The CrossFit Open is underway, and this week’s workout, 18.3, is a doozy. It includes a total of 8 rounds of 100 double-unders, which is a lot on the pelvic floor and for some women means leaking. Women in CrossFit gyms are gearing up by wearing pads, and some are even talking openly about leaking. It may be tempting to crank out 18.3, but if you’re among the many women who expect to leak, I strongly suggest modifying this workout or sitting it out. Here’s why.
So I leak during double-unders. So what? If I put on a pad and no one has to know, why should it matter?
Leaking is not just an embarrassing symptom. If you leak urine, this indicates your pelvic floor muscles are not doing their job—it could be that they are weak, tight, uncoordinated, or a combination of these. What many people don’t realize is that your pelvic floor muscles aren’t just there for controlling your pee—they are also important core muscles. They work with other muscles of your core to stabilize your body during movement. If they’re dysfunctional, they’re also not performing this stabilization role effectively.
But I’m moving just fine. Did you see how much I just lifted? Can’t I just keep doing what I’m doing?
Well, you could, but you’re increasing your risk for a number of issues. For one, dysfunction in your core makes you more prone to musculoskeletal injuries—stuff like hip, knee, and low back pain. You might not have these symptoms now, but if you continue to exceed the load your pelvic floor can manage, other areas of your body will try to compensate, making you more vulnerable to injury.
Another concern is that your pelvic floor and its team of deep core muscles work as a pressure system. Right now, your pelvic floor’s inability to handle the pressure of repetitive jumping is manifesting as urine leaking. But recurrent loading to a vulnerable pelvic floor could also result in pelvic organ prolapse, which occurs when one or more pelvic organs start to descend into the vaginal canal.
So what can I do? I still really want to do 18.3.
First, speak up for yourself and modify as necessary to avoid leaking. It might not be easy, but the longevity of your athletic career is more important than one workout. If you’re not sure how to modify, seek support from coaches who do.
And see a women’s health PT! Even if you only leak during double-unders or on your third sneeze or when you lift your 1RM, it’s worth learning how you can improve function of your pelvic floor, so you can continue doing the things you love.