Upon returning to running postpartum, many women struggle adjusting to their new bodies. There may be system imbalances, changes in running style, and even incontinence (“leaks”) to deal with. These setbacks, however, are not reason to give up sport. Often, retraining pelvic floor muscles is part of the solution.
The pelvic floor muscles work together with your deep abdominal muscles and diaphragm to create stability at your center. This team of muscles is often referred to as your “core”. When you overuse (or “grip”) your abdominals to compensate for a weak pelvic floor, you are actually unbalancing the system, which will make your running form less efficient. Postpartum runners often lose that beautiful torso rotation that helps propel them forward because of this abdominal gripping. Instead, many run with chests high and rotation through their upper chest and shoulders, pumping their arms to mimic torso rotation. Rotating through your torso while running accentuates hip extension, thereby activating the glutes which helps propel you forward and control impact forces. The torso rotation also helps keep your weight over the landing leg, which increases running efficiency and reduces ground reaction forces.
Another imbalance of the core system can occur when there is gripping of the pelvic floor to prevent leaks. Many women think that if they are leaking, they need to kegal (contract the pelvic floor) while running to keep their pee in. This can cause fallout in your running technique, however, as your pelvic floor needs to interact with your hips to propel you forward. Your pelvic floor muscles must actually go through an excursion of movement throughout running, just as your quads lengthen with a knee bend and shorten as you straighten it.
When you integrate pelvic floor muscle training into your running program, you are going improve many aspects of your life, including your pelvic health, your musculoskeletal health, and your performance and running efficiency.
Deal with pelvic floor issues while continuing to run, as pelvic floor health and fitness do not need to stay separate!