Earbuds in, sneakers on, legs stretched; it’s time for your morning run. As any avid runner knows, this is an exercise that is not only great for your physical health, but has also been known to be great for mental health too. However, while your heart, brain, gluts, quads, and calves may all be massive fans of the daily run, there is one body part that may feel quite the contrary: your vagina. In particular, your pelvic floor may find your running habit quite bothersome.
Running and Your Pelvic Floor; It’s Complicated
Virtually all people with vaginas are at high risk of weakening the pelvic floor when adopting a running habit. However, persons who may have a somewhat weakened pelvic floor already, such as those who have had a vaginal birth, are menopausal, are overweight, and/or living with chronic health conditions like asthma, COPD, and connective tissue disorders, have an even higher risk of complications from running. Here’s why…
The pelvic floor is a set of pelvic muscles responsible for keeping pelvic organs, such as the bladder, vagina, uterus, and bowel in place. Each time we run, we are putting pressure onto the pelvic floor, which is tasked with cushioning these organs each time your feet hit the pavement. Overtime, this continued pressure can cause the pelvic floor to weaken, leading to incontinence, pain, and even pelvic organ prolapse. Some early warning signs to look out for are urinary leakage, a vaginal bulge, or pelvic heaviness while running.
Does this mean people with vaginas should steer clear of running for good?
Not necessarily. There are several things you can do to protect your pelvic floor when running…
- Prep your pelvic floor prior to taking up running. Before you hit the pavement, it’s wise to ensure your pelvic floor is in its best possible shape. This can mean at-home pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles or enlisting the help of a non-invasive energy treatment, such as Emsella, for individuals with concerns of an already weakened pelvic floor.
- Choose the right running path. Hard cement surfaces and downhill jogs put significant stress on the pelvic floor. If you can, elect to stride on softer, flatter terrains.
- Breathe! Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to relieve pressure on your pelvic floor muscles when running.
- Don’t Kegal and run. Particularly if you’re concerned with leaking, it may seem rational to engage your pelvic floor while running. However, the tensing of your pelvic floor only increases the pressure on it while in stride.
- Give yourself time to heal. Running might seem like a great way to get back in the swing of exercise after having a baby, but it’s actually incredibly risky. During pregnancy and childbirth, a woman’s muscles and ligaments are stretched and softened to make room for the baby. It’s best to wait until you are entirely healed and have done some serious pelvic floor strengthening work before heading out on that jog.
What do I do if I start leaking or feel a bulge when running?
Step away from the sneakers and call your urogynecologist. At The Kimble Center for Intimate Cosmetic Surgery, we have a range of treatment options and solutions for reversing the negative effects of running on the pelvic floor.
During your visit, we will perform a comprehensive evaluation and work together with you to design a personalized treatment plan that best serves your unique lifestyle and health needs. Depending on the severity, our protocols can include a simple 30-minute energy treatment, comprehensive core-to-floor treatments, pelvic slings, and/or prolapse surgery.
Contact us today to learn more!