Not being a runner myself, I would be more than happy with any excuse NOT to run, so if you’re more like me then, well, this could be your excuse. But I know that for some of you out there, being told you can’t run is akin to me telling my 6 year old to turn off the telly and practice his reading with me –‘It’s not FAIR!’
So can you run with a diastasis or leaky pelvic floor? Yes of course you can run when you occasionally pee yourself or when you have a big gap between your tummy muscles that shouldn't be there ... but should you? No, not unless you want your symptoms of a leaky pelvic floor, belly bulge and lower back pain to continue. All of these issues are an indicator that something in your core is off kilter, and running takes a LOT of core strength and stability due to the fact that it's a single leg move (as you sprint from one foot to the other), PLUS it involves speed and impact, both of which are extremely tough on the pelvic floor (PF) and diastasis recti (DR).
Ongoing diastasis recti and pelvic floor problems are an indicator that something in your alignment (meaning your posture while in motion) is off. Stronger muscles are switching on, weaker muscles are switching off and the connective tissue that holds the two halves of the rectus abdominus (outer layer of the abdominal wall) together are being stretched thin, a bit like your nerves after a kids' soft-play party.
When you add a load or dynamic move to this system, the body tends to take the path of least resistance meaning that you're simply likely to over work these weaker systems and further push everything out of balance leading to more injury elsewhere in the body, right down to the ankles and right up to the shoulders. Everything is connected.
I'm not saying you can never run again. I'm just saying that if you want your body to function well, especially as you age, with fewer aches and pains and no peeing yourself when you sneeze, then you might want to work on fixing that core before you begin serious running again. Here’s how to begin;
If you stand, walk or run, with your head shunted forwards, your shoulders sloped, your butt tucked under or tucked out and with your back arched, or your chest held high – there’s some alignment correction that needs working on. I’ve pretty much described the majority of the population here so you’re not alone. Download this PDF posture workout to help you start working on this.
The primary muscles involved with breathing, particularly the diaphragm, are very strongly linked with the core and we need to be able to fill the lungs, breathing 360 degrees, to fully engage all of the right muscles and get this core-breathing system working optimally. So if you tend to take short, shallow breaths – again, this needs some work. Check out this short video here and have a little practice.
3. Strength training
Once you’ve identified your alignment and breathing issues you can build some stretch and strength training into your week that will help to correct these. Restoring core strength is not about sit-ups and planks, it’s about simple moves done with great form in co-ordination with the breath. It’s about working on loosening up the muscles that are holding things too tight, such as hip flexors and pectorals, and strengthening muscles that aren’t pulling their weight, like the glutes and deep abdominals. Then, once you're feeling stronger in your core again, add some moves specific to improving your running like these. Check this blog post for some inspiration.
Of course, every’body’ is different and what’s a problem for one, may not be such a problem for another. If you still feel desperate to get out there just to get some headspace, start at a slower pace, avoid hills (which force your posture even further out of alignment) and maintain a gentle tension through the belly, whilst still being able to breathe fully. To do this, try saying a forceful 'Ssssshhhh', as if telling your toddler to be quiet when they’ve told everyone in the doctors waiting room that they can see hairs up your nose. This 'Ssssshhhh' will give you that little bit of tension to help you withstand the pounding and pressure of running.
So there you have it. Of course you can run with a diastasis and leaky pelvic floor, just like you can eat a family sized pack of popcorn and watch a whole series of Netflix in one night but should you? No, far better to hold out, work on healing and strengthening the core first and then hit the pavement when your body is fully ready to do so. Is that fair enough?
Wishing you Health & Happiness,
WHOAH THERE. Before you rush off, if you'd like some support and training with your core strength and fitness, contact me about my Bristol based classes and personal training, and online coaching.
PS Thanks to my awesome trainer Jenny of the amazing Burrell Education for the images.