Many people would agree that the most frequently broken New Year’s resolution is the one to ‘lose weight and get fit’. In fact, most people abandon this resolution by mid-February, despite their best intentions.
The reasons why are plentiful: time constraints; expenses; discomfort; a prolonged wait for results; there being no consequences to quitting; and starting too quickly with a goal that is too big.
Many women must also deal with another unspoken force that prevents them from succeeding: pelvic floor muscle weakness. Weak pelvic floor muscles lead to the leaking of pee, gas or poo, or an uncomfortable pressure or feeling in a woman’s base during exercise.
According to the Continence Foundation of Australia:
‘…an Australian study found that over a three-month period, 50% of women aged 45–59 years of age experienced some degree of mild, moderate or severe urinary incontinence.’
Why does pelvic floor muscle weakness become more evident during exercise?
The pelvic floor muscles are located at the base of your pelvis and are responsible for keeping you continent and holding your pelvic organs (the bladder, the uterus and the rectum) in place. With physical activity, there is greater pressure on your pelvic floor to perform these tasks. How much of this your pelvic floor can withstand depends on its power and strength.
Your pelvic floor is not a mechanical workhorse;
it has a threshold that needs respect.
When you breach the threshold of your pelvic floor and keep going regardless, you awaken or aggravate the beast of incontinence and prolapse.
Should you stop exercising when you experience incontinence or prolapse?
Absolutely not. Pelvic floor dysfunction cannot kill you; inactivity can. All you need to do is work out in your symptom-free zone. There is so much you can do there, and you can work to increase this limit if you wish to.
What can you do to increase your pelvic floor power for exercise?
Here are four tips on how to bring out the best in your pelvic floor for your workouts. Apply these as you need to, bearing in mind that pelvic floor power can fluctuate.
1. Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
You can do this by performing pelvic floor exercises regularly with the correct technique and loading. With the right approach, you are sure to see results. When you are stronger, the threshold of your pelvic floor muscles will go up, which means that your pelvic floor will be able to better keep up with your workouts.
2. Polish your technique.
This is all about pressure management. The more downward pressure you create during an exercise, the harder your pelvic floor needs to work, so it’s easier to break its threshold. Here is what you can do to minimise this pressure:
- Check if your stomach muscles tense excessively as you perform an exercise, and release what’s not needed. Move with ease.
- Keep breathing. Breath-holding blasts your base with pressure.
- Adjust your posture. Stand effortlessly upright and aim to align yourself.
- Distribute the load of exercise throughout your body instead of focusing it on an isolated spot.
3. Modify your way out.
If your pelvic floor is giving you grief during an exercise, see if you can do it differently to eliminate these issues. Here are some examples of how to do that:
• Sit down for upper body work instead of standing up.
• Lift a lighter load.
• Opt for low-impact exercises instead of high.
• If you are a runner, walk on downward slopes.
• Exercise early in the morning.
• Lessen the duration of your overall workout.
• Do fewer reps of any aggravating exercises.
• Hover on your knees.
• Substitute leg presses for leg extensions.
It’s possible that you will only need to modify your exercise temporarily. As your pelvic floor muscles gain strength, you might be able to go back to performing your original exercise plan without problems from your pelvic floor.
4. Do something else.
If polishing your technique or modifying your exercises doesn’t eliminate your pelvic floor symptoms, find something else to do. With such a huge selection of exercises available, this should not be a problem. It’s not wise to ignore the pelvic floor and push through symptoms, as this can worsen pelvic floor dysfunction over time, which can lead to a heavy impact on your quality of life, self-esteem and even your wallet (as surgical treatments are costly!).
Although pelvic floor muscle weakness is the most common trigger for incontinence and prolapse, there could be another reason for dysfunction. So, if you get stuck anywhere in this process or your symptoms persist, connect with expert help via your GP, physio or personal trainer.
Whatever your case, pelvic floor exercises will likely be recommended as a foundational self-management practice by all qualified professionals. Even, if your pelvic floor muscles presently carry excess tension, the eventual goal is to enable you to perform pelvic floor exercises. You can read more about this in my previous blog.
Don’t let your pelvic floor get in the way of exercise. The list of benefits is as long as the Old Testament! It’s definitely worth it, and you can absolutely do it!
I hope this helps you to achieve your weight loss and fitness goals.
I can help
If you have any questions I would love to hear from you. I promise to get back to you as soon as humanly possible.