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Exercise can affect both pelvic floor function AND dysfunction, and here’s how to ensure your movement prescription is the former! Through Leanne’s story, you can learn just how powerful pelvic floor training can be – and how we are NOT limited to conservative exercise. Just a little bit of education can change your client’s lives for the better, returning to them to the activities that they love; neither disempowering them with over-conservative movement forever OR contributing to their problem!

Leanne came to IntoYou after speaking to a gynaecologist – she wasn’t happy with her pelvic floor function or what the gynae had to say. There was a chance that Leanne needed to have surgery to attempt to correct her pelvic floor dysfunction, however, before she went down that road, we recommended that Leanne go and see a woman’s health physio. Pelvic physiotherapy has an 80% cure rate for stress incontinence, this is higher than surgery.

It was well worth it because there was definitely a chance that Leanne didn’t need to have surgery after all….

Note from the physio to the trainer in charge of pelvic floor rehabilitation
Jade is a trainer at IntoYou and regularly reaches out to her client’s healthcare providers for guidence.

Leanne suffers with stress incontinence, which is leaking urine when you laugh, jump, sneeze, cough, etc. It is very common in women, and is often exacerbated by inappropriate exercise. This was the case with Leanne, especially when she was doing star jumps & weighted sit ups at the gym she attended. Leanne trains 4-5 times a week doing HIIT training, spin circuit, pump and was leaking quite often. Unfortunately, trainers are still not well educated in women’s bodies. Women have a wider pelvic than men, which means our pelvic floor musculature stretches over a larger area, and has to withstand greater pressures. Often women are asked to exercise in the same manner as their male counterparts, with little-to-no thought about the fact that their bodies are different and have different needs. This is not to say that women can’t do star jumps and weighted sit-ups, but the groundwork and progressions up to those kinds of exercises is different – stress incontinence is just one of the consequences of ignoring our physiological differences!

Real time ultrasound in the gym
Jeni Davies, from Beaches Pelvic Physio, performing a real-time ultrasound on Jade, many years ago when we were just getting across the pelvic health issues that women face during exercise.

The first thing Jade did with Leanne was to modify all the exercises that were causing her to leak so she could retrain the pelvic floor lift, as well as the breath on exertion. Modifying the exercises doesn’t necessarily mean “make easier”, it means reducing the intra-abdominal pressure so that her pelvic floor is successful in holding her urine in while exercising. Jade also gave her the education, guidance, and support to progress get back to those particular movements, if she chooses to do so. Too often, in the fitness industry, there’s a black and white approach to women’s health; they either ignore the deep core or say something like “you can’t do star jumps anymore” which is equally disempowering. Instead, we get underneath what each woman CAN do, then bring them back up to the activities they love.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is the number one barrier to exercise for women. Ironically, exercise is also on the front line of reversing pelvic floor dysfunction. If you’re a trainer and want to learn these skills, you can do so here. If you’re a woman who wants her power back, you can book a free session here or purchase our Restore Your Core in 6mths Program here.

Messages from pelvic health physio to jade

Key learnings to take home from Leanne’s story are:

  • She was one to hold onto her abs (obliques) all the time, we had to to teach her to “let down” her abs so that they could move more organically. We explained using the drink bottle analogy; turn a water bottle upside down and squeezed it with your hands… the lid is your pelvic floor and your hands are your abs. Can you see how that add extra pressure the the pelvic floor and can cause or exacerbate leaking?? We taught Leanne to be able to completely relax her abs & only then lift the pelvic floor.
  • Leanne is experiencing less stress incontinence and is more aware when to lift the pelvic floor at the right time on exertion. She has learned that sometimes less is more, and is still engaging in the activities that she loves, without the negative side effects.
  • Leanne was fearful to seek help, because she didn’t want it to be worse than she thought. She lived with stress incontinence for ages – if you or one of your clients is experiencing leaking at any time, you can solve it (80% of our clients resolve it all together, with the remaining 20% having a massive improvement, only 1-2 clients out of the hundreds we have seen at IntoYou ever need surgery).
  • Leanne is realising now that she was using a dysfunctional deep core technique, as well as poor technique generally, while participating in these big group sessions. She loves them, and wants to do it, but now she is more aware and is able to correct the movement, as well as use her deep ore in a functional way, in a larger group setting.

Leanne has another check up with a woman’s health physio at the end of her month, but is stoked with her improvement so far! We are only a couple of months in and cannot wait to witness the rest of her journey. Leanne has experienced both sides of the spectrum – from big box gym training where they ignored the whole pelvic floor muscle group, and her symptoms as a result of that training, to small session 1on1 with trainers who have experience in pelvic dysfunction. However, the journey for trainers does end there. We need to provide safe exercise certainly, but not out of fear – out of education – and then we need a system by which we can return our clients to those “high risk” activities that they love.

There is no need for any woman to be stuck in pilates forever (unless she wants to be).

There is every reason that women should be working towards crossfit, running, high impact, and heavy weighted exercise again, although we acknowledge there will be some women for whom their injuries are too severe to go “all the way”.

Too many women are living with pain, incontinence, and dysfunctions in their day to day lives. Often, when they do seek help their symptoms are dismissed as “normal” and they’re told to live with it. We can tell you right now that no-one has to live with stress incontinence, and there’s plenty you can do to prevent, mitigate, and reverse stress incontinence during exercise. If you’re experiencing stress incontinence, even if you’re not a mum, book a free session with the girls at IntoYou here and get started today! If you’re a trainer and want to keep your clients healthy in your sessions and classes, complete our 6-Step Restore Your Core and Pelvic Floor program and start changing lives (and keeping clients) today!