Why is it that women never talk about their vaginas unless there is something wrong with them? I am not for one minute suggesting we all need to be discussing them over coffee and cake, but why are our “lady parts”, as we often refer to them, such a taboo?
At different stages of our lives, many women encounter pelvic health concerns such as prolapse and incontinence, often during pregnancy, commonly following childbirth. For others, it can happen later on in life, such as during menopause. Pelvic health concerns will affect over 50% of the female population at some point in their lives. But this doesn’t have to dictate our happiness!
I created the Pelvic Power Movement Community as a place for women experiencing concerns of this kind to find support, knowledge, and for many, friendship. Over the past eight months, the community has grown by 3K new members, and more ladies are joining every day. It’s fantastic that lives are being changed, and so many women feel empowered and are learning to love their bodies again. Prolapse and incontinence are not a life sentence, and so many of us can improve our symptoms and go on to once again enjoy the activities we love; a large number can even enjoy these activities completely symptom-free with the right guidance.
So, let’s talk about something that comes up a lot within my fantastic community…let’s talk exercise, more specifically running! Is it possible to run with pelvic health concerns, should we be running at all, and most importantly, how can we run safely?
Research suggests that running with a prolapse MAY risk worsening your symptoms, and the important word here is “may”. It is very difficult to judge each individual’s risk as numerous factors need considering. This is also where it helps if you are in tune with your body and understand the signs it is giving you. For some people, it is essential to their health and well-being (mentally and physically), and they rely on it for releasing stress and dealing with life's ups and downs. It is also a great form of exercise, as it is both free and readily available.
So, what factors do you need to take into consideration before attempting a run?
1 - Your pelvic floor strength plays a huge factor. Is it ready to cope with running? Running is a high impact activity, and a lot of stress goes through your pelvic floor when you run.
2 - Are you cardiovascularly fit enough? If you are not, then you may put more pressure through your pelvic floor than necessary. This is what we NEED to avoid.
3 - Are you physically strong enough to cope with running? Have you been strengthening your body in readiness?
4 - Are you able to control your intrabdominal pressure when running? This is a technique that often needs to be learnt first in preparation.
5 - Is your pelvic floor involuntarily functional, meaning does it work when you need it, without having to think about it?
6 - Are you overweight?
7 - How far are you running, and how long are you running for?
All these questions should be considered before attempting a run. If you aren't sure, then you should check with your physio first. If you feel you are ready and want to run, here are a few tips to help you get started safely. They are by no means exhaustive and are intended for general information only. Please consult a health professional before commencing a return to running.
1 - Limit running distance. If leaking is an issue, limit the distance to as far as you can run without leaking and then see if you can build this up slowly.
2 - Keep your weight to a healthy level; this will reduce stress on the pelvic floor.
3 - Avoid running downhill; this increases impact through the pelvic floor.
4 - Alternate running surfaces; it will help core strengthening.
5 - Keep your strides small.
6 - Try swapping out some runs to less impactful exercises such as cycling, swimming, gentle walking, cross trainer, pilates, yoga.
Running after receiving a diagnosis of prolapse can be a risk and may make symptoms worse. However, many ladies find that they can return to running safely with the proper guidance. The key is to listen to your body, understand your body and be sensible. Good luck, and remember that exercise is not bad; it’s just about finding a suitable form of exercise that works for you and your body. If you aren’t sure about running, then why not try something new? The world is your oyster ladies!
For more support, knowledge and guidance concerning pelvic health concerns such as prolapse and leakage, come and find us on Facebook Pelvic Power Movement Community | Facebook or visit our website www.pelvicpowermovement.com