Pelvic floor and the female athlete

Everyone knows that pregnancy and childbirth affect pelvic floor health. But there are other causes that can cause pelvic floor issues from incontinence to back pain

Pic credit: Natasha Hastings, 2 Olympic Gold Medallist

Awareness, knowledge and access to specialist women’s pelvic health experts, thankfully, has improved loads in the last decade.

When we recently interviewed a host of female runners and triathletes for our podcast series on Postnatal Performance (out in November 2020), it was great to hear that so many had sought rehab before returning to training (listen to our interview with Gill Bland, a sub 3 hour marathon recreational runner on her experience).

Pelvic floor dysfunction affects women of all ages

But misinformation, coupled with the desire to get back into shape and training, still sadly result in pelvic floor problems. And it’s not just women who have been pregnant or given birth that can suffer.

Up to one third of women will at some point in their lives experience a problem with their pelvic floor health.

Causes

  • Pregnancy and childbirth, and those of you who had a Caesarean are not immune.
  • Chronic constipation; having to strain regularly to empty your bowels causes dysfunction. This may be due to overly tight pelvic floor muscle and an inability to relax them.
  • High Impact or heavy lifting exercises.
  • Menopause – changes to your vagina and pelvic floor due to hormone fluctuations.
  • Obesity or being overweight.

Your Pelvic Floor POWER!

The flip side of course, is that a well conditioned pelvic floor muscle is the core to your power and stability, and the foundations to your running or triathlon performance.

And the pelvic floor is a MUSCLE so it can be conditioned to function correctly. A largely slow twitch muscle which is good for endurance, it should also have some fast twitch muscles which can engage and support quickly when exerting power, whether that’s pushing through a pedal on an uphill bike section, running fast or lifting heavy.

Find out more from our podcast series or sign up to our newsletter for the launch of our Postnatal Performance Online Training Series for female runners and triathletes coming soon.