Today I was horrified by what one of my clients told me. So much so, I haven't been able to think about anything else since, and I am now writing this article madly before school pick up when I should really be tidying the house and prepping for dinner. But the need to get this off my chest trumps domestic duties.
Cassie* was contacted recently by a major women's fitness franchise (you can probably guess which one) because a friend had listed her when they joined up as someone who might be interested in joining. Nothing unusual about that, it is common practice in major gym chains. The sales person (which turned out to be the owner of the gym) asked my client if they had any concerns about commencing exercise at the gym. Also not unusual and a responsible question to ask. The shocking part was to come. Cassie informed them that she had some pelvic floor issues and needed to adjust her exercise accordingly. So here is the bit that freaked me out...the sales person told her to do some skipping to strengthen her pelvic floor. Oh the horror!
1. There is no text, course, seminar or Google Search I have done on pelvic floor safe exercise the suggests skipping as a strengthening exercise, EVER. Skipping is a high impact exercise and listed in the "Exercises to Avoid" Section of the Pevlic Floor First website by the Continence Foundation of Australia.
2. This advice was given over the phone without any knowledge of Cassie's medical history or a pelvic floor assessment.
3. This is a major franchise whose target market is women. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women experience pelvic floor weakness so they really should be making pelvic floor safe exercise a priority.
"Wow. Just wow. I can feel myself prolapsing just thinking about it."
"Yep, horrified, but I've heard it before."
"That is pretty bad conduct and you have the right to be terrified. There is no excuse to give such advice - and over the phone - in today's information rich world. Especially in a ladies gym...oh dear..."
The saddest thing in my eyes is that it isn't entirely the salesperson's fault. Education on the pelvic floor is not included in the Cert II or Cert IV in Fitness in Australia and from the feedback I received today it is the same in other many other countries (except France, they have really nailed postnatal care). As both men and women have a pelvic floor and both sexes can sustain damage from improper exercise technique, there is no reason why this information should only be limited to women's focused fitness education. Here is what some of my Facebook colleagues had to say about pelvic floor training in the fitness industry:
"I have a degree in Exercise Science, multiple certs and courses. But it wasn't until I went through rehab with The Tummy Team nearly 6 years ago that I started really learning about the deep core. I went home and cried. I screamed in my car. And I hear the same from women around the world when they first figure all this out. It's slowly starting to shift. Slowly."
"The reality is that we aren't given enough knowledge in our fitness courses about safe pelvic floor training methods...unless we are curious enough to do research about the subject...we wouldn't know anything about pelvic floor from the fitness course programs, that's the root of the problem. And that's why we hear these sorts of comments...not enough knowledge."
"This is exactly why I would love to see every women's only gym being represented at the Women's Health and Fitness Summit. They need to be there. They need to be SEEN there."
So there are a few ways we can approach this problem and ensure more women get the help they need, don't live with incontinence unnecessarily or create a prolapse.
- Trainers can keep talking about this with other trainers and spread the word. Pelvic floor health is important.
- We can create meaningful conversations with our clients therefore increasing their knowledge and encouraging them to spread the word.
- We can call for change in our industry via our registration bodies (eg. Fitness Australia).
- When we hear of something like Cassie's situation we can respectfully bring it to the attention of the offender in the hope they think differently in the future.
If you have a story, opinion or solution related to this topic, we would love to hear it.