There’s a moment in every gym class I dread. The instructor suddenly decides to add a burst of cardio to a usually safe weights class, a sudden ‘let me see 20 star jumps’ or ‘let’s swap our regular squats for jump squats’. How about let’s not....
Stress incontinence during exercise
You see I choose my classes carefully because since having three (unreasonably large) babies, my bladder’s been, well, pretty temperamental. I haven’t set foot on a trampoline in 18 years, I don’t do aerobics (does anyone?), I avoid boot camp (sprints and burpees aren’t leaky bladder friendly) and I don’t run.
I guess I could use disposable incontinence products but between their environmental unfriendliness and my unwillingness to swap gym tights for bulky pads and trackie dacks, I’ve just learned to adapt, adjust, and disappear from the class to ‘refill my water bottle’ every time a sudden burst of cardio comes along.
Spin classes are my friend. Pump classes too, so long as the weights aren’t too heavy – nobody wants to squat and leak – and swimming’s right up my alley. I don’t think I’m alone.
How common is incontinence?
Incontinence affects up to 38% of Australian women, according to the Continence Foundation of Australia, and more than half the women living with incontinence in the community are under the age of 50 – and a staggering 70% don’t seek advice or treatment for the problem.
What causes incontinence?
Common causes are obesity, pregnancy, childbirth, regular heavy lifting or chronic coughing or sneezing. So, my combination of lifelong hayfever and big bouncing babies was never going to be a winner.
But it’s not only those who’ve given birth who are prone to pelvic floor mishaps, regular runners and those who do high-impact exercise are at risk, (maybe running away from squat jumps wasn’t such a bad idea after all), as are post-menopausal women or those who have had gynaecological or abdominal surgeries.
How do you manage incontinence?
While pelvic floor exercises, seeing a specialist physio, using a pessary, or in some cases, having surgery, are all ways to manage and hopefully improve incontinence, popping on a pair of leak-proof leggings is a terrific way to be able to stay active and take control while you’re dealing with it.
But a sneaky wee during a morning jog, or downward dog, isn’t the only kind of leak that can lead us to adapt – or abandon – exercise.
For some, it’s excessive sweat and the fear of embarrassing damp patches in all the wrong places, for others exercising with your period is also a turn-off, either because of unsightly pads, chafing thighs from plastic wings, or worrying you’ll leak. And let’s face it, none of the above is appealing.
Should you exercise during your period?
Exercise isn’t something we should avoid once a month - or for 18 years in my case – and new innovation in the fem-tech sector means we don’t have to.
In fact, working out releases endorphins which can help improve your mood, while the increased blood flow during exercise can actually help relieve and reduce period cramps. Exercise also boosts energy levels, so those times when you feel tired and don’t fancy hitting the treadmill are often the times when a burst of exercise, or a more chilled yoga class if you’re struggling, can help you beat the brain fog.
New leak-proof activewear
Modibodi was actually started because of light bladder leaks when founder Kristy Chong was out running after the birth of her second child. Seriously unimpressed with the comfort, effectiveness and environmental credentials of the disposable hygiene options on the market to manage leaks, she set about creating a product specifically designed with our everyday leaks in mind...as well as limiting our load on landfill.
Since then, Modibodi has grown from its original pee and period-proof underwear to create leak-proof garments for different leaks and life stages, including exercise.
Modibodi’s activewear range includes Moisture Wicking Active Briefs which solve your sweat dilemmas, Active Running Shorts with a built-in absorbent lining, and a new 7/8 Recycled Active Legging featuring the brand’s tried and tested patented technology built into the gusset – but in a more planet-friendly recycled fabric - so you can exercise with your period or light bladder leaks, without compromising on comfort.
For me that means I can jump on the trampoline with the kids (but do I really want to???), go for a quick jog when I don’t have time to make a gym class, and stop disappearing every time I hear someone stay ‘star jump’. Only problem is, now I don’t have an excuse to skip classes or duck out for a break when the going gets tough. I guess it’s a price I’m willing to pay to get my fitness plans back on track.
Living with leaks is limiting in so many ways, but with this kind of innovative technology, it doesn’t have to be.
For more information on the benefits of exercising with your period, check out: /blogs/womens-underwear-online/benefits-of-exercise-when-you-have-your-period
For more information about incontinence, visit Continence NZ, and remember to always advise your doctor if you’re experiencing incontinence of any kind.