Smutty Fitness: Pelvic Floor Strength
Getting older has many drawbacks. Once I got on the other side of 55 (I'm now 62) my body started falling apart. I compare it to a car with over 55,000 miles. Every year there is a major maintenance issue.
I'm now dealing with mild, medium and severe food allergies. I went to a medical doctor who specializes in food allergies. I was informed that I had mostly mild food allergies but my problem was that I have so many when I ingest three or more of these foods at one meal I end up with severe stomach cramps and major bloating. So my diet is very limited which is good in a way because all my meals must be cooked from scratch. Green vegetables, especially kale, preservatives and additives are the worst.
In the last few years I had emergency open heart surgery to repair my mitral valve and then the last year was spent getting my thyroid numbers normalized. Of course there are the normal small issues but it would just be depressing to list them. My biggest problem is I that have pelvic floor prolapse and trying to figure out exercises for my core that will not make this problem worse is hard. Planks are my friend but I could use some other suggestions. Surprisingly carrying a heavy pack seems to help. I just got back from a 25 day backpacking trip where my pack averaged 35 lbs. I lost 1.5 - 2 inches all over my body. I was shocked how slowly the rolls disappeared compared to my trips 5 years ago. I so want to keep it off so please help.
I have to say, I am quite shocked that you were able to hike for 25 days with a 35lb pack on with a prolapsed core. That is impressive! I want to help you strengthen your pelvic floor so that you can continue to do all the things that you enjoy, including hiking. Click here for a refresher on basic core exercises for pelvic floor strength. It is very important that you understand, and practice, the fundamentals of pelvic floor strength because if you are doing the exercises incorrectly you may not be strengthening your pelvic floor at all. It is also a good idea to seek the advice of a physiotherapist that specializes in pelvic floor as you may need more help than you can do on your own and to get clearance from your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
Foam roller marching
Lie down on a foam roller length-wise (head to tail running along the foam roller), with both of your feet on the floor, hip width apart, your knees bent and your hands resting on the floor beside you. Keep yourself in a neutral spine position (meaning there is a very small space between your lower back and the foam roller, which will not change throughout the exercise). Press your hands into the floor for added stability and begin to slowly lift your left foot off the floor and you press you right foot heavy into the floor. As you lift your leg, keep it bent and pay attention to your neutral spine, ensuring that the space does not shift between your back and the roller and your hips do not shift side to side. Once the left leg reaches 90 degrees you can then bring it back towards the floor, and repeat on the other side. Do 10 on each side, focusing on keeping the pelvis still. Cue into your pubic bone and think about lifting it towards your belly button as you are dropping your feet back to the floor.
Foam Roller Toe Taps
In the same position as the marching, but this time both legs are going to start in the air, bent at 90 degrees with your toes pointed. This time, instead of being in a neutral spine, you are going to imprint your spine into the roller by softening your ribs (bringing them towards the foam roller) and engaging your lower abdominals (thinking about pubic bone to belly button). Alternate by dropping one leg at a time towards the floor. Just barely touch the toe then return it back to table top before dropping the other. Focus on keeping your pelvis calm (if you had a glass of wine you could balance it on your belly without it spilling) and not allowing it to follow your foot as it lowers towards the floor. As you become stronger you can do it a little faster and alternate the legs as if you are riding a bike. Do 5 to 10 on each side, or until you can no longer keep your pelvis still.
Back bridge with your toes on the foam roller
Start with a neutral spine, knees bent and your feet on the rollers, heels lifted slightly as if you are wearing a pair of high heeled shoes. Begin by engaging your lower abdominals and pelvic floor as you roll your tailbone off of the floor (think about bringing your pubic bone towards your belly button). Do 5 or so of these and then complete a full bridge by engaging your glutes as you roll your spine off the floor one vertebrae at a time, keeping your ribs soft towards the floor and a slight pull of your heels towards your sit bones. Once you have come as high as possible (without rolling into your neck) lower your spine back towards the floor one vertebrae at a time, starting from your ribs and finishing with your tailbone.
Foam roller leg lowers
This is a great exercise to strengthen the lower abdominals, and unlike leg drops where you are flat on a mat, this limits injury to your back. Place the foam roller underneath your sacrum (where your hip bones meet your spine) and straighten your legs towards the ceiling with your feet flexed to start. You are going to feel like your back is rounded, but that is what it should feel like, and your legs are going to be able to come closer to your chest than they would if you were flat on your back on the floor. Keeping your body in that position, point your toes and begin to slowly lower your legs towards the floor. Once you feel the slightest movement in your pelvis you have gone too far and bring your legs, feet flexed, back to the starting position. Use your abdominals to stabilize your pelvis and find your hamstrings (the back of your legs) to move your legs. Do 5 or 10 or until fatigued.
The plank is also a fantastic exercise but I understand how it can become boring so here are a few variations that you can add.
In the plank position, push your body forward from your toes so your shoulders go past your elbows and then bring yourself back, pushing your heels back and stretching your calves. Repeat this movement 10 to 20 times, while keeping your body in a straight line (imagine you are between two panes of glass).
Plank Downward dogs
In a plank position, drive your hips back and you push your sit bones towards the ceiling, allowing your hamstrings to stretch. Hold it here for a few seconds then drop your hips down but into your starting plank position. Focus on using your lower abdominals to drive your hips back while keeping your pelvic floor engaged. Repeat this movement 10 to 20 times.
Try not to focus solely on weight loss and instead focus on exercising to remain strong and eating healthy to avoid complications from allergies as well as to keep your heart healthy. This should guarantee that the weight stays off and you will have many more hikes in your future.Photos:
AKM-GSI / Splash News