Last week I saw a new client. Her story (unfortunately) is not unusual. 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 had come to see me because she loved exercise and wanted to return to an active lifestyle. Laura is not a crazy A type, I-must-exercise-REALLY-hard-for-it-to mean-anything sort of person.
But, now Laura understood that her prolapse affected every physical decision she made, and she wanted to get the right advice about what sort of exercise was good for her now.(Watch. How your bladder changes after giving birth. Post continues after video.)
You see this is what I do. I help women navigate exercise safely. My goal is 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 CrossFit 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 and thereby 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.
Exercise without leaving your desk. (Post continues after gallery.)
But I digress.
Laura had been a very keen runner and loved attending her local bootcamp twice a 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.
If you are general Fitness Instructor / Personal Trainer / Bootcamp Instructor, women make up around 63 per cent of your clients. 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.
Damaging your pelvic floor not only affects urinary and fecal continence, your erection (for blokes), create pelvic or back pain or lead to prolapse (again, this can happen to the blokes too), but a damaged pelvic floor also affects your self confidence, your self esteem and even your sex drive.
SHAME about incontinence and prolapse is probably the main reason why we don't have more punters going back to their trainers to complain or suing for negligence.
I think it will only be a matter of time before 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 you ignoring a muscle that makes a whole lot of difference to my bodily functions!"
Fitness Instructors — you can no longer claim ignorance as your Get Out Of Jail Free card. While many women (and men) still suffer in silence, women are starting to speak out.
So what can you do? How can you bullet proof your career?
Up-skill. It really is that simple.
Increasing 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 and get with the program.
And here are some of the best in the business that you can learn from:
LA-based Julie Wiebe and Sydney-based Antony Lo (and if you don't know who either of these people are... you should) are both internationally renowned presenters, educating Fitness Professionals on female specific training. Although many can do this, Julie and Antony specialise in working with the cross-fit community and the high end athlete and both are very engaging and cutting edge.
Julie and Antony will both be presenting at the Women's Health and Fitness Summit on Saturday 10th September, at the RACV Club Melbourne.
This article was first published on LinkedIn.
Do you ever feel your personal trainer works you too hard at times?