Emily Infeld, the 2015 10,000m World Championship bronze medallist, spurred a conversation on social media on Monday. The Bowerman Track Club runner recently ran her first race after returning from an injury, and in an Instagram post addressed an issue that plagues many female runners–loss of bladder control.
Infeld’s post-race caption was, “You know it’s love when you peed your pants at the end of the race (bc you exhausted your body so much) and you haven’t showered, but he isn’t even grossed out to be near you.” Her caption is funny, but loss of bladder control is a much-discussed issue among female athletes, and a source of shame for some.
I love Emily Infeld taking the stigma away here. When I coached HS XC, the girls had a “club” for anyone who lost bladder control during a race (their idea). It made them feel more normal when it happened, which made them a heck of a lot more likely to stay in the sport. https://t.co/WdEbAb3obg
— Fast Women (@fast_women) August 12, 2019
Infeld had a hip surgery–actually the same surgery as former Canadian marathon record-holder Lanni Marchant, back in January. (It’s unlikely the loss of bladder control is related to the surgery.)
However, one commenter, pelvic floor physiotherapist, runner and mom Emily Schwerdt of St. Louis, Missouri made an interesting point: “While I love women supporting women, as a Pelvic Health PT I do want to say that while losing bladder control is common, it’s not normal and can be treated to improve long term bladder health. Coming from someone who peed her pants a few times racing in HS/college.”
A pelvic floor physiotherapist is a physiotherapist with additional training in pelvic floor health, and can diagnose and treat related issues, including stress incontinence. If you occasionally pee your pants at the end of a hard race, and are not bothered by it, then it’s no big deal. But if you regularly experience bladder leaks while running, and you’d rather not, definitely seek out a pelvic floor physio for advice and treatment. The Women’s Health division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association is a useful resource in finding someone in your area.
Kate Van Buskirk is a Commonwealth Games medallist and former Canadian indoor mile record-holder who says she loses control of her bladder on a fairly regular basis: “Almost every time I push my body to the limit, I experience some level of bladder incontinence. This occurs in races and even hard training sessions. The first time it happened was during a cross-country race in grade 9, and I was completely mortified. But over time, I’ve learned to accept and even embrace this physical response. It’s a sign that I’m digging deep and, in the process, telling my body to prioritize the physiology of an athlete. I’ve also worked successfully with pelvic floor specialists to strengthen my pelvic muscles and improve core function overall. But ultimately I consider any “leakage” to be a symbol of my desire to literally get as much out of my body as possible.”