Or maybe DO!

(Because if you're not the sort of person TALKING about this stuff, it may be just the stuff you need to be talking about!)

Don't Suffer In Silence

Poo! Wee! Sex! Our 'bits'!

Not the kind of thing we always like to talk about?

And if they're not quite working in the way they should be ~ or used to ~ we probably talk about them even less (all the while getting used to this being 'normal').

It's become more and more apparent through my Soft Tissue Therapy Clinic work over the past year or so, just how many of us have some kind of pelvic floor issue.

Some are mild (think: 'I p*ssed myself laughing', only, 'oops, I actually did!').

And some interfere with quality of life considerably (because bits are 'going south' in a way they really shouldn't be, i.e. there is a pelvic organ prolapse, aka POP, present: something that is way more common than most of us are aware).

For those of us that like to exercise and keep active (which less face it, in an ideal world, should really be ALL of us) it's a REALLY important subject because:

Pelvic floor issues might PREVENT us doing all the classes/activities we want to do to keep ourselves fit and healthy.

Or if we have underlying pelvic floor issues (whether we know about them or not....after all, how many of us to prefer to ignore this area altogether?) we can actually be doing ourselves more HARM than good if our pelvic floor health isn't paid good attention to.

If you come to any of my Totnes Body Balance (Les Mills UK) classes, you'll have heard me mentioning Pelvic Floor more and more over the past year or so.

(Sorry about that ~ though I'm not actually! ~ and thank you for putting up with me as well as continuing to come back week in, week out!)

If you come to our Move to Move movement classes you will have found pelvic floor work/exercises finding their way in to our classes bit by bit over the last few months too.

I wanted to find out more, and although I really appreciate the comprehensive anatomical knowledge and injury rehabilitation protocols and techniques I gained from my Soft Tissue Therapy Training, the qualification was specifically focussed on the minor musculoskeletal injuries and issues that can occur with the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that support the larger joints and spine (that's your typical 'dodgy shoulders', 'knackered knees', 'jippy hips' and 'ooh, me back' issues).

The pelvic floor is a bit more of a specialist area. It's an amazing and complex system, made up of several bewildering but perfectly architected structures. But it often goes unrecognised, or at the very least neglected. Both by 'us' as the general public. And 'us' as fitness, injury rehabilitation or bodywork professionals. Or even health professionals.

Granted, you might get told to 'engage your core' or 'do your pelvic floor exercises' every now and again by someone. But what does that actually mean? How do you know exactly what to do, or how to do it? When to do it? And how do you know which particular pelvic floor exercises are right for you to do anyway? (Because just like any other type of exercise, and every single human body, they come in different 'shapes and sizes', so this simply isn't a 'one size fits all' scenario.)

So I decided to make it my business to find out more. Partly because I was seeing more and more people in clinic with, say, a hip problem (or shoulder, or back etc.), who ended up telling me somewhere along the line, that they actually had 'something going on' in the pelvic floor department. Which made me get thinking.

Partly because whilst instructing mainstream classes I began to wonder about how safe and appropriate some of the exercises might be for someone who might have a pelvic floor (or other core) problem. Which made me a bit worried.

And I began to think about the implications this may have if someone didn't even know they had something going on down there that wasn't 'right'. Which made me downright concerned.

And not least because I had mild stress incontinence ~ that's the 'having a little leak when you jump, laugh or sneeze' variety of pelvic floor dysfunction ~ after the birth of my second child, which although much better in my 30's actually started to reoccur once I'd started working as a fitness instructor in my 40's. (Which made me a little soggy, and a tad embarrassed, at times.)

Lots of reading and studying later and I knew more. But how did I know which parts of my new knowledge was correct (there's SO much out there!)?

And even if/once I did know, how did I know how to apply it?

How could I go about supporting and helping the people that I knew were out there needing support and help? (The number of Pelvic Health Specialists in the UK is currently estimated at under 800. That's including NHS and Private Practice. And that's the number available for everyone. AKA: Not Enough.)

I could re-train (all over again), this time for physiotherapy degree followed by specialist pelvic health physio post-graduate study. But that's a LOT of years, a LOT of money and a lot of studying. And whilst it may well be something I might now wish I'd done before I hit peri-menopause, I have a lot going on in my life, so it's also something I have realistically resigned myself to casting in to the 'not gonna happen' pile.

I wanted to start working in this area sooner than my next lifetime. And I wanted to be helping the members of the general public that I was meeting everyday, and having casual conversations with, in class. So I had to find another way.

My searches finally threw up the Adore Your Pelvic Floor (A.Y.P.F.) Programme: a brilliantly informative, educational, practical, empowering and actually fun (!) pelvic floor rehab programme.

It's fully endorsed ~ and advised ~ by women's pelvic health specialist physios (which, as a clinical therapist used to working from a good solid science-backed, evidence-based place, was of tantamount importance to me). Tick.

It was created for fitness professionals: already aware of the issues; already experienced in group exercise instruction and how to keep people moving safely; already having day to day contact with so many of the people in need of pelvic floor education, coaching and rehabilitation. Tick.

And then I spoke to Louise Field the Creator and Lead Trainer of the programme. And I was hooked.

Louise is absolutely passionate about this work. She has her own inspirational story. And her amazing hard work to bring about both the A.Y.P.F Programme itself ~ and the A.Y.P.F Coach Training programme ~ has all been fuelled by a mix of unshakeable belief in the need for this, sheer determination to get it out there, a huge amount of integrity and what I can probably only describe as love. Tick. Tick. Tick, all the way.

So now, I'm a newly, but fully certified, licensed and insured Adore Your Pelvic Floor Coach.

I'll be starting to run talks, workshops, small group courses and 1-2-1 programmes soon.

