I always laughed at my mom when she said that she peed when she sneezed. In fact, I remember getting her a sign once that said “I laughed so hard, I peed down my leg!” - didn’t know the joke would be on me one day. Womp womp.
I noticed that something was wrong during my 7th month of pregnancy. I was an active runner before and throughout my pregnancy, but it was around this time that things started to feel off “down there” when I was active. It felt like there was a 9 pound baby just bouncing up and down on my lady parts from the inside, which was kind of the case. During a half marathon that I ran at 7 months pregnant, I called it quits at mile 6 because of the issues I was having.
Now, total disclaimer - I don’t know much about the anatomy behind all of what’s going on except for a ridiculous model that my pelvic floor physical therapist showed me about all of the crazy muscles and inner workings down there. For a more scientific and scholarly source, check out BFF, Dr. Masteller, at www.docbrittfit.com! She offers education and programs specifically for moms dealing with this issue. I have also heard amazing things about Expecting and Empowered.
Anywho, fast forward to my first 5k run post baby, which was about 3 months after I had my son. During training for this run and on smaller runs, I realized I was starting to pee my pants on the impact of running. Yup. It was a strange feeling, but somehow I just thought it would.. get better on its own? At the same time, I also kind of simultaneously thought that was just how my body was now that I had a baby. Either way, I was wrong.
In September, I started at a new gym, Burn Boot Camp. During the first week there, I realized there are tons of movements that require a lot of jumping and high impact movements, like jump knee tucks, high knee sprinters, jump lunges, jump ropes (THE WORST) and other plyometric movements. I started to realize that this pee pants problem was not going away. Except now - I was in the presence of other women. In a gym. And I felt like I definitely had to do something about it.
I talked to my primary care doctor who set me up with a consultation with a pelvic floor physical therapist. I told her I had no other issues aside from when I was doing high impact movements at the gym. The simple answer would be to - stop doing high impact movements at the gym, right? And I think that’s what she ultimately would have loved me to do, or at least modify. And I do modify for the most part, but as a natural problem solver, I wanted to actually see if I could do something to help the issue rather than just work around it.
So I kept going back for multiple sessions. These sessions included a lot of internal exams, some crazy squeezing exercises that I had to do to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles, and also just daily lifestyle changes. I did modify some movements, and I learned the right way to do a kegal exercise. Instead of just scrunching my lady parts together, like most of us do when we do kegels, my physical therapist told me that the right way to do this is to squeeze as though you are trying to fit into and zip up a tight pair of pants.
There was homework involved, and I had to literally practice these movements several times a day. I took the homework seriously and did it every day. I noticed myself getting stronger and progressing with the exercises each week I had my sessions. I noticed that the problem of me peeing myself in the gym didn’t get 100% better, but it did improve significantly.
Now, I was still suffering in this problem alone - that is, until I started to recognize a similar pattern. It seemed like every day I was wearing black pants to the gym, everyone else also was wearing black pants to the gym. I started to hear other women make jokes about pee and run to the bathroom during workouts or before workouts. I realized that I definitely was not alone in my experiencing of this. On one hand, this made me feel great, because I wasn’t the only one sitting over here praying I didn’t pee during those double unders and that everyone around me would know. On the other hand, it frustrated me because no one ever told me that this may happen! No one prepared me for this and no one gave me the resources ahead of time to deal with it and be prepared. Like so. Many. Other things about parenthood and being a mother. I realized this is just one more ways that moms are left to fend for themselves, often in isolation and anxiety by themselves for the longest time, before they find solidarity and help from other moms or professionals.
I ended up “graduating” from my physical therapy program (YEE-HAW!) because I achieved all of my goals and felt I had a good grasp on the exercises and need to continue practicing them. Going to a pelvic floor physical therapist made a huge difference in my quality of life after having Eli, and I wish I would have gone to this person sooner. I hope all of you, if this is something you’ve been struggling with but you didn’t even know this problem existed or that it could be addressed, reach out to your provider and ask about pelvic floor physical therapy. This isn’t okay and something that you should “just deal with” as a mom.
With that said, even though going to a pelvic floor physical therapist didn’t fix the problem 100%, it did make a significant difference. And I wish I could say that I was the ultimate student and that I continue to practice my exercises, buuuuttt that’s not necessarily true. As a result, I have seen some loss in my progress. That just goes to say how important it is, with anything you learn in a therapy context, whether it’s physical or mental - you gotta keep practicing your skills! If you don’t use them, you lose them. It does feel good, though, knowing that I have the resources readily available, I know that this is something I could improve again if I want to, and ultimately, that I’m not alone in this experience.
Because this is like most things in life, if this is something you’re experiencing - chances are, you’re not going through it alone. Just look around and see who else in the gym is wearing black pants on cardio days! Once you start to speak up and say that you’re struggling with it, suddenly, you’ll start to see everyone else popping up and raising their hands, too.
Be that person. Know that the other ones are just waiting for you to step up and speak out.
TEAM BLACK PANTS 4EV.
XO - Jenna