December 14, 2023

From BS&W: Introduction to the Pelvic Floor: A Runners Guide

By: Marie Woerner, Pelvic Health Physical Therapist

Your pelvic floor health is an essential part of your overall health and wellbeing, especially as a runner. You might even be thinking, “What is my pelvic floor?” Today I’m here to share with you the functions of the pelvic floor, the impact your pelvic floor can have in your running and exercise journey, and some tips on how to maintain the health of your pelvic floor. 

What are the functions of the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles located at the bottom of your pelvis that serves several vital roles for your body. 

  1. The pelvic floor provides immense support to our pelvic organs. The pelvic floor is actually the foundation of our true core, which makes these muscles very important when discussing high impact activities such as running. 
  2. The pelvic floor also serves a sphincteric function for our bodies. The pelvic floor provides a great deal of support and tone around the external urinary sphincter and the external anal sphincter. If this muscle group is weak, the muscles will not provide the appropriate amount of compression around either of these structures. This can often lead to developing urinary incontinence/urinary leakage or fecal incontinence/fecal leakage. 

If you begin experiencing any symptoms of a weak pelvic floor, you want to address these concerns before they worsen. These symptoms are due to the pelvic floor muscles not functioning at the highest potential.

How can I improve my pelvic health?

  1. Avoid constipation.

Constipation puts a great deal of resistance on your pelvic floor, which is bad for those muscles. Try unloading your pelvic floor through bowel movements before exercise.

  1. Avoid bladder irritants.

Bladder irritants such as coffee, carbonated beverages, and caffeinated beverages can irritate your bladder and may contribute to more leakage while running. Try to stay clear of these irritants right before running or exercising. 

  1. Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated is a key component to a successful workout. Hydration helps keep neutral substances flowing through the bladder, rather than having caffeinate or a different dehydrant moving throughout. Being dehydrated leads to a more concentrated urine, which makes your urine more acidic or irritating to your bladder, which could also contribute to leakage. 

  1. Give your body plenty of rest.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure to give yourself a rest to allow your pelvic floor to recover. If you notice those muscles are not able to recover quickly, meaning you are having to take longer breaks between exercise intervals, your body is indicating those muscles are becoming weaker. 

  1. Seek out a pelvic floor therapist.

Addressing lack of endurance and strength in this muscle group can significantly help improve support to your pelvic organs and core. This can be done through seeking out the help of a pelvic floor therapist.

The information provided herein is considered educational. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.