Beth Davies Coaching

Strength training for leak-free running

For many female runners, the joy of hitting the pavement can sometimes be marred by an unexpected and often embarrassing issue—leaking. Whether it’s stress incontinence or related to pelvic floor dysfunction, the good news is that there’s a powerful ally in the fight against this problem: strength training! 

Why do I leak when I run?

Leaking during running is not uncommon among women, especially those who have given birth or are approaching menopause. The pelvic floor, a group of muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowel, can weaken over time, leading to incontinence during high-impact activities like running. Equally, pelvic floor muscles may be strong but too tight and this can also lead to leaking whilst running, jumping or skipping. 

Recent research, including the study by Virtuoso et al., sheds light on the positive impact of strength training on pelvic floor health in females. Virtuoso et al. conducted a comprehensive study that demonstrated a significant reduction in leaking episodes among female exercisers who incorporated targeted strength training into their exercise routine.

The benefits of strength training for female runners

  1. Pelvic Floor Strength: Strength training specifically targets the muscles that make up the pelvic floor, helping to improve their tone and function. This, in turn, provides better support to the bladder and surrounding organs during activities like running.

  2. Core Stability: Strengthening the core muscles, including the abdominal and lower back muscles, contributes to better overall stability. A stable core reduces the impact forces on the pelvic floor, minimizing the risk of leakage during running.

  3. Improved Posture: Proper posture is crucial for maintaining pelvic floor health. Strength training helps develop the muscles responsible for good posture, reducing the strain on the pelvic floor and decreasing the likelihood of leakage.

  4. Hormonal Balance: Strength training has been linked to hormonal balance, which can be particularly beneficial for women experiencing hormonal changes due to factors like menopause. Balanced hormones can positively impact pelvic floor health and reduce leaking incidents.

Incorporating strength training into your exercise plan

If you’re a female runner experiencing leaking, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen. Once you receive the green light, consider incorporating the following into your routine:

  1. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Include targeted exercises such as Kegels to directly strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, or relaxation exercises should your pelvic floor hold too much tension.  Consider performing these in functional positions, such as in standing or in a split squat position (to mirror the running position)

  2. Full-Body Strength Training: Incorporate exercises that engage multiple muscle groups, including squats, lunges, and deadlifts, to enhance overall strength and stability.

  3. Singe leg strength exercises: running is essentially a single leg activity so building strength and capacity here can be really helpful. 

  4. Consistency is Key: Aim for regular, consistent strength training sessions (both full body and for your pelvic floor) alongside your running routine for optimal results.

Summary

Strength training is a powerful tool for female runners seeking to address leaking issues and improve overall pelvic floor health. The evidence from studies like Virtuoso et al. underscores the importance of a holistic approach to fitness. By incorporating targeted strength training exercises into your routine, you can empower yourself to enjoy running without the worry of inconvenient interruptions. Remember, consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that your exercise plan aligns with your individual needs and health status.

Beth Davies is a highly experienced personal trainer and coach specialising in female pelvic health, pelvic organ prolapse and exercise. Her programmes educate, empower and support women back to training or their active life, eliminating symptoms and building strength and confidence. She has been featured in publications such as Stylist, Marie Claire UK, Woman & Home, and Metro

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