Working out is amazing! When you are able to find a way to move your body that you enjoy and you do it regularly, there’s really nothing better.
Exercise allows you to:
– Build muscle
– Have a strong, toned, and youthful body
– Increase bone density
– Prevent diseases like heart disease and diabetes
– Improve your memory and focus
– Help improve balance
– And the list goes on and on…(1)
So why is it so hard to find the right exercise program? Why is it so difficult to get to a happy place with exercise?
I’ll tell you about my theories.
You see, many years ago, I was a top personal trainer in New York City at the Reebok Sports Club LA.
Then for many more years after that, I’ve been a physical therapist, a coach, and a mentor for women.
So I’ve seen a lot.
And I think there are a few reasons that women find it difficult to love exercise:
1 – The fitness industry exists to sell you quick-fix results that are completely unsustainable. The truth is that regular, gentle exercise is the best choice for your long-term health…but it’s those “insane results in 3 weeks” plans that sell the most.
2 – Working through injury and pain has been normalized as a part of the gym culture — in a way that’s very detrimental to women’s health. I’ve personally seen women with sopping wet pants at the gym while their trainers viewed it as a badge of honor, proof that they were working hard. I’ve even seen women experience prolapse from straining at the gym and they were pushed to keep going.
3 – Exercise programs aren’t really designed with women in mind — and especially mature women. Teenage fitness models are what sell more products, but what most people don’t realize is that those models are very likely saddled with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and amenorrhea (loss of their period from overexercising). They aren’t actually healthy.
Here’s the thing. Once you’ve stripped away all of these issues with the professional fitness machine, what do you have left? You know you need to exercise, but you also don’t want to overexert or injure yourself.
And you want to find a workout that you actually enjoy, right?
You’d be surprised how many times I see women slogging away, doing massive amounts of cardio that they hate — and it doesn’t even give them the results they want…but “someone” told them it was what they needed to do, so they keep on doing it.
I’ve seen women so uncomfortable in the weight room that they looked like they were going to be sick…but they stuck around anyway, because “someone” told them they needed to lift heavy to get results.
Bottom line, I believe if you’re not having fun, you’re not exercising properly.
And if you’re not getting the results you want, then you’re probably doing the wrong exercise for you.
Furthermore — and ladies, this is really important, don’t let anyone who’s not a qualified pelvic floor therapist or a certified pelvic coach ( like the ones on my team) advise you on how to exercise if you have pelvic floor dysfunction.
Do the wrong move when you’re dealing with incontinence, prolapse, or scarring, and you could make things much, much worse for your condition.
Trust me, I have 20+ years of horror stories related to women pushing hard because “someone” told them to and hurting their intimate parts to the point of no return.
Which is why I’ve put together this list for you.
It’s a list of exercises that I would beg you not to do and a few better options that are more likely tailored to your needs.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
Some Popular Exercises To Avoid
If you hate lying on the floor and crunching up a gazillion times, you’re in luck. The crunch is not considered a move that develops functional strength. What that means is that doing a ton of crunches will make you feel like you’re doing something for your health but they are really not building strength in any way that will benefit you in your daily life.
Plus, crunches are actually not good for your pelvic floor, and probably not great for your spine, either (2). If you’re putting extra pressure on your upper abs, you can strain your pelvic floor. Guess which exercise does exactly that? Yep, you guessed it — crunches.
2- Lifting Things That Are Too Heavy
I’m a huge fan of resistance training, but in the right way for the right woman. Unfortunately, going straight for the heavyweights at the gym can cause major issues in your pelvic floor. For those that have been diligently working their way up to the bigger weights over the years, this warning is not for you.
But if you’re newer to weight training, don’t go too far too fast. Straining your pelvic floor trying to lift a weight heavier than you can handle is a recipe for injury.
It bears mentioning here too — if you are in pain and your trainer suggests that you keep going, or you’re ever in a position where you’re taping up excessively and pushing through pain to get through a workout…you’re likely putting your pelvic floor at risk. Plus, if you’re exercising through pain, you’re not having fun. And if you’re not having fun, you’re missing the point of the exercise.
3- Jumping And High Impact Moves
Maybe the first time you noticed your pelvic floor was weak was during a jumping incident. Many women have their first pants wetting incidents while jumping. And while rebounding on a trampoline can be great for your cardiovascular health, it’s not ideal for your pelvic floor muscles. Same with other high-impact moves like jump squats, switch lunges, or tuck jumps. In fact, studies suggest that high-impact moves can negatively impact your pelvic floor, and elite female athletes are very likely to suffer from urinary incontinence. (3,4)
Especially if you’ve recently given birth, have a prolapse, or have had surgery, please stay away from these more intense activities.
What’s Best To Do Instead
So we’ve covered my top 3 “please, don’t do these” exercises. And by now, you might be wondering what to do instead.
Well, I’ve got you covered there too.
Here are a few of my favorite recommendations.
1- Crunchless Core Exercises
Did you know that you can make your core stronger without crunches and without compromising your pelvic floor? I’ve got a whole routine in my repertoire that includes core exercises that work with, rather than against the rest of your body.
2- Train Your Muscles The Right Way
To really see the results in your functional strength and build muscle mass, you’ve got to work several muscles at once. (Not just one isolated muscle over and over like some trainers will tell you to do). In fact, training your body with combination moves saves you time, increases your metabolism, and builds functional strength.
3- Low Impact = High Results
You don’t have to be jumping around your living room to get a good workout in. In fact, lower impact exercises help you to focus on your form and get stronger, faster. Plus, when you’re performing low-impact exercises, you can be more mindful of the right way to engage your pelvic floor muscles and get a full-body workout.
Want to exercise without hurting your pelvic floor?
The Fit Strong Balance Program is about empowering women to be healthy and fit — and of course, because I’m me, I’m teaching about how your overall fitness ties into the health of your pelvic floor, and giving you recommendations for working out without making your pelvic problems worse.
If you’re interested in learning how to:
- Lose weight without the struggle
- Finally, find a happy place with your body (even if you’ve hated your reflection since forever)
- Build muscle without pumping iron in the weight room
- Get a tight and firm body
- Learn the proper techniques for exercise without further damaging your pelvic floor, peeing your pants, or the embarrassing fart noises that sneak out on occasion.
1- “The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older ….” 5 Dec. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6304477/.
2- “To Crunch or Not to Crunch: An Evidence-Based Examination ….” https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/fulltext/2011/08000/to_crunch_or_not_to_crunch__an_evidence_based.2.aspx.
3- “Pelvic floor function in elite nulliparous athletes – PubMed.”
4- “Urinary incontinence in elite female athletes and dancers.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11999199/.