Out There Mothers

How to strengthen your pelvic floor for postpartum running

Giving birth is a miraculous and life-changing event, but let’s be honest: it’s also incredibly challenging! Returning to a routine might seem like a struggle as you navigate motherhood’s beautiful yet demanding world. You’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed, as many new moms grapple with finding balance, reclaiming their bodies, and re-establishing healthy habits.

Postpartum running is an adaptable healthy habit that you can include in your routine. But to execute this exercise correctly, you must consider the muscle, joints, and movements involved. 

Continue reading to learn more about postpartum running!

What is your pelvic floor?

Pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissues at the bottom of the pelvis. It is a supportive structure that holds the pelvic organs, controls bladder and bowel movements, and contributes to sexual function.

A weak pelvic floor results from giving birth because it stretches out to accommodate the baby’s weight and height changes. And strengthening this is essential for postpartum runners.

Pelvic floor diagram

Why is a strong pelvic floor essential for exercise?

Having a strong pelvic floor can assist in the following:

  • Loss of bladder and bowel control: High-impact activities like running can stress a weak pelvic floor, resulting in urine/fecal incontinence. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can prevent urine leakage while running. 
  • Improves core stability: Pelvic floor muscles are also part of the core muscle structure, meaning having a strong pelvic floor can increase core stability and strength. This can help correct running form, which ultimately prevents injury. 
  • Prevents pelvic floor prolapse: A weak pelvic floor is much more likely to develop a prolapse. A prolapse is when the pelvic organs descend and bulge into the vaginal wall. Exercising the pelvic floor can reduce this risk and prevent discomfort when running. 
  • Overall support for the pelvic organs: As mentioned above, pelvic floor muscles are like a hammock that houses the organs. The weakening of this muscle group can be detrimental to our health.

How does a pelvic floor become weakened?

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to the weakening of the pelvic floor after childbirth. First, the growing fetus inside the uterus puts pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. So as the uterus expands, it pushes against the pelvic floor muscles and causes them to stretch and change their position. These changes lead to decreased elasticity, strength, and pelvic floor pain.

Also, during pregnancy, there are a lot of hormone releases and fluctuations. And to prepare for childbirth, the hormone relaxin loosens up the muscles, ligaments, and other connective tissue in the pelvic region. While this is good for smooth child delivery, this could additionally weaken the pelvic floor muscles. 

Finally, during childbirth and delivery, the mother’s prolonged pushing, the use of medical extraction equipment, and the baby’s size can further strain and injure the pelvic floor muscles. 

All these causes are natural, but can significantly affect the pelvic floor. So if this happens, how can we check if our pelvic floor muscles are really weak?

How to test if your pelvic floor muscles are weak:

By now, you know where your pelvic muscles are, so contract them and hold them like you are trying to stop the urine flow. If your pelvic floor is healthy, it can hold up to ten repetitions consecutively for a 10-second hold. 

If you are still unsure if you are engaging your pelvic floor properly, you could check out the MUTU System for training on performing the exercises safely and correctly.

Additionally, check for these signs:

  • Urine leaks while coughing, sneezing, laughing, or running
  • Not reaching the toilet in time.
  • Less or total loss of vaginal sensation
  • Falling or dislodging tampons

Benefits of Pelvic Floor Exercises

Diagram of lady lying down showing pelvic floor muscles

According to Mørkved & Bø (2007), immediate pelvic floor training can change the strength and improve urinary continence in mothers after giving birth. 

Pelvic floor training can also:

  • Increase core strength and stability
  • Speed up healing and recovery after childbirth
  • Lower risk of prolapse of the pelvis
  • Improve bladder control
  • Prevent urinary and fecal incontinence
  • Enhance sexual function
  • Decrease postpartum pelvic pain after running

Pelvic Floor Exercises for Postpartum Runners

1. Kegels exercise

This exercise strengthens pelvic floor muscles as well as improves coordination.

Before performing this exercise, it is best to have an empty bladder.

