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Peeing While Running - Why Does it Happen?

by Jessica Lubahn June 07, 2021 4 min read

peeing while running

Peeing While Running Explained

Most adults will shy away from talking about their bladder leak problems, but it is VERY common. In fact, there are over 25 million adult Americans suffering from some type of urinary incontinence. So if you're peeing while running, know that you're among a large percentage of women who have the same issue. 

Runners who leak while they fly on the trails most likely suffer from Stress Urinary Incontinence. This kind of incontinence happens because you have weak or damaged pelvic muscles. The condition can also be hereditary, members of your families may also have it.  

Bladder Leaks During Running and Jumping is Common

peeing when jumping

It is more common than you think. Around 45% of women athletes experience incontinence every now and then. Most of the women surveyed had never even given birth, meaning their pelvic floor has never been damaged because of pregnancy or childbirth. 

Several years of intensive exercise, including running which is considered a high impact sport, can lead to stress incontinence. Some women experience incontinence as they get older, it’s just a condition that runs in their family. But it’s also possible that years of high impact activity wears out the pelvic muscle a lot sooner, and you experience incontinence before the age of fifty.  

So why does it happen, aren’t runners supposed to be strong? You may have strong legs, but your fine muscles are sometimes neglected. Consider a course in bladder training, so you learn to target specific muscles that help control incontinence.   

How Do You Know It’s Not Just Sweat?

If you have pets or kids,  you’re likely to already be an expert at detecting urine wherever it may have spilled. Urine has a distinct odor that is different from sweat. Smell the wet stain and you should get a whiff of ammonia. Fresh urine is sterile and doesn’t have much smell. But after an hour or two, the odor will develop. 

When you’re dehydrated after a long run, urine can smell particularly pungent. If you drink a lot of water, you get a diluted, lightly colored pee with a lighter odor. To hide thin or thick pee stains, always wear dark colored running pants or shorts to avoid obvious discoloration. 

Close-up Photo of Woman Tying Her white Sneakers on Running Track

Running with Stress Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence is one of several types of incontinence that you could have. Stress incontinence is the most likely to happen when you pee while running or do other physical exercise. 

Stress incontinence can also happen accidentally when you laugh, cough, sneeze or have sex. You may experience it when you do your pre-run and post-post run exercises. Forward bends and squats are particularly problematic for those with stress incontinence. 

Stress incontinence does not relate to psychological stress. When doctors talk about stress they mean physical stress put on the bladder by outside actions. Stress that affects the bladder includes stress of movement of the muscles of the abdomen and pelvis. 

The Danger of Wet Pants

Sportswear fabric is designed to take away moisture from the skin and keep the skin dry as much as possible, even when you sweat a bucket. When you pee a bucket, that’s another problem that Drifit is not designed to fix. 

Runners can get into a lot of problems when they can’t keep their skin dry. A damp inner thigh can increase friction and give you a nasty rash or chaffing. If you start to feel your skin start to burn, it may be best to stop running altogether before you develop a rash. 

Urine is also alkaline, just like your sweat it is salty. That means it can soak into the skin a lot faster than regular neutral water. If you’re in a pinch, wash off urine from your pants with clean water to prevent it from completely soaking into your skin. The best option would be thorough wash then a change into dry pants. 

Ethnic woman with towel exercising in gym

The Importance of Staying Dry

For women, there is always the danger of an infection when your pants are damp for too long. Moisture is not your friend, it breeds yeast and bacteria. Consider wearing super absorbent leak proof panties, like ONDRwear

These are special underwear made for incontinence, menstrual periods, or any types of leaks. ONDR underwear has an extra absorbent lining that prevents liquid from passing through.

ONDRwear feels just like normal underwear. They come in practical styles and are easy to wear under sportswear.

Sanitary pads may be too bulky when you move or run, but ONDR panties are perfectly positioned without the bulk. 

Aftercare for Runner’s Incontinence

Always wash with soap and water after a run. If you’re unable to shower, never neglect to wipe clean and keep as dry as you can. Urine can damage the skin and you’ll soon find yourself with a painful diaper rash. 

Some runners actually coat their inner thighs with petroleum jelly to reduce friction, and hopefully avoid chafing, this can also help with keeping moisture from urine out of your skin.

If you chafe or develop a yeast infection in that sensitive area, you’ll need to take a break from running. Find other exercises in the meantime while you recover. There are several over the counter medications you can apply, but regular diaper creams usually work great if there is no infection. If you're concerned there is a bacterial or yeast infection, you will need to see a doctor for a prescription cream. 

Jessica Lubahn
Jessica Lubahn

Dr. Jessica Lubahn, a Washington University School of Medicine (in St. Louis) graduate, is a Diplomate of the American Board of Urology with over 13 years of experience in the medical field. Aside from practicing in Portland, Dr. Lubahn is a health writer and consultant, and the founder of ONDRwear. Dr. Lubahn’s mission is to destigmatize menstrual, urinary, and other types of leakage, by creating effective, beautiful products. Dr. Lubahn prides herself on patient care and is committed to providing the highest quality care to all of her patients, as well as her customers.

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