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.
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:
Google “half marathon training”
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)
Put the run days + distances in your calendar
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.
They also contain no stevia or sugar alcohols, which is important especially for anyone with GI issues (runners, you know what I mean!!)
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.
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).
When I came back to the running game, I started researching the best watches, and discovered a company called Amazfit. It has everything you’d want from a smartwatch – it tracks steps, speed, GPS tracking, heart rate, etc - but by far my favorite thing about Amazfit in particular is the battery life.
I am constantly terrified that my batteries are going to die on a long run. It’s why I always bring old-school headphones, even though I use Air Pods… I’m so scared of ending up six miles into a twelve mile run with no music (nightmare!).
Turns out, the answer would literally blow my mind.
George’s Verge has a whopping 5-day battery life, and my Bip has – ready for this? - an astonishing 30+ days of battery life on a single charge.
Plus it’s super freakin’ cute.
I was able to use the watch to track my progress and segment the race in my brain to break it down into shorter, digestible chunks, which is one of my biggest running hacks. Running 13 miles seems hard, but running 4.5 miles three times seems easy.
And once the race was over, the watch was cute enough to stay on my wrist for the “after party” at a pumpkin patch down the road… which brings me to my last tip...
I know it’s hard to run when you have kiddos. TRUST ME, I know. I have two major tips for training/running races as a parent of littles:
1) Embrace jogging strollers!
When we trained for the marathon in 2016, it meant one of us would be out for half a day running while the other watched Mason, then we’d switch… we basically spent one full weekend day apart, but it was the only way to navigate it.... or so we thought.
We hadn’t yet discovered the joys of jogging strollers… we had dabbled, but not having found the right one, we just hadn’t fallen in love with pushing our little guy around while we ran. The BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 changed that… it’s basically the Lamborghini of jogging strollers!
To say it’s got all the bells and whistles is an understatement… it has:
Mountain bike style suspension & air-filled tires that provide an ultra-smooth ride on any type of terrain, from sidewalks to hiking trails.
Adjustable (9 position!) handlebars to fit both parents.
Plenty of storage pockets (six, to be exact), my major complaint on other jogging strollers (their lack).
Fully upright seating so your kiddo can see the world, and reclines to near flat with the push of a button.
Easy 2-step fold for convenient transportation and storage
I could go on and on...
Here’s the thing… I love running because it allows me to get out and connect with nature, my breath, and the joy of the wind in my face. Why wouldn’t I want to share that with my kiddo? Plus it’s a great time for them to get in a solid nap when they’re young. Just remember, 6+ months and must be able to hold their head up… that’s the golden rule.
Sometimes it feels like there’s a stigma against allowing babysitters & daycare to be a fully functioning part of your child-rearing strategy, but for us, it’s everything and we’re not embarrassed… in fact we’re proud of it. Here’s why:
First, Mason has spent so much time in our gym’s daycare (2 hours at a time on weekends while we workout since he was 6 months old - it's our "date time") that he LOVES it, and relishes the time to play and be bonkers with other kiddos. He also LOVES babysitters. When we see kids with separation anxiety, we feel so badly for the parents… as much as we adore our kids (watch my IG stories and you know, we do not lack time with them!), we feel strongly that - as adults - we also need time to take care of ourselves, and there is absolutely no harm in enlisting the help of capable babysitters early and often.
Is it a luxury? Absolutely. But it’s one we value over everything else, because our time to train and run races is as valuable as gold to us. Here's the trade-off: I don't buy expansive make-up, clothes, or shoes. That's not where I spend. I use that money for babysitters who allow me to live a balanced life of mom/individual. It is my chosen luxury, and it supports me in feeling free to pursue athletic endeavors without guilt, and knowing my child is well taken care of.
For the Hamptons Half, we went “all in” and brought a babysitter with us for the weekend. Again, was this a luxury? It absolutely was. We don't typically do this. But instead of getting a fancy hotel room or going out to dinner, we found an inexpensive place to stay and spent the $$ on the sitter. There was nothing more important than knowing our kids were in good hands, and we also knew we’d need the help after the race, as you must give yourself decent time to recover... which can be an all-day endeavor!
Racing to us is all about strategy… from fuel, to gear, to childcare, and beyond. It’s a bit of work to put it all together, but that’s part of the fun! Geeking out together over a shared hobby is one of the coolest things you can do with your significant other, and nothing felt better than crossing that finish line together.
The preceding post – while all my true accounts of my experience – was supported by partners including Innovo, Health Warrior, Amazfit and Britax / B.O.B.