Are you one of those athletes making a fast-break to the Lou before the double-under-heavy workout to avoid the dreaded dribbles that comes along with it? We see you, we are you, and we get it. Here’s why you may be experiencing this…
Believe it or not, but this is a common occurrence, though not a normal one, for both women AND men! Urinary incontinence (UI), or a leaky bladder, often stems from pelvic floor muscles (PFM) weakening due to age, childbirth, prostate surgery, stress, obesity, family history, or an inhibition of the diaphragm, low back, and abdominal muscles. Specific to women, stress tends to be held in greater amounts and for longer periods of time, most notably in the trapezius and pelvic floor muscles, so we need to focus also on complete relaxation of those muscles. Most often, when you walk up to that jump rope you may be feeling anxious or tense for what is about to come and consequently will clench your muscles and create added tension. However, rather than making you less susceptible to leaking while you jump, you create a more optimal environment for bladder release. When a muscle becomes too stressed, tense, or tight, it will shorten and therefore become weaker, which is why you end up leaking even though you’re trying so hard not to. Learning to completely relax your pelvic floor is just as important as learning to strengthen it!
We know the cause, and we know how it affects our physical activity, but how do we fix this??
Thankfully, there’s a simple answer without the use of medications or surgical interventions. Training exercises focused on pelvic floor muscle strength (PFMS), pelvic floor muscle endurance (PFME), and pelvic floor muscle relaxation (PFMR) are the keys to decreasing UI and decreasing those trips to the bathroom before you hit those double-unders. To improve the PFM, we target the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, along with the pelvic floor muscles, because these are the supporting muscles that aid in strengthening or relaxing the sphincter muscles around the urethra that ultimately control urinary release.
Diaphragmatic and abdominal therapy includes exercises in a variety of positions which allows users to find a position most comfortable and available to them to easily perform them on their own. Here are some examples of exercises to include into your weekly routine, before or after a workout, or even in the comfort of your own home before going to bed or upon waking in the morning!
Perform each exercise for 3 sets at 10-15 repetitions. Use this program at least 3 days per week, up to 2 times per day.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor.
- Start by holding your pelvic floor muscles in for 5 seconds. It is important to keeping breathing during this contraction.
- After holding for 5 seconds, slowly and completely relax your muscles for 5 seconds.
- Repeat this process 10 times, at least 3 times per week.
Your pelvic floor muscles may get fatigued during this exercise. If this happens, stop and do the exercise at a later time.
Don’t use your stomach, leg, or buttock muscles when doing this exercise.
- Stand, sit, or lie on your back with your legs bent and feet on the floor.
- Start by gently contracting the pelvic floor to feel what tightening the muscles feels like.
- Relax, and release the tension to feel the difference between tension and relaxation.
- Then, try to visualize that the muscles between the pubic bone and tailbone lengthen by gently moving the pubic bone towards the ceiling (if you are lying on your back), and gently move your tailbone towards the surface you are lying on. Imagine that the pelvic floor muscles are getting longer as this happens creating more space in your pelvic floor.
- During the above action, be sure to breath normally.
As you perform a Reverse Kegel, be sure you keep your pelvis and spine still.
Transverse Abdominus (TA) Activation
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
- Use two fingers to find your front hip bone, then move 2 inches towards your belly button on both sides.
- Tuck your belly button towards the ground or table, tilting your pelvis backwards.
- Feel for the TA to pop into your fingers to ensure it’s been activated properly.
- Breathe normally while holding position for 10 seconds, then relax.
Benefits Besides Bladder Control?
Of course, there are several other benefits to training the pelvic floor muscles besides bladder control. Other benefits include:
- Decreased low back pain
- Increased pelvic and lower extremity stability
- Improved sexual function
- Improved delivery during childbearing (or smoother pregnancies!)
Remember, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, it will take time to improve your PFM as well. Consistency is key if you want to see any improvement!
It’s never too late (or too early) to start pelvic floor muscle training. And yes… you CAN jump without the jingle bells ringing again!
- Zachovajeviene, B et al. “Effect of diaphragm and abdominal muscle training on pelvic floor strength and endurance: results of a prospective randomized trial.” Scientific reports vol. 9,1 19192. 16 Dec. 2019, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-55724-4
- “Pelvic Floor Exercises.” Physiopedia, https://www.physio-pedia.com/Pelvic_Floor_Exercises.