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Marathon season is upon us and whilst running might bring to mind rippling quads and toned calves, the core muscles matter just as much when we’re striding towards the finish line. Planks and crunches are indeed important for developing a strong core but don’t underestimate the importance of pelvic floor exercise!
A strong pelvic floor does more than improve orgasms and bladder control (as if that wasn’t already enough!) these muscles also support pelvic organs and work with other core muscles to help stabilize the spine and prevent injury during exercise. As a high impact sport, running creates a lot of physical impact in the body with each stride. When our feet make contact with the ground, this impact travels up the legs and through the pelvic floor. This can lead to progressive weakening of the muscles and so stress incontinence is a relatively common complaint among runners (and other athletes too).
There’s no reason for affected runners to feel embarrassed. Pelvic floor dysfunction is widely experienced, with studies reporting that over 50% of elite female athletes experience leakage during exercise. Yet, only 3.3% have discussed it with their health professional and only 4.6% have tried pelvic floor training.
As they say, prevention is better than cure. To keep you fighting fit, here are five pelvic floor exercises to get these deep-core muscles in top condition, so you can take home the gold...
Work on building up your core strength and pelvic floor control with regular pelvic floor exercise. Biofeedback devices, like Elvie Trainer, can help support your pelvic floor exercise regime. Elvie Trainer is a small, pebble-shaped device that you insert into your vagina. It connects to an app that helps you visualize the exercises in real-time, as you’re guided through a fun, five-minute workout that targets different aspects of your pelvic floor musculature. It can be really tricky to know if you’re exercising correctly and to stay motivated but Evie Trainer can detect and help correct incorrect contractions. The app also tracks your workout history and progress over time, so that you don’t get bored or give up!
Performing exercises that isolate the pelvic floor is the first step in building core strength... and can mean fewer leaks! Once you’ve perfected the technique for pelvic floor exercise, it’s time to incorporate the pelvic floor into more dynamic movements.
Lie on your back with bent knees and make sure you have your neck well supported. Hold a small weight with both hands and hold them out above you. While you hold this position, take a deep breath, and relax your pelvic floor
As you breathe out, squeeze your pelvic floor, and continue to do so as you lift your hips. Push through your heels, and make sure your ribs are aligned with your hips. Continue to squeeze as you lower your arms to your hips
Breathe in again, relaxing your pelvic floor as you move back into the starting position. Repeat 8 times
Stand placing your feet hip-width apart, then step backwards onto your right foot. Place the ball of the right foot onto the floor, keeping your shin straight and maintaining balance over your front foot
Take a deep breath as you bend your knees, lowering your body until your right knee is just above the ground. Maintain this position for few moments
Breathe out and squeeze your pelvic floor, continue to exhale and lift as you push through your left heel and rise to stand. Repeat this 8 times for each foot
Start by getting into a plank position, anchoring yourself on your elbows with your feet hip width apart. Breathe in as you relax your pelvic floor, drawing your right knee in towards your chest
Breathe out, squeezing your pelvic floor. As you do so, extend your right leg to “kick” yourself in the bum, keeping your knee bent
Inhale as you relax your muscles and draw your knee back to the starting position. Repeat 8 times, alternating between right and left
Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet hip width apart
Take a deep breath, relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. As you exhale, lower yourself into a 90 degree squat against the wall, squeezing your pelvic floor as you do so
Hold this position for 20 seconds, maintaining an engaged pelvic floor as you breathe. Return to a standing position and slowly relax your pelvic floor as you do so. Repeat 8 times
As you continue this exercise, gradually increase the amount of time you hold the sitting position, working your way up to a minute wall sit (we believe in you!)
Good luck on race day!
These top tips were kindly produced by Elvie. To find out more and buy the worlds smallest and smartest pelvic floor exercise tracker please visit our shop here.