Pelvic Floor Exercises For Running

Self-improvement goes hand-in-hand with the new year. 

For many of us, we aspire each year to be more physically fit and healthier than we were before. 

Sound familiar? 

Let’s make this year your year. 

At Optimize Pelvic Health, we believe that all movement is great movement, so whether you want to dance, climb, strut, or run your way to a healthier and fitter you in 2024, we’ve got your back completely. 

We are committed to helping you navigate your goals this year! 

Today we’re going to deep-dive specifically into Dr. Janet’s longtime favorite pastime, running, and explore how your pelvic floor health can make your runs this year stronger, faster, and perhaps longer than ever. 🔥🔥🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️

Running by the Numbers – One Massive Family 

If you’re beginning to gravitate to the running world, know that you are not alone! As reported in 2022, 50 million people – nearly 15% of the population in the USA – participated in some type of running or jogging regularly. 

Chances are high that you probably know someone who competed in some type of running race in the past year, too, since participation jumped a blistering 16%. 

Roads, trails, a treadmill, or the track: any surface, any distance. 

The world is your oyster when you are a runner. 

Whether you want something short and sweet like a mile or something much longer and time-consuming like a marathon (26.2 miles) or an ultramarathon (anything longer than 26.2 miles, though most distances are 50k, 50 miles, 100k, or 100 miles), there really is something for everyone in running. 

Don’t Let a Running Injury Sideline Your Goals

Before you lace up your favorite kicks and head out for a swift run around the block, hold up! While Dr. Janet loves running more than nearly everyone, she will be the first to tell you that running, unfortunately, is a high injury sport and that it’s important to proceed cautiously when you’re first starting out.

While running isn’t a contact sport in the same way that, say, lacrosse, football, rugby, or soccer is, running can be very hard on a runner’s body if they are not careful with how they train. 

Believe it or not, while we’d all love to just throw on a pair of shoes and go mindlessly log some miles day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, it behooves us to put some thought into how we’re going to run each day – especially if this is something that we want to continue doing long-term.  

It breaks our heart to share, but by some estimates, nearly 50% (!) of the running population suffers from an injury each year – sometimes from trauma (such as a fall or other incident) but more likely than not, from overuse injuries such as shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), or patellofemoral pain syndrome (aka “runner’s knee”).  

It is so important to ensure that you have a strong foundation before you begin to run. Part of a strong foundation includes – what else? – a strong pelvic floor.

Running and Your Pelvic Floor: a Dream Team in the Making

When we talk about running strong, pace is completely irrelevant. Instead, what matters most is having core stability. 

Core stability refers to the mid-section of a runner’s body: all the musculature in the stomach – what many people think of as the core – but also all the musculature in the low back, high abdomen, armpit area, and glutes as well. 

The picture below illustrates the muscles of the core. It’s probably a much more expansive area than you imagined.


Having core stability relies significantly on a solid foundation of rotation

It may seem counterintuitive at first, but when we run, our bodies are rotating over and over again as we propel ourselves in a forward direction through space. 

How does this look in reality? As we run, we are constantly rotating our upper body and trunk while we keep our core stable. 

Imagine you are running. Every time you take a step forward to run, you rotate your upper body, specifically your elbows toward your chest’s midsection. As you do this, your hips and pelvis rotate in the opposite direction to accommodate your full stride. 

(include pic here of a running stride broken down – from 3drunner archives if you have one)  

If we can’t keep our core stable when we run, it becomes increasingly hard to be able to rotate adequately. 

And if we can’t rotate adequately, we use much, much more energy than is necessary, and running – the actual motion of the activity – becomes extremely challenging. 

Core Rotation Exercises and the Pelvic Floor 

To help build core stability, performing core rotation exercises is key. Luckily for us, core rotation exercises are also extremely beneficial to the pelvic floor! 

Here are Dr. Janet’s go-to core rotation exercises that also give some love to the pelvic floor (extremely helpful exercise demos here on OPH’s IG): 

  • Side Lizard 
  • 1/4 Turkish Get Up 
  • Supported Leg Rotation

Including these core rotation exercises in your running program will help you build core stability while also helping your pelvic floor. It’s a win-win in our book! 

Your Glutes and Your Pelvic Floor 

A common malady Dr. Janet sees in runners – both experienced and novice – is that the runners’ glutes don’t fire as they should. 

“Glutes” and “firing” may not make a lot of sense at first, but hear us out. We don’t mean your butt needs to be on literal fire, we promise.

Running, in its most simple terms, is a dynamic activity. A lot has to happen in a person’s body in order to propel that body through time and space. 

Of course, the muscular and skeletal system both play important roles, but so does the nervous system. 

When we talk about getting our “glutes to fire” when we are running, we are talking about getting our nerves to get the glute muscles – all the big and small muscles in your butt – to contract as fully as they should. 

The pelvic floor, in no small part due to its geography, can work closely with your glutes and help them to fire fully – thus giving you a run where your glutes are actually contributing to the effort and not letting your hamstrings or low back do all the work (which oftentimes leads to injuries and niggles for most runners). 

Pre-Run Pelvic Floor Stretches to Help Your Glutes Fire

Getting (and keeping) your pelvic floor mobile will allow your glutes to fire, which means you’ll be able to run stronger and with better form – which will help ensure you can do this stuff for the long-haul. 

Here are Dr. Janet’s go-to pre-run stretches for the pelvic floor to get those glutes firing (extremely helpful exercise demos here on OPH’s IG):  

  • Deep Squat
  • 90/90 Thread the Needle
  • Side Child’s Pose

Experiencing Pain or Discomfort While Running (or During Activity)? Consider Seeing a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist Today

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort while running or during other activities, consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist. 

Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction are varied and can include anything from pelvic tightness or heaviness, pubic bone or tailbone pain, or urinary or fecal incontinence or urgency. 

Pelvic floor dysfunction and its associated symptoms won’t go away on their own, nor should you feel like you just have to “deal with it” for the rest of your life. 

When you are experiencing pain or discomfort – for any reason – your body is communicating that something is off-kilter. 

A pelvic floor physical therapist can assess your pelvic floor and unique symptoms and pain and recommend a treatment plan to help you be the healthiest version of yourself. 

If you are experiencing any symptoms, please give us a call today so that we can begin your healing journey. 

Happy 2024! Let’s do this! 

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