A little spoken about area that needs just as much attention as our other muscles are the muscles in the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles are often referred to as the saddle muscles due to their location, and help to control both bladder and bowel function. Everyone, both male and female can benefit from being aware of their pelvic floor muscles, however there are a few important considerations for exercise.
Everyone is different
Like any other muscle in the body, the pelvic floor muscles need an individual approach. While it is common that the pelvic floor muscles are weak, there are many cases in which these muscles lack the ability to relax and hence are both tight and weak from overuse. Before jumping into traditional “kegal” exercises which focus on tensing the pelvic floor, you should understand if you need to focus on exercises that encourage relaxing more than tensing. A common signs that you may have a tight and weak pelvic floor include needing to go to the bathroom frequently but finding it difficult to empty your bladder completely.
Preparing for different situations
The idea behind pelvic floor exercises is preparation for the demands of life. With this in mind, variation in how you contract these muscles is important. There are times when you may need to hold tension for a long period of time as you may not be able to get to a bathroom. There will be other times where it is simply a short forceful hold against greater pressure as might be the case when need to carry your shopping into the house. Practicing different durations and intensities when performing pelvic floor exercises helps to prepare you effectively for these differing demands.
Finally some other important considerations include the type of exercises performed and your water intake before them. The type of exercises that are most likely to cause significant strain, and are associated with leakage (stress incontinence) are those that involve impact such as jumping, and even repeated step ups. You can help to reduce the likelihood of stress incontinence during exercises by managing your fluid intake in the 1-2 hours directly before exercise. Small regular amounts of water are easier for the body to manage than one large amount consumed all at once. While it is important to stay hydrated all the time, managing your intake of water will help to ensure that your bladder is more comfortable during exercise.