You're in the middle of a sweaty, intense workout when you start to feel a little funny, then it happens: a little leak. These “accidents” are called exercise-induced urinary leakage, more formally known as stress incontinence. It can occur when you become a new mother, laugh a bit too hard or your husband jumps from around the corner to scare you. It can also happen during your workout and having a leak when you’re in a gym full of strangers can be embarrassing. Nearly one in four women experience light bladder leakage regularly, but if you’d like to fight your unruly flow, try a combination of these tips to control your body’s urge to leak.
Exercise it: Work out so you can work out! Performing kegel exercises can make a big difference as you strengthen the muscle that controls your bladder. This exercise helps treat stress incontinence often caused by having children, since those muscles have relaxed over time. To do kegels, tighten the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine and squeeze for three seconds, then relax those muscles for three seconds and repeat about 10 times. Each week, try adding one second to your contraction time until you are able to tighten your muscles for 10 seconds straight. Don’t try doing kegels while you are using the restroom, but you can do them inconspicuously at home or work.
Ditch caffeine: Caffeine acts as a diuretic which promotes urination. Before you exercise, don’t drink tea, coffee or soft drinks as they may cause leaks during your workout. Avoid citrus drinks, too, as they have been linked to bladder irritation. Sticking to water will keep you hydrated while lowering the risk of a leak. You’ll likely have a better workout, too, as other drinks carry added ingredients like sugars that can be counterintuitive to your time spent at the gym.
>> Read more: 6 Weird Things You Might Experience While Working Out
Choose workouts wisely: Physical activity may place increased pressure on your bladder and promote leaks, so choosing lower-impact exercises may help you fight stress incontinence. It may be wise to avoid horseback riding (for obvious reasons), heavy weight lifting, fast dancing and track and field activities. Some suggested exercises or sports that you should try are light cycling, swimming, low-impact aerobics, yoga or walking. Incontinence should not limit you from doing your favorite exercises, but high impact athletes experience more leaks than those who participate in less strenuous activities.
Bring in reinforcements: Wear a pad, insert a tampon or use a pessary to absorb, or prevent, leaks. Put in a tampon to relieve pressure on the urethra which can halt incontinence, though they can be uncomfortable to remove after. If you’d rather catch any unexpected leaks, try wearing an incontinence pad or underwear with added protection to soak any fluid up. Dear Kate sells leak-resistant underwear for women that look like normal panties while providing extra protection.
Wear dark workout gear: Some unexpected leaks may occur, but wearing dark-colored pants can keep it your little secret. Dear Kate also makes a line of yoga bottoms to conceal any leaks without worry. If you choose to wear a thicker absorbent pad, wearing loose-fitting clothing can hide its appearance. Some athletes choose to wear compression shorts under their workout bottoms to alleviate pressure from the bladder and cause minimal leaks. These can be worn discreetly under tighter clothing.
If you experience stress incontinence's effects frequently and are unable to fight it, contact your doctor to ensure that your issue is not the result of a more serious condition. You may also visit your gynocologist or a urogynocologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of urinary incontinence or female pelvic floor disorders.