Pilates teacher Kimberley Garlick’s most rewarding moment was the day one of her students wore tight jeans.
The new look had nothing to do with weight loss or body tone. Fitted clothes looked great on her before Pilates. Still, this student, a 20-something mum, had avoided wearing fitted clothes for months.
The reason? Her baggy clothes hid a deeply personal problem, one she was too embarrassed to mention to a soul. Since, the arrival of her baby, she’d been suffering light bladder leakage. Uncertain how to deal with it, her confidence was crumbling.
“She was nervous to wear jeans in case there was a mishap, and sometimes she wouldn’t even feel it happening,” Kimberley said. “When she came to me, she said ‘I know this sounds superficial, but I’m afraid to wear any tight clothing in case something happens when I’m out. But I’m young; I want to look good.”
Six months later, with a regular program of Pilates in place, jeans weren’t a problem.
“It’s the simple things you don’t appreciate until they’re gone,” Kimberley says.
Light bladder leakage affects one in three women in Australia. Those women can be any age. They might have children; they might not. They might be so fit they’ll boast a six pack – or be complete lounge lizards. The common denominator is that many women feel uncomfortable talking about it – even to their closest friends.
“We are seeing women talk about LBL a bit more, so we are seeing more women asking for help,” Kimberley says. But the conversation needs to break into the open so women can stop compromising on life.
“They seek professional help, so they know it will be confidential and will both assist and guide them."
But although women are often advised to do pelvic floor exercises, they often start, then stop, or simply don't do them.
That's where Pilates works.
"They are being directed to Pilates from physios - so that's a positive," Kimberley said.
Pilates has proven a godsend for many women: it can be tailored to any level of fitness or demographic, and works on strengthening both the pelvic floor and the entire core at the same time. Specific Pilates exercises target the muscles that, when weak, cause leakage to occur:
• The pelvic floor. This is a ‘sling’ of muscle, almost like a trampoline. It holds the contents of the pelvic region in place. If a lot of pressure is exerted down on it, the ‘trampoline mat’ becomes worn and less able to hold things in place. The extreme result is a prolapse; at the other end of the spectrum is the sensation of light bladder leakage. The pelvic floor is often weakened as a result of pregnancy - thanks to prolonged pushing - and menopause, because of hormonal changes.