I ran more frequently when I was in college and then took a break to start my family (three kids). As I have returned to running I have this persistent problem of leaking urine when I run. I hate to wear pads or a tampon but its embarrasing. I have been trying to go to the bathroom just before I run and that helps a bit. I have also restricted my drinking but its hot during the summers where I live and I dont feel properly hydrated. I've tried kegels but I'm not sure if it helps. Any suggestions?
It sounds like you have stress incontinence. It's pretty common in women. Doing kegels can help. BUT - and this is a big "but" - you must do them correctly and consistently for at least 8-12 weeks before expecting to see results. I know, it's a long time to wait! The Mayo Clinic website has an in-depth explanation of how to do kegels properly...just do a Google search for "kegel exercises for women - Mayo Clinic." Since you have an active problem with leaking urine, you may want to try a "pelvic floor trainer" or "kegel monitor" (available over-the-counter or with a prescription). With most of the devices that I've seen, you simply insert a small probe into your ******, contract your muscles, and look at the feedback on the monitor. This process seems a little silly at first, but it will allow you to ensure that you are isolating the correct muscles, actually contracting those muscles, and holding the contraction for the specified length of time (usually 5 or 10 seconds). I've even seen elaborate kegel monitors that walk you through an exercise program step by step, and tell you when you're done with your reps! If you'd prefer, you could call your doctor and ask for help with your kegels. He or she may use a kegel monitor with a vaginal probe, or use a less *personal* monitor with a few adhesive electrodes to monitor muscle activity.
You mentioned that you don't like wearing pads or a tampon...are you leaking a little urine, or a LOT? If it's only a little urine, a thin panty liner may be enough protection to keep your underwear dry. If you need more protection than just a regular panty liner, I think Depends or Tena (I forget which) makes a panty liner specifically for urine leakage. It might be a little thicker than a normal panty liner, but it's still better than wearing a pad! Of course, tampons aren't going to make a difference when you leak urine...but they're certainly less bulky during your period, if pads are bothersome!
I try to keep my fluid intake balanced throughout the day, so I don't drink a large amount of liquid at any one time in the hours before a run. Then, I try to avoid eating or drinking anything 30 minutes before a run, except for a few sips of water or juice. This strategy allows me to stay properly hydrated, but without my bladder suddenly filling up on me as I'm heading out the door. While I'm actually running, I drink according to thirst (at the recommendation of many training gurus, training books, and running magazine articles). I've never lost weight during a run by drinking according to thirst, and my pee is typically near-clear when I finally get home. If I tried to force myself to drink MORE fluids than what I naturally want while I'm running, I would probably pee my pants. Plus, forcing yourself to drink more water than you are thirsty for while running can lead to hyponatremia. I always cringe when I see "fitness" articles about hydration while exercising - so much water, so little sodium! So, while I can't recommend restricting your fluids...I can recommend letting your body tell you when you need to drink PS - don't be ashamed to pee in the occasional bush. After seeing pictures of women peeing in the grass - in the open, covered only by trash bags - at the NYC Marathon, using a bush seems so...private!