Welcome to post 3/3 of this breathing series. If you've missed the first two posts - go back and take a look. We covered deep belly breathing, breathing, bracing and breath work while lifting.
Using the knowledge of the first two posts, we can start to understand how the pelvic floor may be impacted. Let's take a deeper look:
The pelvic floor muscles sit underneath the bladder and have a number of functions. To learn more about the pelvic floor roles, responsibilities and how to strengthen these muscles - check out THIS blog post.
Pelvic floor contraction and relaxation (like the diaphragm) should be an automatic process during exercise -provided you are breathing correctly. Take a look at the diagram below to see the correlation.
This automatic function is why it's so important to remember to breathe (in and out) during exercise. It gives your pelvic floor the opportunity to work through full range of movement (just like your bicep does as you lengthen and curl your arm).
If we brace or hold our breath during exercise or under load (again and again and again...) the pelvic floor muscles tend to get tired and weak because they're not given full opportunity to contract and relax.
They start to lose their muscular endurance.
That's why in workouts with a lot of squatting, jumping or running it is common for leakage or urinary incontinence to occur. This is a sign that your pelvic floor muscles have reached physical exertion.*
Like with any muscle group - once you reach physical exertion, it's best to scale down or change the movement so it becomes manageable again. You can take a similar approach with the pelvic floor.
Breathing consistently while moving is just one way to do this.
You can also try other things that may help you:
Adjust your stance
If you're jumping - try landing with a slight bend in your hips
Lower the intensity - burpees in a workout? Try jumping every 3rd or 5th rep, stepping up on the others.
Use breathing techniques to extend the endurance of your pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor muscles rely on full contraction and extension to function properly.
Once you've reached your pelvic floor physical endurance for working out - scale down to accommodate.
- Coach Lisa
*This article is not intended as medical diagnosis or advice - if you're concerned about pelvic floor dysfunction, please consult a specialist. I highly recommend the team at Full Circle Physiotherapy.
*image taken from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0022616/?figure=1