Kegels Don’t seem to stop leaks with running. What gives? Asking for a friend. Short answer: They aren’t enough. Long Answer: Read on.
One Size Does Not Fit All (Activities)
Many female runners have tried Kegels without success. Here’s the deal, a one muscle solution will not meet the complex needs of an activity like running. Instead, we must address leaks with a multifaceted approach. All the variables that play into continence control during sport must be considered to build a tailored program to help you.
We would not ignore pain in an athlete, or encourage them to ignore it. Instead we would explore what variables are contributing to the pain, and see what we could modify. We need to have the same approach for incontinence.
Identify the Triggers
To build a program specific to the needs of a runner, gathering information about the behavior of the leaks will help identify the why. If we understand the triggers, then we can tailor our programs to solve for the why. The athlete, coach and physio/PT should ask:
When does the leak occur? Start, middle, or end of run? At the start, consider running mechanics. At the end, consider fatigue related form changes for the whole runner (not just fatigue of the pelvic floor).
If fatigue and form break down are associated with the start of leaks- in what way does the form break down? Proximal hip control changes? Sharper foot strike angles? Loss of reciprocation? Respiratory endurance changes breath patterns?
Do the leaks happen during the final sprint to the finish? Or on the downhill? Speed changes are a common culprit-reducing rotation and adding trunk stiffness. Downhill runs keep the foot well ahead of the center of mass, increasing the forces at each footfall.
Is the leak occurring frequently, throughout the run and with every run? This needs a longer look by the pro and athlete (and may need a referral to a pelvic health pro). Can they connect with their pelvic floor, are they running with a gripped abdomen, are they a really noisy runner (heavy footfalls).
Adapt the Training, Stop the Leaks with Running
These are all very different demands on both the continence and running systems. We must adapt their training to meet each of those challenges in order to stop leaks with running. Let’s keep runners moving and dry!*
Wanna learn more? Check out our online course: Treating and Training the Female Runner (or Any Female Athlete