Peeing When Running: Why It Happens & How You Can Prevent It

January 23, 2024

Nick Hancock
Marathon runners running on a street.

Ah, the joy of running—the freedom, the endorphin rush, and... the unexpected urge to pee mid-stride! Yes, it's the golden dilemma (I can't believe I used the word Golden, but we'll go with it!) that many runners face, a topic that’s as awkward as it is universal. So, why does this happen? And more importantly, how on earth do we prevent it without doing the infamous "potty dance" at the park?

It’s time to look at the scientific, yet slightly giggly, exploration of why our bladders seem to have a mind of their own when we’re out for a run.

We'll uncover the reasons behind this phenomenon (cue the science!) and share a few cheeky yet effective ways to keep those surprise pit stops at bay.

Understanding Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is when urine leakage occurs during activities like running due to increased pressure on the bladder.

For runners, this often results from weakened pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles, responsible for supporting the bladder and controlling urine flow, are strained during high-impact exercises like running, they may lose their effectiveness. This can lead to urinary incontinence, causing inadvertent leaks during your run.

The impact on the pelvic floor muscles from repetitive stress can exacerbate symptoms, potentially contributing to an overactive bladder. Strengthening your pelvic floor through targeted exercises is key to minimizing the risk of SUI and enjoying a more comfortable and confident running experience.

A man running on a foggy road, determined and focused.

Common Triggers

Understanding the common triggers for stress urinary incontinence (SUI) while running is crucial for managing and preventing leaks during your workouts. These are the most common triggers:

  1. High-impact activities: Like running can strain your pelvic floor muscles, making leaks more likely.
  2. Weak pelvic floor muscles: They might need a bit of help to properly support your bladder and avoid SUI surprises.
  3. Hormonal changes: Especially for women, these shifts can tag along during workouts and add to the SUI equation.
  4. Dehydration: Not staying hydrated can boost SUI symptoms, so keep those fluids flowing.
  5. Overweight or Obesity: The additional weight amplifies pressure on the abdominal and pelvic organs, contributing to the likelihood of experiencing urinary leaks.

Being aware of these triggers empowers you to take proactive steps, such as pelvic floor exercises and proper hydration, to reduce the impact of stress urinary incontinence while running.

Who's at Risk?

Women, especially those who have experienced postpartum changes, may be more susceptible due to the impact of childbirth on pelvic floor muscles. One study found that 41% of women older than 40 years old will have urinary incontinence (source).

Age-related factors can also contribute, as pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken over time.

In another study, it was found that although pregnancy, vaginal delivery, and aging are prominent risk factors for women, SUI in men is less common and is often associated with surgeries in the lower urinary tract (source).

Also, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions affecting bladder control, such as overactive pelvic floor muscles or overflow incontinence, may face an increased risk of leaking urine during running.

7 Ways to Prevent Peeing While Running

Running is fantastic, but leaks can be a bother. Good news – we've got some effective ways to prevent peeing during your run. These simple tricks and exercises are here to make sure you enjoy your run without any interruptions.

1. Empty Your Bladder Before You Run

Before you start running, make sure to use the restroom. Emptying your bladder beforehand helps prevent unexpected leaks, so you can run without interruptions.

Turning it into a routine to go before your run ensures a more comfortable and worry-free workout. This small step lets you focus on your fitness goals without any discomfort from bladder issues.

2. Hydrate Smartly

When it comes to staying hydrated while running, timing is key. Drink fluids strategically to avoid putting excess pressure on your bladder. Stay hydrated, but consider spacing out your fluid intake before your run to prevent discomfort.

This smart hydration approach helps you maintain energy and endurance without the added stress on your bladder.

Finding the right balance ensures a more comfortable and confident running experience, allowing you to focus on your workout without worrying about unwanted leaks. Read more about how to carry stuff like water and other belongings on your run!

A woman running on a road.

3. Go for Supportive Clothing

When combating stress incontinence or the tendency to leak urine, choosing supportive gear becomes pivotal for your urinary system's well-being, especially if you're dealing with pelvic floor tension.

Invest in clothing and footwear that provide optimal support to your pelvic floor. Well-fitted, supportive gear minimizes strain on your pelvic muscles, decreasing the risk of leaks during your run.

