Let's Talk Peeing During Exercise

If the thought of skipping makes you worry about peeing your pants, you're not alone. Perhaps you avoid skipping - whether double-unders or singles, box jumps, going on the trampoline with your kids, or doing any sort of plyometric work, all out of fear of leaking. Maybe it's as simple as a cough or sneeze that causes an unwanted trickle. Or maybe it takes nothing at all.

"Okay, yup, been there. I only wear black pants on days with jumping. Where are you going with this?"

Good news - it doesn't need to stay like this for you forever. While very common, it's not normal for the human body to function this way. Common does not equal normal.

I first encountered stress urinary incontinence in University as a varsity athlete on the track & field team. For me, the "stress" part that caused it was the plyometric component of our training, and often during the bounding exercises I would get a little of that unwanted trickle. I assumed it was normal, and was too embarrassed to ask my coach.

Fast forward years later when I discovered Crossfit, and amoung fellow female class members we'd ask each other, "what's your number?" and know exactly what the other was talking about -  how many double-unders can you hit before you pee a little? The fact it's so common really does make you start to think it's normal, and that it just comes with the territory of being a female athlete.

Keep in mind - both the track bounding and the Crossfit double-under issues happened years before I ever got pregnant. I didn't really think it was normal before having kids, and I had always heard "it's a mom thing", so I have to admit I was a little worried about what would happen to me once I actually did have kids, if I was already experiencing it pre-babies. This is what led me to Heather at Lakeview Physiotherapy while pregnant. I wanted to learn more about pelvic health, and what I could specifically do for my own health.

For moms, there's definitely the "it comes with being a mom" reasoning, which is sad, because women are apparently walking around assuming this is normal, likely going to great lengths to avoid embarrassing moments, or missing out on potential fun social and energizing activities. Even seemingly innocent exercise like spin class too soon after having a baby can be too much, because let me tell you, there is no way doing anything with quick feet out of the saddle post-baby is an option until  strengthening of the pelvic floor has happened. When I took a spin class at about 2 months postpartum I let the instructor know that I'd be sitting during some songs because of where I was at with my healing process post-baby, and she openly told me she completely peed herself her first class back teaching after becoming a mom.

What I want female athletes and moms (either pregnant or postpartum) to know is this: leaking is not a sign of normal pelvic floor functioning, and there is specific treatment to help no matter if it's  been an issue for you for one week or a decade.

The best kept secret around that particularly every athlete and mom needs in their life is the pelvic floor physiotherapist.

If you're wondering a) what & where your pelvic floor is and b) "there's physio for that?" - then stick around, you're in the right place. I'll dive into "what & where" your pelvic floor is another day, but for today, know that there are experts who can help if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms from the list below, taken directly from the Lakeview Physiotherapy website. And fellas, this isn't just for the ladies! Men can experience any of these symptoms as well, aside from prenatal and postpartum of course:

  • "Urinary problems such as incontinence (leaking), frequent peeing, urgency
  • Bowel problems such as incontinence (leaking) and constipation
  • Pelvic pain - inside and outside the pelvis
  • Painful or difficult intercourse
  • Prenatal and Postpartum
  • Before and after pelvic surgery."

If there is one thing I have changed in my life over the past few years, that's gotten me much more satisfactory results across the board, it's this: Go to the experts for whatever it is you are seeking.

Want a cupcake? Go to the bakery that sells cupcakes and maybe one or two other products - their cupcakes will far surpass a grocery store that caters to all food needs.

Have any sort of issues going on in and around your pelvis? Go to the pelvic floor physio - this is their area of expertise! When asked about when woman should seek help, Heather's response was:

"When a woman should see a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist really depends on the client. If a woman feels that Pelvic Health Physio could be helpful for her, the Physiotherapist can do an assessment and develop a treatment plan. If a woman is uncertain, particularly during pregnancy, she could ask her physician or midwife if Pelvic Physiotherapy would be appropriate at that time." - Heather Enns, Lakeview Physiotherapy and Acupuncture

If any of the above sounds like you, I encourage you to book in with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. Heads up there may be an internal exam, however a consent form must be signed first so you are definitely able to skip the internal exam, but of course the information you can get from it will be very beneficial to your treatment. The internal exam is a small portion of the appointments I have, with the majority of the time being spent on any one of the following: looking at my alignment, testing imbalances in muscle strength from side to side, treating imbalances (massage/release/dry needling), and working on breathing.

My goals are simple:

  • To provide resources to athletes of all levels, so we can wear grey pants again on workout days.

  • To make sneezing & coughing comfortable again for the female (and male) population.

  • To educate pregnant and postpartum moms on their bodies, the changes they will go through, and how to minimize damage done to allow for faster and better recovery.

  • To spread this info around like wildfire, so that women (and men) can get back to the things they love without pain or discomfort or embarrassment.

Date & Dark Chocolate Banana Oat Muffins

Nothing like a snowy grey Sunday to make me want to bake some healthy muffins as a great grab & go snack for the week!