From unofficial conversations with my clinic clients (all in for other reasons) this week ~ and it's only Tuesday ~ it's already becoming even more apparent how common an underlying pelvic floor problem is.

In fact it's dawning on me that pelvic floor issues may well be springing up all over the place before I have enough classes, groups and clinics set up to cope with the flow!

But the more people I can help educate and empower to take responsibility for providing themselves with the very best health care to this very important ~ and very rehab-able area, after all we're talking muscles and fascia here ~ the better.

And yes, I realise I MAY get known as 'that weird lady that's always talking about poo and wee and lady bits' whilst people nudge one another with their elbows and point at me from across the street (on a par with being the local 'crazy cat lady' sort of way).

But you know what?

I really don't mind:

I've realised this stuff is TOO important to NOT be talking ~ and teaching people ~ about.

  • Moved to Move

Do you spend a lot of time sitting?

Sports and Health and Exercise Science researchers tell us:

"Prolonged uninterrupted sitting in healthy desk workers reduces cerebral blood flow." *

What does this mean?

Well, 'Prolonged uninterupted sitting' just means 'not getting up off your ar*s for a long while.

So what? We all know sitting around doesn't do much for our fitness levels.

But 'cerebral blood flow'? This is the blood flowing to our BRAINS!

Hang on a minute, THAT'S GOT TO BE important!

It is. Look at this:

"Decreased cerebrovascular blood flow and function are associated with lower cognitive functioning and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases."

'Cognitive functioning' translates as our many different mental abilities: thinking, learning, remembering, reasoning, maintaining focus and attention, decision making etc.

A 'Neurodegenerative disease' is any disease that primarily affects the neurons ('building blocks') of the nervous system (e.g. brain and spinal cord). Common, and well-known, neurodegenerative diseases include Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. But there are many others too.

The study quoted notes that whilst the cerebrovascular (i.e. the brain and its blood vessels) blood flow and function IS reduced by sitting for long periods.

The GOOD NEWS is that taking regular short 'walking breaks' offset this decline.

They used three different test groups in the study:

Group 1 stayed sitting

Group 2 walked at light-intensity for 2 mins every half hour

Group 3 walked at light intensity for 8 mins every 2 hours

With regards to healthy blood flow and function rates to the brain, Group 2 came out TOP. In fact for some of the tests they did, taking the longer, 8 min, walk every 2 hours showed no significant change from the uninterrupted sitting group 1!

So, is it still good to get our for a daily walk? Or enjoy a longer walk at the weekend? Of course. There are many benefits.

Is it still good to go to our exercise/movement classes? Yes, because the overall motivation, social engagement and habit forming benefits (as well as those gained from the movement we are doing!) that attending a group activity can give us - as long as we choose ones we enjoy - help us to keep 'being active' as a regular part of our lives.

What about going to the gym? If it's something we enjoy and we working at a sensible, suitable level, then this is as good as any other activities we like to do (etc. cycling, swimming, gardening, playing golf etc.).

BUT, none of those things are going to serve us so well if the rest of the time we're just sitting* in front of our desks or computers. (Or anywhere else probably.)

* interesting to know whether the same results are replicated if we stand (which is something we do) at our desks instead of sitting. We suspect it's probably a little better standing as we're more inclined to move about a little on our feet as we work. However we also suspect uninterrupted standing may not be much better than uninterrupted sitting. We'll write a new blog and let you know if we find any evidenced based studies on this. Or in the meantime if you have any comments on this, please comment below.

Gotta go now. The little timer on my desktop is letting me know my 30 mins is up!

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29878870

  • Moved to Move

Most of know that music makes us Moved to Move!

We've generally experienced what a strong influence or impact music can have on us.

It can affect us in a variety of ways making us feel energised, sleepy, sad or upbeat, and anything else along the way.

The impact of music can move us both emotionally AND physically.

Dr Costas I. Karageorghis is an internationally renowned researcher in to the effects of music in exercise and sport. Featured in The Times and National Geographic, and with many articles and papers published, his most recent book is called 'Applying Music in Exercise and Sport'.

He states in a document *:

"There is a growing body of scientific work addressing the positive effects that music can have on physical exercise;"

...going on to say that,

"...such effects are often magnified in the case of older adults."

In this paper, he refers to the four main positive influences/benefits music can have on the mind-body relationship during exercise:

1. Music alters emotional and physical arousal states. So it can help you get in to the swing of things. Or calm you down.

2. Good music can become a focus of attention whilst exercising (especially at low to moderate movement intensity) which reduces perceived exertion rates. You feel like you're not working as hard as you are! So you enjoy your exercise experience more and feel less tired.

3. The rhythm in music regulates our movement and has been shown to make us use energy more efficiently (via a mechanism called 'neuromuscular efficiency').

4. Music has positive impacts on learning and maintaining motor skills, movement patterns and co-ordination. This may be due to the rhythm, the 'flow', the tune, the lyrics, or all of these combined. Its also due to the fact that, generally, music makes exercise more fun and relaxed: an ideal learning environment.

Music CHOICE is obviously important.

Choose your favourite music to dance, move or relax to. At home. Or out and about.

Or find a class offering you movement to music you like.

[And if you're one of the few people who DON'T like taking your exercise to music, and would rather keep the two separate - and we've come across one or two - fair enough! We totally understand. Everyone has their preferences. It's important that exercise is enjoyable, so an Exercise to Music class is probably not for you!]

* Dr Costas I. Karageorghis, PhD, CPsychol, CSci, FBASES, AFBPsS: 'Music makes you move it so that you never lose it!' This document forms part of coursework material in 'Move It or Lose It' FABS Instructor training.

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