How to stop leaking when I run
Taryn Gaudin Women’s Health Physio
How to stop leaking when you run
don’t risk unnecessary injury or prolapse – run safely after birth –
Postnatal running can be challenging! Perhaps you’ve started running again, but now you have a problem. You leak when you run… Some women find incontinence embarrassing, some find it ‘inconvenient’, some don’t seem to very bothered by the fact that they leak during running.
What a lot of women don’t realise that leaking during running actually affects your performance. It means you are losing power and wasting energy!! Perhaps worse, is that leaking while you run can be a warning sign of developing prolapse. If you leak when you run, this is a sign that your core isn’t coping with the physical stress of running. Your muscles haven’t been ‘reconditioned for running’.
Our core is ‘our foundation for fitness’. It’s where our arms and legs move from. As a postnatal runner, you want your core to be a ‘strong and stable base’ to move from. If it’s not, it will be affecting our performance as well as putting you at risk of injury.
No matter how hard you train, if you don’t address the core- you will eventually see either a plateau in performance, pelvic organ prolapse, or injury – knee and hip pain being the most common for postnatal runners.
So if you leak when you run, you might then be thinking ” I have a weak core”… Maybe… But it’s just as likely that there is no ‘weakness’ as such, but perhaps simply a problem with the co-ordination of the core. Put more simply, it could be HOW you are running!!
You see, we have ‘sold’ to women for many that if you leak during exercise that you ‘have a weak core’. We also tell women that they need to ‘engage the core strongly during exercise’. Also not true. In fact this could be the one things that makes running HARDER for you!
Essentially he core is a ‘pressure system’ where the goal is to ‘control the intra abdominal pressure’. ‘Gripping’ the abs and pelvic floor doesn’t allow for any ‘give’ in the core – which makes it very difficult for us to control this pressure. Imaging you were filling a water ballon with water – but it had no ‘give’ or stretch to it. It would explode – with water leaking everywhere. Sound familiar?? That’s essentially what can happen with the core if we ‘grip’ the muscles too strongly whilst exercising. (the leaking part – not the explosion….)
So if ‘engaging the core’ during running won’t work, how do we stop the leaking??
Well if your really serious, I would tell you to save yourself wasted time and energy and get the Run Mama Program ON SALE NOW. The ONLY POSTNATAL RUNNING PROGRAM, specifically designed to strengthen your core for running. Find out about the program here.
What happens if I begin running too soon after birth?
How do I know if I am ready to run after birth?
Evidence based clinical guidelines suggest that before beginning running women should be able to:
- Walk at least 30 minutes comfortably
- Contract the pelvic floor muscles fully for 6-8 seconds, for 8-12 contractions
- Perform 10 single leg squats in a row on each leg, stand on one leg for 10 seconds comfortably (left & right), and do
- Perform a sub-maximal (half way lift) pelvic floor contraction for at least 60 seconds
- Run on the spot comfortably for 1 minute
You can read more about running after birth here.
But why do you need to strengthen your core after baby in preparation for postnatal running? Well, first let me tell you about the core and how it works….
What is the core?
Most of us understand that the ‘TA’ or Transverse Abdominals are part of the core. This muscle sits deep within the abdominal wall – behind the “rectus abdominals” (the 6 pack) and our oblique muscles. It’s important to note that the TA is just one component of a bigger system!
When we talk about the ‘core’ we are referring to what is sometimes known as the ‘deep core’. Your ‘deep core’ is made up of a group of muscles including:
- The Diaphragm (top)
- Pelvic Floor (bottom / floor)
- Transverse Abdominals (TA) (front)
- Multifidus (back)
Each of these muscles can be significantly affected by pregnancy and birth! Postnatally these muscles are ‘stretched’, weakened, and often poorly co-ordinated… Most women also have an ‘abdominal separation’ that can often need particular attention to help it recover well.
How does the core work?
The core is essentially a ‘pressure system’. This ‘pressure system’ is at work all day everyday without us having to think about it.
In order to better understand the core as a pressure system, picture your core a balloon full of water. When you press on the top of the balloon the pressure/water must be displaced elsewhere – the top of that balloon displaces pressure downwards and outwards. Then when that pressure is released the balloon ‘springs’ back into place. This is how our core works. As you breathe in the pelvic floor and TA relax, and as you breathe out, the TA and pelvic floor ‘snap back into place’.
A lot of postnatal runners thing that if they ‘hold their core tight’ when they run, this will help. But think about what would happen if you squeezed this balloon as tightly as possible (as some women tend to do – when they grip their abs as you run) if we built the pressure up enough, the balloon would burst! So for some of us, the answer is to RELAX!
This just ONE (overly simplified) EXAMPLE of how a ‘poorly functioning’ core can result in leakage while you run. There are many factors that can cause you to leak when you run – so this is not a ‘one size fits all’ answer. Often, the cause of the leakage is ‘multi-factorial’. This is why we need to rebuild the core, strengthen the pelvic floor , improve our posture, and correct abdominal separation – so that we address the ‘whole picture’.
As a postnatal physiotherapist that works with athletes, I know the ‘common mistakes’ that postnatal runners make. To address these issues, I recommend using the ‘Run Mama’ postnatal running program. With the Run Mama program you will get this right the first time, without wasting valuable time and energy!
Here are a few examples of what I will teach you in the program….
Untuck your BUTT!
Without boring you with an anatomy lessons, let me just say that your pelvic outlet is different at the front, compared to the back. Tucking your butt means that most of the forces go towards the back of the pelvis – where the outlet is larger and has less reinforcement. The tucked bottom posture can therefore increase your chance of leakage. A tucked butt also puts the pelvic floor and core is a position where it needs to work harder – not smarter… we DON’T want that.