Note: If you're looking for a light airy fluffy muffin - this is not it. These will come out super rich but heavy with the bananas, dates, and peanut butter. However they'll also keep you fuelled up sans sugar crash compared to a normal coffee shop muffin.

Makes: 24 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups + 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 2/3 cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes to soften (discard water once soft)
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or your favourite nut butter)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 cups milk - I used unsweetened almond but any milk variety will do
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

The How-To:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and either line muffin pan with muffin papers or spray pan with coconut baking spray.
  2. In a food processor blend 3 cups of the oats, along with the flax seed, baking powder, and cinnamon until oats become flour consistency (a little chunky is okay!).
  3. Remove dates from water, and add dates, bananas, nut butter, coconut oil, milk, and vanilla extract. Blend until well mixed, and dates are thoroughly chopped.
  4. Pulse in or mix in by hand the additional 1 cup oats, chocolate chunks, and shredded coconut.
  5. Scoop by heaping ice cream scoops into muffin pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

 

Recipe credit: Inspired by runonveg.com "Peanut Butter Banana Bread"

That feeling when "trusting the process" delivers your reward

You know when you make a decision and at the time it really sucks because it means giving up something you really want right that moment (instant gratification) in exchange for something way down the road, and even though you know the trade off will greatly trump all those little "need right now" moments it's still so hard to trust the process at the time? And every time you have to pass on that want, over and over, you question, "is it worth it?".

But then the day comes where your patience and months (perhaps years) of tough decision making rewards you. This applies to so many things in life. Today I got one of those long-awaited rewards after months of having to trust the process.

I am so excited that 8 months of trusting the process has led me to this moment. Eight months ago I knew I needed to change my mindset on workouts, based on my knowledge of pelvic floor health and diastasis recti. I was doing Crossfit 5x/week, and am, as my husband describes me "insanely competitive". The competitive streak is directed against myself - I'm not trying to beat anyone else in the gym, just myself, always wanting to learn new skills or improve my previous weights or sets. While the gym is a great place to unleash this, it is not a good combo when pregnant and long term health and fitness well into my senior years is the goal.

So I held back. I changed gyms. My pregnancy workouts felt more like my old warm ups did, but I trusted the process. Mentally it sucked a lot of days, trying to match logical brain to emotion-driven brain.

I cried numerous times. I felt like I'd lost a piece of my identity. I've identified as an athlete for years, and as a trainer since changing careers a few years ago. And now I hadn't run in months. Hadn't touched a barbell in as many. My workouts involved lots of seated isolated muscle exercises. I missed my old coaches, and the noon crew that pushed me (and heckled me) and provided me a space to mentally reset each day as well as provided a physical outlet.

I had melt downs when I wondered if I'd ever be able to do what I could pre-pregnancy again. But again, I committed to trusting the process. Some days I hated the process. I had to remind myself:  isn't being able to do 70% of what I could pre-pregnancy for the rest of my life way better than being able to do 100% of what I could pre-pregnancy but only for 2-5 years because of the damage and beating I'd do to myself by pushing for that extra 30%, just to "prove that I could"?

The smile on my face today is after a visit to my pelvic floor physio, where I received that long term reward of being smart these past 8 months instead of just going for it because I could day after day at the gym. I don't have any pelvic organ prolapse and my ab separation is in a good place for only 6 weeks postpartum and the tone feels like it should at this point. This might sound tiny to you, but the alternatives I hear way too many women talking about post partum because they just didn't know how to care for their pregnant and/or postpartum bodies makes me incredibly happy to be where I am right now.

This is just the first of a mini-series of blogs I'll be releasing, so be sure to check back if any of the below apply to you:

  • You like nerding out about body stuff.
  • You're an athlete who "leaks" (regardless of if you've had kids or not) - this was me in University when doing large amounts of bounding and plyometric workouts as a middle-distance sprinter. I just didn't know better.
  • You're currently pregnant.
  • You plan on being pregnant at any point in your life.
  • You've had kids.
  • You have someone in your life who fits the above and you want to help educate them about how to better care for their body.

Stay tuned:) 

Pumpkin Power Bowl

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my smoothies. But sometimes I feel like I drink them without realizing I've pretty much just had a whole meal in a few gulps. All these beautiful bowl posts lately got me trying out making smoothies with a little less liquid, and some crunchy toppings, to take my smoothies from just a drink to feeling more like a meal that I actually consciously enjoy bite by bite, rather than gulping down in the car. And hey - there are stil definitely times when sitting with a bowl and spoon just isn't possible, and a fast smoothie is still your best option to get some nutrients in. But if you have some time, try out a smoothie bowl.

I have no shame in admitting I jump all over pumpkin every fall. So, here's my first smoothie bowl post, pumpkin spice and all. I did include options though if you can't stand pumpkin, or have already over done it this season.

Pumpkin Power Bowl

Base Ingredients:

  • Pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • Vanilla protein powder
  • Splash of milk (almond, dairy, or your choice)
  • Cinnamon & pumpkin pie spice

Toppers:

  • Sliced banana
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almond butter

Notes:

No protein powder?

