Training the dynamic, automatic response
The pelvic floor automatically engages before our first heel strike in running. But this does not mean it remains uniformly engaged throughout the run. It actually goes through a range of motion (excursion) as you move your trunk over your foot.
“To prepare the pelvic floor for a demand like running, we have to ask it to do things that match that demand,” says Wiebe. “The following exercises train the pelvic floor to be responsive, go through a range of motion and engage in larger body movements, and be involved in a functional pattern that translates into running.” Modify an exercise or position if it causes pain or leakage. If pain or leaks persist, discontinue.
Bridge with pullover
- Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place a folded blanket, towel or pillow under your head and shoulders to prevent your ribs from jutting out.
- Hold a light weight (start with 5 pounds) in both hands and raise your arms toward the ceiling. In this position, inhale and relax your pelvic floor.
- Exhale and lift your pelvic floor, then continue to exhale and stay engaged as you press through your heels to lift your hips while maintaining ribs aligned with hips. Still engaged, pull your straight arms to your hips.
- Inhale, relaxing your pelvic floor as you reverse the motion, returning the weight and your hips to the starting position.
Perform this sequence 8–12 times.
Lateral pull with cross-body chop
- Secure a light resistance band to a surface that’s at least a foot taller than you. Hold the band in your left hand with your arm out to your side, and take a few steps laterally until you feel slight tension.
- Stand with feet at hip-width, and place your right foot on a small towel.
- Keeping your weight in your left foot, inhale as you slide your right foot away from your body.
- From this position, exhale and lift your pelvic floor. Continuing to maintain the tension, pull the towel back toward your other foot. At the same time, pull the resistance band across your body, toward your right hip.
- Inhale and relax to reverse the motion with the towel and band.
Perform the sequence 8–10 times on each side.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, then step your left foot back and place the ball of your left foot on the ground. Keep your front shin vertical and maintain your center of gravity over your front foot.
- Inhale as you bend both knees and lower your body until your left knee hovers above the ground.
- Exhale and lift your pelvic floor, then continue to exhale and stay engaged as you drive through your right heel and rise to standing.
Perform the sequence 8–12 times on each side.
- Start in a plank position with hands directly under shoulders and feet at hip-width. Modify this exerciseif you have diastasis recti by placing hands on an elevated surface, like a step or a table.
- Inhale and allow your pelvic floor to gently soften.
- Exhale and lift your pelvic floor, then continue exhaling and stay engaged as you jump your feet out wider. Repeat inhale/exhale and then jump back to the starting position.
- Inhale and relax your pelvic floor between reps.
- Progress the movement by exhaling through one whole cycle of out and in. Then speed it up with quicker, shorter inhales/exhales and pelvic floor lowers/lifts. Then switch to inhaling/softening as you jump wide and exhaling/engaging as you jump narrow.
Perform for 20–30 seconds.
In addition, check out these two great apps to help you strengthen your pelvic floor: Elvie and B-Wom.
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