Jog on with Helen Twose

Pounding the pavement and keeping up with the latest in running news

Jog On: Pelvic floor problems

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Pelvic floor problems can make a lot of ladies cringe during exercise.
Photo / Thinkstock
Pelvic floor problems can make a lot of ladies cringe during exercise. Photo / Thinkstock

A friend of mine once coached a women's softball team. It was a pretty social affair - more of an excuse to get away from the kids for a bit, it usually included a post-game wine.

My friend, fresh out of university with her phys ed degree, would lead them all in a vigorous, heartrate boosting warm-up, complete with star jumps.

At that point she lost half the team as they made a mad dash to the loo. Yes, gents, this is another one of those ladies only posts.

It's estimated a third of women suffer from incontinence problems after having a baby. The issues stem from the sling of muscle and tissue running between the pubic and tail bones - often called the pelvic floor - weakening after pregnancy and childbirth.
Something to think about when you're faced with teenagers listing the ways in which you've "ruined their life".

Weight-gain, getting older, heavy lifting and the like can all contribute so the child-free are not immune to pelvic floor-related issues.

The good news is that it can be fixed with exercises and those can also make you a better runner. More on that later.

Taranaki-based fitness instructor and midwife Fiona Ross and business partner Lisa Yates, a women's health physiotherapist, kept seeing women with a range of pelvic floor-related issues, from accidentally leaking urine to potential prolapses.

It led them to develop a DVD, The Core and the Floor, to educate women on the workings of the pelvic and core muscles and provide a specific exercise programme improve strength in that area.

Ross says it is a cheap and easy way for women to not only learn to do the important pelvic floor exercises properly but get back to doing some appropriate post-baby exercise.

She says women appear to be getting back to exercise a lot quicker after having a baby in part, she believes, because media images show trim and toned celebrities going about business as usual within weeks of giving birth.

Ross says to stay away from running or anything high impact for five or six months after a baby, and opt instead for walking, biking, swimming, resistance exercises or core and pelvic floor strengthening.

It's all going to be up to the individual, but I'd have to agree with Ross's advice.
My own attempt to banish the jelly belly ASAP after my first child saw me trying to run six weeks after he was born. It didn't feel at all good so I sensibly put the running shoes away for another eight months and went walking instead.

While I might be reasonably good at getting some healthy exercise after having kids, I've been rubbish at those important pelvic floor exercises. It is a rare day when I even think about toning up the region. I've been using The Core and the Floor DVD for a few weeks now, and while I'm still not top of the class at remembering to do my daily pelvic floor exercises, I'm getting bit better.

Even though there are a lot of references to new mums, the exercise routines, which are designed to be done two or three times a week, are just as appropriate for those for whom childbirth is a dim, distant memory, says Ross.

And it's never too late, ladies. In fact, Yates has treated a women in her 80s.

One of the things I liked about the DVD is that it is populated by women who actually look like they have had kids, rather than unnaturally perky, fit and toned sylph-like creatures.

It's also been fun. My four-year-old joins me to do "our exercises", sitting atop his soccer ball during the Swiss ball section. He then sprints off to show me how he can now run "faster than Daddy". Smart kid that one because even though he's dreaming if he thinks can run faster than Dad, the exercises do help with running.

Ross says the pelvic floor and core muscles are like the foundations of the house. If you've got that basic support then your legs and arms will be more powerful, she says.

"It really helps you increase your speed, strength and you'll just feel more comfortable."

If you do have any symptoms of pelvic floor weakness, for goodness sake get it sorted.
It's not particularly glamorous but imminently fixable. A list of women's health professionals is available on the New Zealand Continence Association website as is some further information on pelvic floor strengthening.

Another good source of information is a new book called Inside Out by Australian physiotherapist Michelle Kenway, which now has an associated DVD Inside Out Strength with pelvic floor and strength exercises.

"Just don't hesitate to seek advice because I think women tend to think 'oh I've just had a baby that's what happens'. Don't let it just happen because it can be helped. There are things you can do and it doesn't have to cost a fortune," says Ross.

"Just a little bit of advice now is going to help you later on down the line."

Follow Jog On writer, Helen Twose on Twitter.

Events:

* Grab some mates and head to the King Country for the Piopio Hall to Hall relay. Walk or run seven legs totally 46km through scenic back roads and help raise money for local community projects. Saturday March 10.

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