Maybe you’re experiencing some of these symptoms yourself, or perhaps you’ve heard others say them. These are just a few of the symptoms that are often related to pelvic floor dysfunction. The good news is that it can be fixed! You do not need to just “live with it” or feel like it is “just something that happens after having kids”.
My name is Gillian from Barre with Gill. I’m a certified barre instructor, 2 x prenatal/postnatal fitness specialist certified and core confidence certified (this is all especially coming in handy, as I am an expecting mama! I am currently 14 weeks pregnant and am due in mid-June).
I initially became interested in the pelvic floor specifically, as I actually began experiencing some of those symptoms myself. I was training for a marathon two years ago and started to feel immense abdominal pressure. That was the first telltale sign that I knew something just wasn’t right. I booked an appointment with my doctor and she concluded that the constant running motion was causing my pelvic floor to weaken. She suggested I try something lower-impact and that’s when I was introduced to barre as an alternative fitness option.
If you’re not familiar with barre, it is a blend of pilates, yoga and ballet and uses functional based exercises to strengthen, tone and lengthen your muscles. What I love most about barre is that it is accessible and fun for everyone. All of my classes are designed with modifications and variations, so whether you have an injury, are pregnant or postnatal, I promise that you will still get a great workout in!
Below are some important facts and advice when it comes to your pelvic floor and things to consider if you are pregnant or postnatal.
Your pelvic floor is a muscle (key word) - just like your bicep, hamstring, etc. Your pelvic floor is like a hammock that runs from your pubic bone to your tailbone. It has five main functions:
Since your pelvic floor is a muscle, it’s important to be able to both flex and relax; just like all of the other muscles in your body. In order to determine whether or not you have a pelvic floor that is too tight (hypertonic), a pelvic floor that is too weak (hypotonic) or a healthy pelvic floor, it is important to visit a pelvic floor physiotherapist. This is something that I suggest and recommend to all of my clients and not just if they’re pregnant or postnatal.
A pelvic floor physiotherapist is a trained professional who will be able to guide you through exercises and tests and will be able to work with you in ensuring your pelvic floor is functioning optimally.
Three other pieces of advice that I always recommend are:
Learning how to perform a deep abdominal breath. This is a breathing technique that allows you to connect to your deep abdominal muscles and sync them with your breath. You will inhale and relax/release your pelvic floor muscles and exhale to flex/lift your pelvic floor muscles. This breathing technique helped me immensely during my recovery.
Finding workouts that are pelvic floor/prenatal/postnatal safe! Barre is great for this because all exercises are low impact. I always suggest working with or finding a certified fitness professional in this area, as they understand how to best move the body and will choose exercises that are safe, effective and fun! There are many exercises that should be avoided when experiencing any pelvic floor dysfunction or if you’re pregnant or postnatal, so it is important to connect with a trained professional so that you do not risk potential injuries. I currently have some prenatal/postnatal classes on my platform; www.barrewithgill.com and will continue posting more as my pregnancy continues. That being said, if you ever have any questions or if there is anything that I can ever help you with, please send me an email or fill out my contact form on my website and I would be happy to chat all things pelvic floor/prenatal/postnatal.
Some of my favourite core exercises that will use your deep abdominal muscles are -
Knee Hovers - I love this one. I incorporate it into many of my prenatal trimester 1 and 2 classes as it is a great exercise that targets your transversus abdominis, diaphragm, multifidus and pelvic floor (the core 4 deep abdominal muscles).
Dead Bugs - there are so many variations with this one, which is why I love it! It helps to improve your posture and balance, while also targeting those core 4 muscles.
Planks - again, so many variations! Not only will you feel your core muscles firing up, but you will also strengthen your shoulders, back, chest and legs, as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that your core and spine are like best friends - if you’re ever experiencing any back pain, it is likely due to some instability or weakness in the core. Try to aim for core exercises that target those deep abdominal muscles and not just the superficial muscles like your rectus abdominis (the 6-pack muscle). You need to strengthen from the inside out! There’s a reason why I removed all crunches/sit-ups from my classes...
Always remember that your pelvic floor is a muscle and can be re-trained. Do not give up hope. Treatment plans may take a little bit longer, depending on the severity of your case, but it will all be worth it in the end!
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much! I appreciate you reading this blog post and hope that you were able to learn something new today. As mentioned above, if you ever have any questions or just want to say hey, send me an email (email@example.com) or a message on Instagram @barrewithgill.
If you’d like to try out a Barre with Gill class, here is a link to a free 30-minute, no equipment, full body sweat that I did on Dec. 10, 2020. If you have any issues accessing it, please let me know!
Stay smiling, stay moving, stay healthy.