Women's Running

Exercises To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Feeling like you’re going to leak urine during a run (or actually leaking)?

Are you experiencing pelvic pain or a sensation of heaviness down there? Do you have achy hips or lower-back soreness that doesn’t seem to go away?

If you’ve ever experienced these symptoms, there’s a good chance your pelvic floor could use a tuneup. It’s important to realize this is common and treatable. Studies show that up to one third of women are affected by pelvic floor dysfunction, which refers to a number of issues ranging from the frequent urge to urinate to dropped pelvic organs (prolapse).

Related: 4 Ways to Train Your Body to Stop “Leaking” on the Run

Symptoms may become more noticeable during running due to the added stress upon impact, says Julie Wiebe, a Los Angeles–based physical therapist who specializes in treating female athletes. “These symptoms can respond to care, but won’t just go away if ignored and could lead to musculoskeletal fallout and affect performance,” she explains.

Your pelvic floor forms a sling at the base of your pelvis. It is part of a team of core muscles that, Wiebe says, “are shown to anticipate a movement challenge and prepare for it by helping anchor your body at its center.”

New moms, take note: During pregnancy and childbirth, these anticipatory core muscles and other postural muscles go through many changes. Women should aim to restore communication and balance between these muscles before returning to running. Wiebe recommends following the three-prong strategy here as well as seeing a women’s health physical therapist if you are experiencing any pelvic or musculoskeletal symptoms.

Related: Post-Natal Running: Rebuilding Your Pelvis after Pregnancy

Alignment

Your anticipatory core muscles learn to work together again best when you are in a neutral alignment. In running, this neutral positioning also helps reduce forces upon impact, by keeping your center of gravity over your heels as you land (versus landing with your foot out in front of you). Use the ski jump exercise to find neutral:

Practice the first two tips together three times a day to help wake up your core muscles and find good alignment.

Core Activation

Find your pelvic floor muscles and reestablish their relationship with your transverse abdominus (deep ab muscles) and diaphragm (breathing muscle).

Before running, warm up with the first and second tips and then do two sets of the exercises in the third.

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

Perform this sequence 8–12 times.

Lateral pull with cross-body chop

Perform the sequence 8–10 times on each side.

Split Squat

Perform the sequence 8–12 times on each side.

Plank jacks

Perform for 20–30 seconds.

In addition, check out these two great apps to help you strengthen your pelvic floor: Elvie and B-Wom.

Related:

Do These 4 Moves to Relax Tight Pelvic Floor Muscles

What Postpartum Runners Need to Know about the Pelvic Floor

3 Pelvic Floor Exercises for Postpartum Runners