Don't read this if you're if you are ruled by your 'Inner Prude'....
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!)
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.