Have you experienced leaking when you run? Are you tired of needing to wear a pad for your runs and immediately take a shower when you get home? Has it been a few years since you’ve had your child and you’re still leaking when you run fast or take long runs? Ladies, are you tired of people telling you “welcome to motherhood” when you reference leaking with activity?
Raise your hand if you’re ready to learn the 3 best exercises to stop leaking with running.
Are you ready to learn that although the symptom of peeing with running is common for mothers it is NOT normal and it can be treated!
Too many times I have heard from active women and mothers about their frustration and fear of leaking after having a baby. I’ve also sensed the jokingly truthful statement of “I just peed a little” has gotten old – really fast. I get it, it’s not cute. But more than that it’s not functional or effective for physical activity. We live in the age where women are living active lifestyles, running, training and crushing their fitness goals all while mothering children in the process. We don’t have time for something like leaking holding us back.
Which is why we have the 3 best exercises to stop leaking with running.
First, let’s learn a little bit more about urinary stress incontinence and common contributing factors.
Stress incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine with physical exertion. Examples of this could include any and all of the following: running, jumping, laughing, going up stairs, lifting, coughing, sneezing.
Leaking and pain with running is a sign of deficiently/poorly/dysfunctionally meeting the demands of the support.
There are many considerations to keep in mind with running and if you are experiencing leaking, such as from time postpartum, type of delivery, birth weight of baby, relevant past health history, running mechanics and experience running prior to pregnancy and prenatally. With that being said, if you have been experiencing symptoms of urinary leaking while running for more than a few weeks, it’s time to get things checked out by a trusted pelvic health physical therapist to learn more about what further strategies and tools you can learn to eliminate this from your running experience. If you haven’t read our Running Readiness for the Postpartum Mother I’d recommend starting there first.
According to the “Return to Running Postnatal – Guidelines” 1 published in March of 2019 and current evidence suggests that return to running is not advisable prior to 3 months postnatal or beyond this if any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction are identified prior to, or after attempting, return to running.
Key signs/symptoms of pelvic floor and/or abdominal wall dysfunction:
- Urinary and/or fecal incontinence
- Urinary and/or urgency that is difficult to defer
- Heaviness/pressure/bulge/dragging in the pelvic area
- Pain with intercourse
- Obstructive defecation, needing to “splint”
- “Coning” abdomen, separated abdominal muscles and/or decreased abdominal strength and function (ie. Diastasis Recti, C-section scar)
- Musculoskeletal lumbopelvic pain
Now as we look deeper at what we can do for a starting point and stepping stone from dysfunction to resilient running without leaking we must keep in mind that time and appropriate graded progressions are needed. Many women experience leaking with running if they’ve progressed too quick too soon.
At Inside Out Strength and Performance we follow the Return to Running Guidelines and a protocol that is customized to each women to ensure her body is learning, adapting and progressing appropriately. This assessment is place to start and learn where your body is at regarding symptoms and tolerance to load and impact. As mentioned earlier, this tends to be a contributing factor to developing stress incontinence, which is why we’re starting here.
As a starting point, take yourself through the following checklist and see where you’re at. Give yourself a point for each that you can complete without symptoms from the list above. Postnatal mothers must be able to achieve the following without pain, heaviness, dragging or incontinence. When completed total points available are 11 for all the movements in this load and impact management assessment.
*One point given per leg if it is a single leg task.
- Walking 30 minutes (1 point)
- Single leg balance 10 seconds (1 point per side)
- Single leg squat 10 repetitions each side (1 point per side)
- Jog on the spot for 1 minute (1 point)
- Forward bounds 10 repetitions (1 point)
- Hop in place 10 repetitions each leg (1 point per side)
- Single leg ‘running man’: opposite arm and hip flexion/extension to bent knee 10 repetitions per side (1 point per side)
I can’t reiterate enough to women in their time postpartum that they must be able to achieve these movements first before progressing. Even if you “pass” on a few of the movements but not all of them it can lead to further dysfunction down the road. I’ve seen it and as a healthcare provider I am you’re number one cheerleader when it comes to returning to exercise after baby, but I also am your number one advocate to give you the tools, guidance and updated research on the safest and most effective way to get you back to the exercises and workouts you love without compromising your long term health and function.
Here are 3 of the best exercises to stop leaking with running.
- Bridge with Block Squeeze; Goal: :30 second holds x 5 reps
A key point for this exercise is to breathe throughout the exercise and allow the pelvic floor to slightly relax and contract throughout the exercise. This will allow the muscles to learn how to work dynamically rather then trying to contract and “hold on” for dear life throughout a movement (ie. running) which can lead to leaking as they fatigue.
- Hip Thrust with Alternating Kicks; Goal: 3 rounds x 20 reps total
A key point for this exercise as it is more advanced is to first master the hip thrust from the bench and maintain neutral spine. Avoid over arching your back throughout the exercise.
- Single Leg Squat to Bench/Box; Goal: 3 rounds x 8 reps each side
A key point for this exercise is to start higher than you think initially. Be aware of your foot, knee and hip position during this exercise. We want to avoid the knee “collapsing” into the middle to optimize a better single leg position and promote more hip muscle recruitment.
Plank Jacks; Goal 3 rounds x 10 reps total
A key point for this exercise is to be mindful of your low back, pelvis and hip position throughout. Avoid excessive arching from the low back. As you progress through this exercise over time (a few weeks or months) you can move from hands on the ground to a raised surface like a step, then to the seat of a chair, then to a counter and up to standing. This is a way to appropriately load the tissues and musculature to adapt and train for the physical load and demands of running. I also recommend placing more focus on contracting the pelvic floor during the part of the exercise that feels most challenging or “vulnerable” in regards to your symptoms, this will help the muscles recruit more during those moments to build a strong muscle-brain feedback and recruitment that is more specific to the task.
Now you have 3 of the best exercises to stop leaking with running. Let’s get after it and make the progress I know you are ready to make to be the resilient runner, strong mother and confident women you know you can be-all while running without a drop of pee!
Are you looking for more information about running and eliminating leaking? Download our Leakproof Running Guide for the Postpartum Woman HERE! This free pdf is filled with a step by step guide to get you back on the road to symptom free running with strength and confidence! We’re in your corner to provide encouragement and help you learn more about how your body can recover, heal and strengthen to build movement confidence in your life as an active mother.
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- Donnelly, G., et al. “Return to Running Postnatal – Guideline for Medical, Health and Fitness Professionals Managing This Population.” Physiotherapy, vol. 107, 2020, doi:10.1016/j.physio.2020.03.276.