Running and Leaking? 3 Exercises to help

With more than 40,000 people running in the Vancouver Sun Run in 2016, upwards of 30,000 people in the Boston Marathon, weekend warriors, recreational runners and adventure racers, there is a huge number of people who love to run. And a lot of these runners experience stress incontinence issues, or leaking when running, and don’t think there is any help. There is a conservative exercise approach that can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, stop the leaking problem and allow the runner to …keep on running

What is happening to cause leaking when running?

The pelvic floor muscles (PFM’s) need a certain amount of strength and flexibility in them in order to operate well.  When they don’t have enough strength, we might experience issues such as leaking when we sneeze, cough, laugh, lift or run. This happens because the intra-abdominal pressure that builds up when we sneeze or run is more than the PFM’s can handle. The good news is that when we have a weakness issue, we can strengthen these muscles and get back to doing what we love to do… run!

How do we do this?

It probably seems pretty obvious that we need to strengthen our PFM’s, but like all issues/injuries that happen to our bodies, muscles don’t typically become weak all on their own.  Other important considerations are:

  • Muscle imbalances that are unable to help support your pelvic floor
  • Quality of breathing as the diaphragm plays a huge role in balancing abdominal pressures in order to allow the PFM’s to work at an optimal level
  • Posture – how we are sitting, standing and moving throughout our day dictates the level of force or stress our tissues, including our pelvic floors, will experience

… The 3R Method … Incorporating all the above concerns


Your diaphragm. Deep belly breathing, as shown in the pictures below, or a combination of diaphragmatic with lateral breathing helps facilitate the lowering of your diaphragm during your inhale. This also helps lengthen your intercostal muscles, the little muscles that live between your ribs, which are typically quite tight in most of us. At least 10 slow breaths, 2-3X per day.

Belly at rest
Full belly breath


Begin to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.  Inhale, exhale and pull up and in with your pelvic floor muscles.  Think about ‘stopping the flow of pee’ or for men, ‘pulling the boys up’. You don’t want to tilt your pelvis, squeeze your buttocks or use any other muscles. If I was looking at you while you were engaging your pelvic floor muscles, I wouldn’t see anything moving at all.


You need to begin your pelvic floor muscle exercises with no impact.  f there is any leaking while running (impact), the exercises begin with both feet rooted to the floor. Once you know how to activate your PFM’s well and have been adding them in while doing exercise, try the following:

  • Standing tall, feet hip distance apart
  • Inhale, exhale, pull up with your PFM’s and step forward with one foot
  • Your heel should strike the floor in front of you
  • Step back, repeat 20x each side

Your PFM’s should fire BEFORE your heel hits the ground, so practice this daily. Progressions for running:

  • Lunge as above with impact (back foot will lift up after front heel strikes the ground)
  • Legs close together, small jumps
  • Widen legs, small jumps
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Scissor Jumps
  • Jumps using the Pilates jumpboard, first lying on your back, then lying on your side

The MOST important part of all the above exercises is to ALWAYS engage your PFM’s BEFORE you move! Don’t progress too quickly as your body needs time to adjust and strengthen.

***Have a look at the link to see more examples of finding and working with your pelvic floor***


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