A Leaky Issue: Bridging the Gap to a Pee-Free Workoutby Jennifer Blake
I love lifting heavy weights so much one might say I could pee my pants with excitement over doing so. In my case, however, this isn’t just an expression but a reality.
That’s right, I’ll own it: I pee my pretty workout tights every time I deadlift 300 pounds or more and almost every time I do heavy back squats.
While I feel some embarrassment about leaking this bit of personal info, it turns out I’m not alone — not by a long shot.”In the U.S., the national average of women who experience incontinence is 1 in 3,” says Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT, founder of Prana Physical Therapy in Alexandria, Va. That’s right, a third of women run the risk of urinating during exercise.
Incontinence that’s brought on by heavy lifting, plyometrics, running, or any other movement that places demand on the pelvic floor, is known as stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Surprising to some, SUI isn’t limited to women who’ve given birth (like me). Also, not every woman who has vaginally birthed a child experiences SUI.
The culprit likely comes down to the coordination of your deep core muscles (or more specifically, the lack thereof), but if you pee like me, don’t despair; “This is a very treatable condition in most cases,” says Wendel. Seek treatment from a women’s health physical therapist to determine the causes of your SUI and create a treatment plan, she advises. Additionally, there are simple drills that can help reduce pelvic floor dysfunction. Ann digs into the real guts of SUI and details those drills in “Curing a Case of the Workout Pees.” (Note: They involve much more than endless Kegels, even though I do sort of love the secret nature of that particular drill. I might even be doing them right now.)
But what is a woman who wants to continue her exercise regimen while she rehabs her pelvic floor to do? Putting your exercise program on pause might not be your first choice, and if you’re a powerlifter like me, neither will be avoiding heavy squats and deadlifts. I’ve used sanitary pads, carried a spare pair of leggings in my gym bag, and have even considered incontinence underwear in the past — but I wasn’t able to embrace what appeared to resemble the thick, dowdy underwear I observed hanging from my grandmother’s clothesline when I was a kid.
But when ConfiTEX, a company that designs fashionable, absorbent underwear for women and men sent along a pair for our review, I jumped on the chance to give them a test drive.
ConfiTEX ditches the stereotypes associated with absorbent underwear and their website clarifies that point right away: “Confitext incontinence products help you manage light and moderate leaks with style. Our new patented waterproof underwear is pad-less and washable — it looks and feels like normal underwear.”
I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that if I feel great in my duds, my attitude and outlook on everything from a nice dinner on the town to a lifting session in the gym will inevitably shift toward the positive. And those duds include my undergarments. So, I set out to put ConfiTEX’s fashionable yet comfortable claim to the test. I was also curious and hopeful: Would they really hold up? Could I get through a heavy training session without making a sudden bathroom run or an obvious, postworkout legging change?
The verdict: the underwear are very, very pretty. A satiny and lacy hipster brief, they were indistinguishable from the mountain of similar pairs in my underwear drawer, and if you didn’t already know to look for it, you wouldn’t notice the softly layered section that runs from front to back at first, or even second or third, glance.
Once donned, I moved throughout my day, and then my workout, without a second thought. In fact, I forgot I was wearing them, a nice feature for people like me who like to go commando every now and then. (Okay, more nows than thens.) Despite the soft, satiny fabric, the underwear stayed put, offering a hint of confident comfort not unlike a gentle yet solid hug from a good friend. They seemed to be saying, “I got you, girl. Let’s do this.”
So, we did, my ConfiTEX and I. The underoo’s high-tech sports fabric wicks away moisture and can absorb up to a full cup of fluid. Armed with this info, I headed into my deadlift session with my mind solely focused on my lift and not my bladder.
I will spare you the details but suffice it to say, I moved through my training session uninterrupted, and as for my dysfunctional pelvic floor, no one who wasn’t already privy to the info was the wiser.
Am I in the clear? Not really, because I know I’ve got some work to do when it comes to shoring up my leaky workouts. But as far as having a stylish and functional option to bridge the between SUI and a pee-free workout, Ann is on board (so long as I also do my homework): “Nice looking, comfortable underwear that prevents leaks from showing through clothes helps women to feel confident as they go about their day, and are helpful up until the point where treatment has been effective and they no longer need the absorbent underwear.”
In the meantime, these pretty yet highly useful underwear will factor highly into my workout gear rotation. If you decide to give them a whirl too, trust me: you’ll be golden.