Opt for running shoes with excellent arch support and choose moisture-wicking, comfortable clothing. This straightforward adjustment can significantly benefit your pelvic floor, allowing you to enjoy your run with confidence and ease, while minimizing pelvic floor tension. The right footwear can also help prevent running blisters.

4. Pelvic Floor Exercises

Engage in pelvic floor muscle training to stop bladder leaks and ensure a confident, leak-free run, especially if you're dealing with pelvic floor issues. Strengthening these muscles is crucial for minimizing urine leakage during activities like running, particularly when facing physical stress. Now, integrate these 5 simple exercises into your routine:

  1. Kegels:
  • Tighten your pelvic muscles, imagining you're stopping the flow of urine.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then release and relax.
  1. Bridge Exercise:
  • Lie on your back with knees bent.
  • Lift your hips towards the ceiling, engaging your pelvic floor.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower your hips.
  1. Squats:
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower into a squat position, engaging your pelvic floor.
  • Return to the starting position.
  1. Heel Slides:
  • Lie on your back, knees bent.
  • Slide one heel along the floor, engaging your pelvic muscles.
  • Return to the starting position and switch legs.
  1. Pelvic Tilts:
  • Lie on your back with knees bent.
  • Tilt your pelvis upward, pressing your lower back into the floor.
  • Hold briefly, then release.

By regularly incorporating these exercises, you enhance bladder control, granting you the pelvic strength needed for a more comfortable and worry-free run. If you face persistent challenges, consider consulting with a pelvic floor physical therapist for tailored guidance.

5. Focus on Your Breathing

Working on your breathing technique is a key strategy in preventing urinary leaks while running. Focus on adopting deep, controlled breaths to optimize oxygen intake and support endurance during your runs.

Inhale through your nose, allowing your lungs to fully expand, and exhale through your mouth. This deliberate breathing not only increases oxygen flow to your muscles but also aids in preventing fatigue and minimizing the likelihood of accidental leaks.

Additionally, practicing diaphragmatic breathing engages your core muscles, promoting better posture and overall running efficiency. Improving your breathing through home exercises like Yoga can significantly contribute to a more comfortable and leak-free running experience.

A woman gracefully seated in a yoga pose, finding inner peace and tranquility through mindful meditation.

6. Gradual Warm-Up

Gradual warm-up before your run is essential, especially if you're focusing on bladder training, dealing with urge incontinence, or aiming to strengthen your inner thighs.

Begin with light activities like brisk walking or gentle jogging to increase blood flow and prepare your muscles, including the pelvic floor, for your run. This gradual warm-up helps your body adjust, reducing stress on the pelvic floor and minimizing the risk of leaks.

Taking a few extra minutes for warm-up can significantly enhance your running performance and make your entire workout more pleasant.

7. Seek Professional Guidance

If you're experiencing urinary issues while running, and conventional measures aren't bringing relief, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or running coach is vital. They can offer personalized advice and exercises designed to improve your comfort and minimize leaks during your runs.


In conclusion, adopting these practical strategies can significantly improve your running experience and minimize the risk of stress incontinence and more bladder leaks.

Emptying your bladder before running, hydrating wisely, choosing supportive gear, practicing bladder training exercises, incorporating a gradual warm-up, and seeking professional guidance when needed are key steps toward a more confident and enjoyable run.

By making these adjustments, you empower yourself to run comfortably, focusing on your fitness goals without the worry of unwanted interruptions like urine leaks. Remember, it's about enhancing your well-being and ensuring a positive running journey.

Author: Nick Hancock is a UESCA Certified Ultrarunning coach and UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) and has coached many busy professionals and parents to achieve finishes, top-10s and podiums in events such as London Marathon, Manchester Marathon, Amsterdam Marathon, UTMB, UTS, Centurion events, Endure24, Backyards and many more. Host of the Maximum Mileage Running Podcast and author of the Ultimate Cookbook for Runners

He can be found on Instagram @runwithnick

Now go run hard! And remember, if you ever want to talk about the potential you can reach with an online running coach then do get in touch by hitting that enquiry button.

If you want to explore more running topics, check out MASTERING YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE FOR RUNNING. PERIOD and 12 HEALTH BENEFITS OF RUNNING.

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