That is often a tough question to answer for multiple reasons:
- first of all because what the heck is your pelvic floor?
- Once you find it… how would you know if it is in fact weak?
- Who cares what could my pelvic floor possibly have to do with my running and performance?
Well this blog will aim to address this and how you can learn more. Because as it so happens I have a very weak pelvic floor and dysfunctional breathing patterns. This will be a very honest post about my experience with my pelvic floor so far.
One of the issues that sparked my interest in my pelvic floor is as simple as this: Sometimes when I run really hard I leak. This is something I have always had all the way back to when I was running varsity in university. To the point that if I did not leak during a workout/race then I was convinced I had not pushed hard enough. This is common BUT it is NOT normal!!! So that is where things started. I also was lucky enough to meet an excellent pelvic floor physio Chana Ross.
Another reason I was intrigued by the pelvic floor was because I had done a training session with Janie Sheppard and she assessed my breathing and core function… again not good. It was so humbling and eye opening to see these weaknesses I have. BUT it is also super exciting because it is more I can improve on and therefore it has the potential to make me a better runner.
Before you stop reading this because you think it is irrelevant because you have not been pregnant or had children stop. I have not been pregnant or have children.
I had my initial assessment with Chana (check her out http://vitalphysiotherapy.com/) who is wonderful and we basically had to try to train me to activate my pelvic floor. Again more difficult than it sounds because the idea is to engage the pelvic floor muscles but not to cheat by using my superficial abdominal muscles, which is what I wanted to do.
So what is the pelvic floor and what does it do?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that are throughout your pelvis and end up supporting all of the internal organs. It is also the bottom of the core.
How does it impact the core?
The core is a large group of muscles from your diaphragm to pelvic floor and everything in between. The way the core works correctly is as a piston. In order for this piston to work it must be lined up. The problem is, is that a lot of us are not lined up well. As we breath in the diaphragm pushes down along with all of the internal organs on to the pelvic floor which also moves downward. As we exhale the diaphragm comes back up and so should the pelvic floor. For me personally I tend to be extended through my mid back. Julia Wiebe (a pelvic floor physio—check her out www.juliawiebept.com) calls this ‘bell rung up’. Ideally we want it to be a quiet bell, this allows the diaphragm and pelvic floor to be lined up and therefore able to function correctly.
How do you breath correctly?
When breathing you should be breathing deep in to your lower ribs and all the way in to your back. Easier said then done trust me.
How do you know if your pelvic floor is weak?
If you leak at all that is a good indicator that it is. The pelvic floor could also be the root cause of other injuries you have sustained that have been difficult to get rid of. All in all I think it is safe to assume most people have some weakness within their pelvic floor and breathing function.
So how can this make you a better runner?
I think we can all agree that the core and breathing are both vitally important parts of running. So if these two things are not functioning to their most optimal ability how are you supposed to? They both play a huge role in running.
If you are reading this and thinking… I am a male this is irrelevant to me. WRONG… men have pelvic floors as well and they can also be dysfunctional.
I am barely just scratching the surface of the impact of the pelvic floor and breathing. If you are interested in learning more and meeting some professionals that work with this every day come out to The Runner’s Academy on Dec 11 1-3pm for a seminar with Chana & Janie on pelvic floor and running technique.