Stop hurting women with exercise!

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This blog appeared on Mamamia!

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For many years I ran my private mishfit Personal Training Study and worked exclusively with women. This is a story I heard many versions of. Let’s call her Laura.

Shock was just one of the emotions Laura felt when she felt and saw something push out of her vagina. With help of Dr. Google she diagnosed herself with prolapse and to Laura’s credit, had gone directly to a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. The physio had not only got her pelvic floor on track, but had educated her in the many other facets that make for good pelvic floor function — toileting habits, asked about pelvic pain and sex, explained the many various options available to her now (surgery, pessaries, etc).

Laura came to me because she heard I specialised in working with women with pelvic floor dysfunction. Laura is not a crazy A type, I-must-exercise-REALLY-hard-for-it-to mean-anything-sort-of-person, but she loved exercise and wanted to return to an active lifestyle. But now, Laura understood that her prolapse affected every physical decisions she made, and she wanted to get the right advice about where to go from here.

My goal has been and always will be – to keep women active. The biggest health risk to women over 35 is not obesity or smoking… it is inactivity.

And there is nothing like a prolapse or incontinence to keep women inactive.

I try not to judge someone’s exercise choice — their favourite activity may be cross fit or it may be couch surfing. Regardless, there are skills that women can learn which can lessen the intra-abdominal pressure involved in both getting off their couch, or performing a box jump. Learning these skills will minimise impact on pelvic floor. I help women become confident ‘body-listeners’ as their body shares with them what is right for them at this stage of their recovery, their monthly cycle or what ever else that they bring to this party (this part can be very diverse… but that is another whole article!)

But I digress.

Laura had been a very keen runner and loved attending her local bootcamp twice per week. She went back to bootcamp after the birth of her first child. And she did more than many — she went to the instructor and said, “I have just had a baby and I don’t feel like my pelvic floor is very strong.”

And the response was more honest than most, as he raised his palm to her face and said “Whoa right there! I don’t do THAT sort of stuff.”

And true to his word, he didn’t make any modifications or address her weak pelvic floor in any way, shape or form.

Laura, having been shut down, didn’t feel confident to bring it up again, but did feel confident that her Instructor had her best intentions at heart and did her best to follow the exercises given. Laura stopped attending when she found out she was pregnant with her second, child. Laura was half way into her pregnancy when she physically felt her prolapse.

And thus started her long journey of making the best of her situation. Because for the rest of her life, Laura will forever make decisions (like whether to have more children, how and when to exercise, how to carry out fairly mundane daily tasks), through the prism of her pelvic floor dysfunction.

In general,  women make up around 63% of fitness participants at any gym, outdoor bootcamp or general Personal Trainer. Having had one or more children is just ONE of the risk factors that make exercise-induced prolapse and exercise-induced incontinence a THING.

And damaging pelvic floor is not just a risk for women… men who push too hard and with inappropriate weight and/or exercise can damage their pelvic floor muscle as well.

A damaged pelvic floor not only affects your urinary and faecal continence, create pelvic or back pain or lead to prolapse… but it can also affect your self confidence, your self esteem and even your sex drive.

I have had more than one woman say to me that they just can’t bear their husbands or partners to look at their vagina’s now, because of their prolapse and how it has changed the look.

I believe SHAME about incontinence and prolapse is probably the MAIN reason why we don’t have more women going back to their trainers to complain or suing for negligence.

I think it will only be a matter of time before some trainers will hear these words:

“You pushed me to prolapse. You pushed me to wet my pants. It is not good enough that YOU DON’T ACCOMMODATE MY PELVIC FLOOR. You modify exercises for those in the group who have back pain or knee pain… why are ignoring a muscle that makes a whole lot of difference to my bodily functions!”

Fitness Instructors can no longer claim ignorance as their Get Out Of Jail Free card. While many women (and men) still suffer in silence, women are starting to speak out and pelvic floor dysfunction is gaining much more press coverage than it ever has in the past.

Because in a world of a zillion fitness options –  as a consumer you CAN be picky, you CAN ask questions and DEMAND to see training qualifications.

So what can you do if you are a Fit Pro? How can you bullet proof your career?

Up-skill. It really is that simple.

Your knowledge and understanding and asking some simple questions can make the WORLD of difference to your clients. Maybe saying the V(agina) word, makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Well, sorry, suck it up princess and get with the programme.

If you are a Fit Pro and want to learn more about training women – Click here.

If you are a woman and don’t think that your Fit Pro fully understands your situation – SHARE this blog with them.

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2 Comments
  1. Hi mish,

    I have found many mums at my kids school with walking like 80 years old/ suffering from incontinences i feel sad truely, that’s why I have chosen this path to support women’s health, thank you for bringing voice for us.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your work too!Your Instagram is an inspiration – Everyone needs to check out @gurungfit on the Gram!

      Reply
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