While running might bring to mind rippling abs and toned calves, the muscles deep in our cores matter just as much when we’re striding towards the finish line. Planks and crunches are indeed important for developing a strong core, but don’t underestimate the pelvic floor!
What does the pelvic floor have to do with running?
A strong pelvic floor does more than improve orgasms and bladder control (as if that wasn’t already enough!); this muscle group also helps stabilize the core and prevent injury during exercise. As a high-impact sport, running creates a lot of physical force in the body with each stride. When our feet make contact with the concrete, this impact travels up the legs and through the pelvic floor. This can lead to progressive weakening of the muscles, and so stress incontinence is a relatively common complaint among runners (and other athletes too).
In fact, sports and urinary incontinence are more closely linked than you might have thought—probably because the topic makes so many of us squirm! But there’s no reason to feel embarrassed. Pelvic floor dysfunction is widely experienced, with studies reporting over 50% of elite female athletes experience leakage during exercise, and yet only 3.3% have discussed it with their doctor, and only 4.6% had tried pelvic floor training.
5 pelvic floor exercises for runners
As they say, prevention is better than a cure. To keep you fighting fit, here are five pelvic floor exercises to get these deep-core muscles in top condition, so you can take home the gold…
Simple Kegel training
Work on building up your core strength and pelvic floor control with regular pelvic floor or Kegel training. Biofeedback devices, like Elvie Trainer, connect to an app that helps you visualize the exercises in real-time and can even guide you a fun, five-minute workout that exercises every aspect of your pelvic floor. It can be really tricky to know if you’re exercising correctly and to stay motivated, but Evie Trainer can detect the direction of your contractions and alert you if you’re exercising incorrectly. The app also tracks your workout history and progress over time so that you don’t get bored or give up!
Using exercises that isolate the pelvic floor is the first step in building core stability… which means fewer leaks! Once you’ve perfected the technique for Kegel exercises, it’s time to incorporate the pelvic floor into more dynamic movements.
- Lie on your back with bent knees and make sure you have your neck well supported. Hold a small weight with both hands and hold them out above you. While you hold this position, take a deep breath, and relax your pelvic floor
- As you breathe out, squeeze your pelvic floor, and continue to do so as you lift your hips. Push through your heels, and make sure your ribs are aligned with your hips. Continue to squeeze as you lower your arms to your hips
- Breathe in again, relaxing your pelvic floor as you move back into the starting position. Repeat 8 times
- Stand placing your feet hip-width apart, then step backwards onto your right foot. Place the ball of the right foot onto the floor, keeping your shin straight and maintaining balance over your front foot.
- Take a deep breath as you bend your knees, lowering your body until your right knee is just above the ground. Maintain this position for few moments.
- Breathe out and squeeze your pelvic floor, continue to exhale and lift as you push through your left heel and rise to stand. Repeat this eight times for each foot.
- Start by getting into a plank position, anchoring yourself on your elbows with your feet hip width apart. Breathe in as you relax your pelvic floor, drawing your right knee in towards your chest.
- Breathe out, squeezing your pelvic floor. As you do so, extend your right leg to “kick” yourself in the bum, keeping your knee bent.
- Inhale as you relax your muscles and draw your knee back to the starting position. Repeat eight times, remembering to switch sides.
- Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet hip width apart
- Take a deep breath, relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. As you exhale, lower yourself into a 90 degree squat against the wall, squeezing your pelvic floor as you do so.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds, maintaining an engaged pelvic floor as you breathe. Return to a standing position and slowly relax your pelvic floor as you do so.
- Repeat eight times.
- As you continue this exercise, gradually increase the amount of time you hold the sitting position, working your way up to a minute wall sit (we believe in you!)