Your glues and pelvic floor are also designed to work together. ‘Flat butts’ are an indication of poor glutes bulk. Try untucking your butt and allow your glutes to engage and do some work!
How do you do that?
- You can try lying on your back, sitting in a chair or in standing.
- Gently rock your pelvic forwards and backwards until you find a position that is ‘half way’.
- Try doing this in a mirror. Sometime what you feel you are doing and what you are actually doing can be very different.
- Once you find this ‘middle ground’ start trying to use that position in every day tasks, as well as while you run.
Time and time again I see postnatal runners having difficulty with this. Even though it sounds really easy. This is why I use the ABCDE technique- with my postnatal runners. I know it works, and it makes correcting alignment, breathing, and core control SO MUCH easier! This is the same technique I teach you in the Run Mama online postnatal running program. The ABCDE Technique is really what helps women to stop leaking when they run, but also to generate MORE POWER, and use LESS ENERGY, and to RUN BETTER overall.
All of which is in the ‘Run Mama’ online postnatal running program. This program helps you start with mat based work PLUS running based core exercises, which then progress to running workouts and running drills specifically with the postnatal runner in mind. Once you are running I show you how to build at a steady pace, how to choose your terrain, improve your running gait, and correct the common mistakes that I see postnatal runners making time and time again.
Breathe into your belly
Don’t be afraid to let the abs go and let your breath go into the belly. Remember the core is a pressure system. Gripping your abs and not allowing your breath to go down into the tummy is only going to create excessive pressure within the core- and guess what – its going down right where gravity leads it increasing the chance of leakage and prolapse…. we don’t want that!
So, let your belly go! BREATHE……
This is often my ‘starting point’ with my postnatal runners. Simply teaching new mamas how to breathe…. Again, sounds super simple, but can be challenging. In the Run Mama program I help to make this SO much easier, by giving guided practices that whelp you to master this in any position. In the Facebook group we can ‘troubleshoot this’ together…
How to practice belly breathing:
- Lay down with your knees bent
- Place your hands onto your tummy
- Think about taking a deep breath into your hands.
- Let your rib cage widen towards your hands, and feel your hands rise to the roof as you take a breath in
- Keep your shoulders and face relaxed
- Once you have mastered this, try it again in sitting and standing
Allow the Pelvic Floor to RELAX!
Okay, so you’ve heard all about doing kegals and that activating your pelvic floor is what stops you peeing yourself when you cough/sneeze/laugh/ run…. True! BUT, we also know that muscles work best when they are in their ‘mid range’. For example your biceps is strongest when your elbow is bent to about 90 degrees.
Holding your pelvic floor as tight as you can for extended period of time not only causes fatigue, it also means that the muscles won’t be able to contract as effectively.
Your core muscles are ‘postural’ muscles. They are designed to work at LOW loads for extended periods of time. They aren’t meant to be ‘gripping’ or holding on for dear life just to keep us upright.
In the Run Mama program, I will show you HOW to do your pelvic floor exercises, but also how to use your pelvic floor ‘functionally’ – meaning how do you use your pelvic floor muscles correctly during different movements (not just running!)
For the core to work it’s BEST, we need to let the it work as it is designed to. So, trying to grip your core whilst you run will not only be uncomfortable, it will be ineffective!
A good place to start is simply learning to RELAX the core and pelvic floor. Often women don’t even realise how tight we are gripping the pelvic floor until we try to relax it!
Learning to do this:
- Get into a comfortable position
- As you take a breath in feel your pelvic floor relax
- Let your inner thighs, glutes and abdominal muscles relax
- Feel your breath going down – feel your pelvic floor ‘let go’
- Don’t try to ‘force’ the pelvic floor muscles down – just let them relax
Lean forward when you run
There are a few reasons why thinking about leaning forward from the hips can help to stop you leaking while you run. Firstly your in a better position for your core muscles to work together than you would be if you had your chest up high. Secondly you should ‘bounce less’ to lower the impact with each time you land. LESS IMPACT = LESS LEAKING (Hopefully NONE). It’s important that this is a lean from the hips and not the chest.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet together and lean forward keeping your shoulder, hips and feet in alignment.
- Lean until you feel as though you would fall forward then start running.
- Try to maintain that forward lean throughout the run.
Alternatively try running slight incline / small hills. When you run uphill your body is ‘forced’ into a great position to allow for you to breath into your belly, and to get your ribs and pelvis into an optimal position for your piston to fire.
In the Run Mama online postnatal running program I will teach you everything from choosing your running terrain, improving your running gait, and how to go about things like ‘pram running’.
Of course, these ‘tips’ are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to things you can do to stop you from leaking when you run.
The Run Mama Program is your step-by-step guide for postnatal running. Not only will it help you to stop leaking when you run, it will also help you to improve your running performance. Making running EASIER, and way more enjoyable. Simply click the image below to learn all about the program.
Want to learn more about running safely after birth?
Run Mama is a self paced, online postpartum running program that helps you to understand how to run safely after birth.
You will love the Run Mama program if you want to:
- Rebuild your core and pelvic floor using the best core workouts specifically designed for runners.
- Know how to return to running safely after baby!
- Access affordable, expert guidance from a Physiotherapist who understands running
- Feel empowered to make your own decisions, without having to fear movement & exercise
- Build more power, & use less energy when you run
- Stop leaking when you run! (no, kegals are not the answer!)
- Know how to assess & treat abdominal separation
- Understand the most common mistakes of ‘mums that run’ & how to fix them.
- Enjoy core workouts from the privacy of your own home, that are specifically designed to get you back to running safely
- Have access to ongoing expert advice, without having to keep paying for it!
- Be guided by a therapist that ‘get’s you’
Guided by Women’s Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, mother, and age group world champion triathlete Taryn Gaudin. You can access the program today for just $66 AUD! Check out the program here.