Lie down, or sit on a chair. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Imagine you are trying to hold in wind. Hold this contraction for 5 seconds. And then relax the muscles. Keep doing this for 10 repetitions, 3x a day. 

If you still aren’t sure whether you are doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly, the MUTU System  can help you perform the exercises safely and correctly.

2. Transversus Abdomins Activation
Woman lying down doing transversus abdomins activation

Lie down with your knees bent and feet planted.

Using your two fingers, find the highest part of your hip bone, slide 2 inches into the midline, then go another inch lower.

To check if you are palpating the right muscle, cough, and feel the muscle springing back. 

Breathe slowly for 3 seconds and feel the muscle activate as you inhale and exhale.

Do this for 3-5 minutes.

3. Bridge exercise
Woman doing bridge exercises

Lie down with the knees bent and feet planted, arms out flat.

Engage your core, and lift your hips to the ceiling.

Hold this position for 10 seconds. Lower your hips and
repeat this movement for 8-10 reps for 3 sets.

4. Single leg deadlift
Woman doing single leg dead lift

Stand with one leg straight and the other leg, slightly bent. Make sure you are in your comfortable stance since this will need standing on one leg only. Hold on to a chair if you can’t get into a balanced position.

Hinge forward at the hips bringing your torso to the ground while moving your non-supporting leg to the back. If you are not holding unto a chair, extend your arms forward to counterbalance the movement.

Do 5 repetitions on each leg for 3 sets. And slowly progress to 8-10 reps for each leg. 

5. Deadbug exercise
Woman doing dead bug exercises for abdominal strengthening

Lying down, lift both legs with knees bent to form 90degrees. Lift your arms straight towards the ceiling. 

Simultaneously lower your right arm and left leg until they hover above the ground.

After returning the arm and leg to the starting position, switch sides.

Do 5 repetitions on each side for 3 sets. Slowly progress to 8-10 reps for each leg. 

Tips for Incorporating Pelvic Floor Exercises into Your Running Routine

Making pelvic floor your priority in returning to running after having a baby can make a huge difference in your physical and mental state. You can incorporate pelvic floor exercises by following these tips:

  • Warming up before running: Practice the exercises above to activate your muscles correctly. This will help you to know how to engage your pelvic floor muscles properly, and it will help you enhance your performance during running. 
  • Focus on form: While running, concentrate on keeping your posture and running alignment correct to avoid injuries. Also, avoiding overarching of the back and engaging your core maintains your pelvic muscles activated. 
  • Be consistent: Building a habit takes time. Be patient and do it daily to see the benefits of pelvic floor exercises.
  • Post-run stretching: After running, ensure you incorporate a cool-down phase to do static stretches. This will prevent imbalances within the pelvic area and maintain flexibility. 
  • Practice body awareness: If you are running, and experiencing persistent pain, stop and do not push through to prevent unwanted injuries. 

Other Lifestyle Changes to Improve Pelvic Floor Health

  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can lead to muscle tension in our body, especially the pelvic floor muscles. Stress management techniques can help us relax and regulate emotions to prevent dysfunction and discomfort within the body.
  • Adopt a well-balanced lifestyle: Eating the right food and maintaining a physically active lifestyle can prevent strain and stress within our bodies.
  • Seek a healthcare professional: If you feel persistent pain and issues in your pelvic region, ask a medical professional for guidance and treatment. 

All in all, maintaining a healthy pelvic floor is crucial for postpartum runners. It supports normal bodily processes, like breathing, protecting our vital organs, and enhances physical performance and well-being. Including pelvic floor exercises in your daily routine and adhering to a well-balanced lifestyle can significantly improve your pelvic floor health. As a new mom, I know adding extra tasks to your daily routine with a newborn can be overwhelming but remember these tips and be consistent. Taking care of your pelvic floor will not only improve your running, but it can also impact your overall quality of life. 

Ember Magalit - Out There Mothers

Author: Dr. France Ember Magalit PT,DPT. Ember holds a Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. She advocates for holistic treatments and women’s health. 

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