likely to stick with your routine. Who knows? Keep up with your workouts and you may lose weight, which can help lessen your OAB symptoms, too.