Let’s Pee Honest: The Truth About the Post-Baby Return to Running

“I was thinking of you the other day as I was peeing my pants…”

This was my opening email line to a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while. Clever, ain’t it? At least I know how to grab someone’s attention from the get-go!

The reason for this lead-in was simple… we had commiserated that after having our first kiddos, we each suffered bladder leaks, particularly while running. It annoyed us both so much that we had eventually stopped running altogether.

Aside from the inconvenience & embarrassment of incontinence, I also had some leftover injuries from running the NYC Marathon in 2016 too. My knees, my tendonitis, my metatarsals… it felt like even my issues had issues! And thus, I had hung up my running shoes and gotten “out of the groove” of being a race participant in NYC…. something that had brought me SO MUCH joy for so long.

Jamie Hess NYC Marathon
Running the 2016 NYC Marathon was one of the highlights of my life

When I was pregnant with Asher, I made a decision: part of my “get back in shape” plan would be to commit to the Hamptons Half Marathon in September. I was due to deliver in April, so I knew that I could start training in June and have plenty of time to get ready… and I’m always best when I have a goal.

Running was no longer just about hitting the pavement a few times a week… coming back after an absence from the sport, I knew I had to figure out a few things:

1. What is my training plan (mileage, cadence, supplemental work, etc)

2. What new technology has come out since I left the running game?

3. What is my nutrition & hydration plan?

4. How was I going to deal with this pesky peeing problem??!!

Ok, so let’s start there…

The last time I ran a half marathon, I looked over at George halfway through and said “I’m literally peeing in my pants right now... and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Luckily I said it through laughter, because – really, what else can you do?

This time around, the stars aligned, as I was approached by a company that recently launched called INNOVO®.

INNOVO is a non-invasive, FDA-cleared solution that treats the root cause of stress urinary incontinence. You receive a pair of shorts that you wear for 30 minutes a day a five days a week for 12 weeks. The shorts deliver pain-free muscle stimulations to effectively strengthen your weakened pelvic floor muscles.

With every gentle pulse, you feel your pelvic floor muscles lifting and releasing — strengthening and rebuilding the muscles and helping you regain bladder control one session at a time, until one day – BOOM – you can hold your pee in again!

As someone who required pelvic floor physical therapy after baby # 1 and was generally too lazy to do kegels, this was intriguing to me.

I got a prescription from my doctor, then they sent me the shorts and I gave them a whirl.

Here’s how they work:

1. Turn them inside out and spray each of the electrode panels 3-4 times with the little spritzer bottle that came in the starter kit Then reverse them right side out.

2. Hook them into the controller (two simple color-coded wires)

3. Slip them on and use the controller to start your session, turning up the intensity slowly as you become more comfortable with the sensation.

4. Allow them to work their magic over 12 weeks!

I was skeptical at first… could this really be an answer? I figured, “I’ve got nothing to lose.” So I gave them a shot.

I used them over the course of the summer, and I’m pleased to report that by the time the race came around, I crossed the finish line SANS DRIBBLES!! Usually the last three miles, I’m plagued by the mental anguish caused by bladder leaks…. “Ugh, this is uncomfortable, I wish I could stop it from happening, does anyone notice,” etc. It used to really mess with my pace. This time I was able to cruise over the finish line dry…. well, except for the sweat everywhere else. But “down there” was a-ok, and that was great news!

One note – you do need a prescription from a doctor to purchase INNOVO. But you can now speak with a licensed healthcare provider from the comfort of your own home through a discreet online consultation.. For more, check out myinnovo.com.

Ok, now back to my training….

In 2016 when I ran the NYC Marathon, I attributed all of my success to being prepared. Mental toughness is a big part of it - so developing mental mantras and mind-games is key - but one thing you can’t “will your way through” is physical training and proper fueling.

With that, you either GOT IT or YA DON’T.

Coming up with my physical training plan was as simple as this:

  1. Google “half marathon training”

  2. Find a resource you like – there’s about a million different training plans that will pop up, so do a bit of reading and find one that looks right for you (it’s usually a couple short and one long run each week, supplemented with some speed work and maybe some yoga for active recovery)

  3. Put the run days + distances in your calendar

  4. Run the damn distances! Each time. No flexibility. If you let yourself miss one run, you’re likely to miss two… then three… this is a time for discipline and consistency.

For me, I decided that two “short runs” during the week and one long run each weekend was a do-able plan, increasing in distance each week.

So, WEEK ONE looked something like this:

  • Tuesday 3 miles

  • Wednesday 3 miles

  • Saturday 5 miles

In between run days, I’d do my normal workouts (Barry’s, SoulCycle, hot yoga, etc).

The following week, the long run was six miles. Then seven. Then eight. And so on… until I hit 12 miles. At that point, my “short runs” had increased to 5-6 miles each.

So eventually, my week looked like this:

  • Tuesday 6 miles

  • Wednesday 5 miles

  • Saturday 12 miles

It’s as simple as that: 1) Research. 2) Make a plan. 3) Do the plan.

One thing that’s critical for me is to align on scheduling with the hubby each Sunday night so there are no surprises in the mornings. Whether it was my morning or George’s morning to go out for an early run, we had discussed it the night before so there was no resentment over the other being responsible for childcare.

Let’s talk fuel

You hear a lot about “carb loading” before a race, for good reason: your body needs carbs to fuel on long runs. You also need protein… and hydration. And for me, I also like a little boost of caffeine to help get my feet out the door in the morning.

Since I’m a morning runner, breakfast is my most important meal… and it simply has to be very well planned. I wake up very early to eat (like 4:30am) and have time to digest a bit so the food is available to my body to use for fuel. I also like to have time to drink a big black coffee and let it settle so it’s not sloshing around in my belly when I run.

I’ve long been a fan of Health Warrior Chia Bars, and their Protein Mug Muffin product is my dream breakfast for running. You simply open the top, add water, stir, and pop it in the microwave… and VOILA: a warm, spoonable muffin with 12g of plant-based protein, only 6g of sugar and packed with superfoods like pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and almonds.

Health Warrior Protein Mug Muffin
It doesn't get much easier than this for a yummy, protein-packed brekkie...

They also contain no stevia or sugar alcohols, which is important especially for anyone with GI issues (runners, you know what I mean!!)

Mug Muffins
Health Warrior Protein Muffins FTW

Finally, water.

I drink water like it’s medicine. Truthfully, I don’t love drinking water, so I chug it about 5 times through the day, just to get it in, Whatever gets the job done! I drink 4-5 big bottles of water per day.

Poland Spring
Glug, glug, glug....

Finally, let’s talk tech…

There is so much gear that can help with running - go to any marathon expo and you’ll be astounded by the product innovations – but I’m a big believer that you need little more that shorts, a wicking shirt, great shoes (I wear Asic Kayanos), and a tracking device (smartwatch & running app).