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HOW DO I PROTECT MY PELVIC FLOOR WHILST RUNNING?

I am a huge fan of running for exercise. The benefits of cardiovascular fitness, time spent outdoors, the endorphins & boost in mental clarity and of course the positive impact running has on bone density and functional strength.

 

Unfortunately, as running is a high impact exercise, it can negatively impact the pelvic floor muscles if you have weakness in the pelvic floor and already experience pelvic floor symptoms like leakage, heaviness in the pelvis or pelvic pain.

 

No pain no gain is not the mantra for a healthy and happy pelvic floor. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you need to start by addressing the underlying cause of the symptom before hitting the streets.

Please reach out as I can help you with this.


If you don’t experience any pelvic floor symptoms then running can be super beneficial to your pelvic floor, increasing both endurance and muscular control - making you stronger.

 

So running isn’t inherently bad for your pelvic floor, despite popular belief.


With that said, the way you run can significantly alter the amount of stress placed on your pelvic floor muscles.


Running, just like all high impact exercise, exerts increased forces through your pelvic floor. Fortunately, your pelvic floor has evolved to absorb this stress.


One role of the pelvic floor is to support your internal organs from below. Your pelvic floor forms the base of your core. When you land whist running, a force travels through your foot to your pelvis, through your pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles have evolved to automatically activate ahead of this force (before your foot hits the ground).

Or at least that’s what they’re supposed to do.


In anyone with underlying pelvic floor muscle weakness, this automatic muscle contraction might not occur.


Therefore, the increased forces received on impact, paired with a lack of automatic activation can trigger leakage and prolapse symptoms during running and high impact exercise, that aren’t present at rest.


For anyone with pelvic floor symptoms, it’s important to address those underlying areas of weakness so that you can continue to run without increased likelihood of injury.


This is no different to someone returning to running after an ankle sprain. If you sprain your ankle and return to running without rehabbing your ankle, running will be bad for your ankle and may result in further injury. If you take the time to rehab and strengthen your ankle and allow your tissue to heal, running may once again be an excellent exercise for your body. The pelvic floor is the same.


While running will always trigger an increase in reaction force through the pelvic floor, your running form can significantly increase or reduce the impact of these forces.


By modifying your running form in a way that reduces excessive force through the pelvic floor, you can reduce common symptoms like leakage, pubic bone pain and vaginal heaviness.


Below are 5 ways to modify your running form and reduce pelvic floor symptoms:

 

1)    Relax your abdomen while you run: 

Try and avoid sucking in or keeping your abs rigid while you run. Your abdominals function as shock absorbers and keeping a stiff core limits their ability to absorb shock on impact. Let your tummy relax as you run and see how it feels through your hips and pelvis.

 

2)   Land soft on your feet:

Try not to slam your feet down, especially when you’re tired – you shouldn’t really be able to hear your feet thumping into the ground. If you can, you’re creating more force on impact.

 

3)   Tits over toes:

Land with your chest over your feet, not behind them. When you land with your feet in front of your body, your hamstrings are forced to pull you forward through your stride. When you land over your feet, your ankles, knees and hips can effectively absorb ground forces and your glutes and quads can work together to push you forward.

 

4)   Try to keep your ribs stacked over your pelvis:

This allows your pelvic floor, abdominals and diaphragm to work together to support you. A common habit is to point the chest up to the sky. This stretches the abdominal wall and creates a slight back bend, making it harder for your core to function effectively.

 

5)   Rotate through the trunk instead of just swinging your arms:

Thoracic rotation, not just arm swinging, is an important part of running form. Rotating through your upper body as you stride allows your body to effectively use momentum and fascial lines to propel you forwards. As you stride forward with one leg, bring your opposite shoulder forward. Alternate with each step.

 

 I hope you find these tips useful and easy to incorporate into your running practise.

 

Please remember that if you’re currently lucky enough to be running without any pelvic floor symptoms, it’s still very important to maintain your pelvic floor strength via specific exercises and drills.

 

These exercises and drills need to be more than just kegels, if you’re a regular runner you should be incorporating deep core strength, single leg stability, plyometrics and trunk rotation exercises into your weekly exercise plans.

 

These exercises should be personalised as everybody’s running form is different.

Please reach out to book yourself a 1:1 session which will help you manage this: anna@coreconfident.co.uk

 

Anna xx

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