Replace the protein powder with plain Greek yogurt, and add a bit of honey or 1-2 dates to sweeten to taste, prior to blending.

Hate pumpkin?

Skip the pumpkin spice and just stick to cinnamon, and swap the pumpkin out with banana. Instead of topping with more banana, use a tart berry like raspberries to balance out the banana base sweetness.

Mix up your fats

Play around with different nut-butters, seeds, and nuts as your toppers. If I'm craving extra crunch time I'll sprinkle a few tablespoons of granola on top as well.

Enjoy!!

 

The hardest 4-letter word to say: Help

We are really good at bullshitting. Like, really good. “How’s things?” “Oh fine!! Fine, fine, fine. You??” Acquaintances will take your response at face value. Close friends might question how genuine you’re being by your voice tone, picking up on subtle cues between the truth and a fib. But even those closest to us, cannot read our minds. Social media posts make it even easier to paint a shiny coating over what an actual reality show of our life would look like.

Scenario one: I tend to over book myself, thinking it’s no big deal to grocery shop, clean the house, walk the dog, answer some work emails, get a workout in, make dessert and a salad, and still have time to shower and pull myself together on a Saturday before heading to a friend’s for a BBQ. Time to departure: 45 minutes. I have yet to shower. Baking just came out of the oven. Salad yet to be made. Instead of freaking out about being behind and starting to make all sorts of stories in my head as to how “it wasn’t my fault I have so much to do”, I asked my husband to help while I hopped in the shower. And guess what? He did. And guess what? We were only 10 minutes late instead of half an hour. There’s no way he could know I needed help until I said something. This is a small example, but relevant none the less.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” - Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

Asking for help is damn hard sometimes. Asking for help to make a salad? Not such a big deal. But enter scenario two: In the fall I had a minor surgery done and I was not allowed to lift anything over 10lbs for 3 weeks. The stubborn side of me said, "surely that doesn’t apply to me, I can deadlift 1.5x my body weight!" Yup, sure, you’re exempt [enter eye roll]. The day of the surgery and the following week I could feel slight pain every time I moved my core (which, is like, 100% of the time you move). I had to ask my husband for a lot of help, which felt comfortable because of the closeness of our relationship. However, the first time I had to ask a stranger for help it was an incredibly humbling moment to say the least. I usually proudly farmer carry my groceries out of the grocery store, politely declining help from the cashier at the grocery store when they offer carry out. When I had to say, “yes please” the first time I went grocery shopping after the surgery I almost broke into tears right there. How could it be that I couldn’t lift my own groceries??? I’m stronger than this. I’m capable. I don’t need help. I can do this on my own…The good news is, asking for help gets easier the more you practice it. My next stop after groceries was the pet food store, where I would normally grab a 20lb bag of dog food, sling it over my hip and be on my way. This time asking for help to get a bag and take it to my car for me felt a wee bit easier. Easier, but still not easy. You know what the funny thing was? No one once rolled their eyes at me, gave me a weird look, or said anything condescending when I asked for help, contrary to what that silly voice in my head told me might happen. People are genuinely good, I believe that. And when you ask for help, people will respond with kindness. And if they don’t, find new friends and a new grocery store.

"When you don't ask for help when you need it, you assume all of a burden that might easily (and gladly) be shared. But you also deprive those who'd love to assist you of the opportunity to do so. Everyone is worse off." - Margie Warrell, Asking for Help Reveals Strength, Not Weakness

The old saying, “ask, and you shall receive,” really rings true. If there is something you’re struggling with – ask for help. This applies to everything! My husband listened to a podcast the other day about the specificity required for training for competition versus just exercising for pleasure, and one of the quotes that came out of it was, “if you’re your own coach, your coach is an idiot.” Now, don’t get me wrong, we are all responsible for our own happiness and motivating ourselves and keeping things going. But, I love this quote because we cannot overcome our weaknesses without some outside help. I don’t program my own workouts, because I would end up only programming my strengths, the stuff I love to do. I would avoid all the areas I’m weak at, because that shit’s hard and uncomfortable. The same with career, relationships, health, sports – our natural inclination is to veer towards where we’re comfortable and avoid the uncomfortable icky stuff. Enter your coach – in whatever form that may be – to help you address the weak spots, support you and let you know not being awesome at everything is not only a-okay, but is normal and human, and also to be there to celebrate with you when you move past the discomfort.

You don’t need to be the hero every time. You know what every Disney movie has? A hero. You know what every Disney move hero has? A kick ass team behind them supporting them, lifting them up, pushing them and coaching them along the way. You think Simba would have been able to come back and defeat Mufasa without the help of Rafiki and Pumba? Heck no. Simba would be drunk at the Jungle Bar lying passed out under a table in the corner at 4pm in the afternoon, smelling of week old laundry if it weren’t for his two supporters picking his ass up when he needed it.

And if speaking aloud the request for help isn’t quite yet comfortable for you, you can always take a page out of Sandra Bullock’s character in 28 Days – just borrow her sign, “Confront me if I don’t ask for help.”