Life has this sneaky way of creeping in and throwing curve balls left and right. Life will always happen. There will always be a busy day at work or family problems or relationship highs and lows or sick children. Once conflict arises, it seems like health and fitness routines go haywire. We seek comfort food or we just don’t feel like moving. These are the things that help us stay clear and balanced in both body and mind though! So what do we do when conflict smacks us in the face (and it happens to everyone so if you’re reading this – you’re not alone)? Avoiding the conflict is not reasonable because we can’t always control what comes at us. Figurine out how to navigate through any issues is what needs to happen to stay on track.
I think so many times we approach health and fitness goals with an “all or nothing” mindset. For example, you might think your day is ruined because you veered off of your diet with an unhealthy meal or snack. Or, you decided not to workout today because you couldn’t do the allotted 60 minutes that you had planned for. Instead of doing something, you may have chosen nothing at all. You gave up on day two of 30 days of clean eating. Do any of those sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and something is better than nothing. My tips below might give you some perspective on how to reach your health and fitness goals even when life throws you a curve ball.
My philosophy is nourish, movement, mindset. If we can work on nourishing our bodies, moving them mindfully and maintaining a healthy attitude, we can function a little better day by day, week by week, month by month and eventually get into the healthy habits on a regular basis that we need to achieve total body balance.
Focus on one small thing at a time. Start simple and work from there. Don’t expect to change your eating habits overnight. Small changes executed day after day, week after week and so on can lead to really big change. So pick one small nutrition action and practice it for one to two weeks before adding in a new change.
Examples: Work on portion control (without regard to food quality), add one colorful food in at each meal, take 15 minutes to meal prep tomorrow’s healthy food or omit your sugary after dinner snack (swap it out with a healthy alternative). You could eat slowly and chew your food completely or focus on balancing your meals so that you have protein, carbohydrate and fat at each meal. Omitting processed foods at one to two meals per day is also another great option. These are just some examples but it’s up to you to figure out which little step you can take to improve your nutrition.
Take advantage of the time that you DO have. Carve out space in the small pockets of your time. We get fixated on time so often that we don’t realize that a little is always better than nothing. For example, it’s so easy to think that you have to do a workout for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Wouldn’t 15 minutes of that workout be better than nothing though? The answer is yes! So squeeze in what you can, when you can.
Get unconventional. Maybe you don’t have time to get in a “workout”. Do what you can with what you’ve got. Maybe you take the stairs that day instead of the elevator. Park in the parking space furthest away from the building (gasp!) to get some extra steps in. Stand up from your desk and walk around for a minute every 15 or 20 minutes. Run around at the playground with your kids. Movement doesn’t always have to be in the form of a straight up 30 minute HIIT workout. It can be moving and active – outside or inside. What are the ways that you could get in some more movement?
Move mindfully. Pay close attention to your body and what it’s trying to tell you. Your body and energy levels will fluctuate day by day so take advantage of more vigorous workouts when you can and also add in active recovery, lighter workouts or even yoga or stretching when necessary.
Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel on eating right and moving your body. It’s seems easy to take the “all or nothing” approach but that’s not necessary. Something is always better than nothing.Don’t beat yourself up! Life ebbs and flows for everyone. Take a look at where you’re at right now and what you can make work right now.
The most important thing is to honor where you’re at. Only you know what you’re capable of at this point in your life. Make sure the small steps you take are 100% doable for you and your lifestyle. Small steps over time can add up to big change.
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Exercises Specifically for the Pelvic Floor
The second exercise, Type 2, is a quick contraction. The muscles are quickly tightened, lifted up, then released. This works the muscles that quickly shut off the flow of urine (like a faucet) to help prevent accidents.
Now, you are ready to begin:
1. Remember, it is important to exercise only the muscles of your pelvic floor (between your pubic bone and tailbone). Do not tense or contract the legs, buttocks, or belly.
2. You should contract the PFM as you blow out, or exhale, then continue to breathe normally as you do the exercises.
3. Remember to relax the body before and after the exercises.
4. In the beginning, it is best to do the exercises lying down so that there is little stress on the muscles. Bend your knees or elevate your legs on a pillow or stool so you are comfortable and your legs are relaxed.
Each of the exercises explained previously can be done with or without assistive devices. If you are using vaginal weights, it is easier for some women to walk around while doing Kegel exercise contractions.
Suggested Exercise Schedule
Most people try to perform too many exercises and sacrifice the quality of the exercises. It is important to remember to stop and rest when you are no longer performing each contraction properly. To improve muscle function you must challenge the muscles to work harder than they are used to. This is done by exercising the muscles on a regular basis. Start with a set of 10 repetitions of each type of exercise, and do them two to three times per day. It is recommended that you try to do a total of 30-80 repetitions per day. Progress at your own pace. The amount of time needed to show improvement varies from person to person. Increase the exercise periods and/or the number of exercise repetitions as you notice improvement.
Remember, you must continue challenging your PFM to see improvement. Your bladder and bowel control can begin to improve in three to four weeks. However, some people take three to six months to see improvement.
Pelvic muscle exercises require a lifetime commitment. Start your day with a set of pelvic muscle exercises. This is especially important if you have chosen to use vaginal weights. It is easiest to use weights in the morning, as later in the day your muscles tend to become tired.
• Always tighten the pelvic muscles before you lift, cough, or sneeze to help hold back the flow of urine. Remember, learn to squeeze before you sneeze.
• Tighten the muscles before you clear your throat or blow your nose.
• You can also use pelvic muscle exercises to help suppress a strong urge to urinate until you can locate an appropriate place to empty your bladder.
• Pelvic muscle exercises should be incorporated into a regular exercise program.
Assisted Pelvic Muscle Exercises
Various devices and techniques have been developed to help you locate, exercise, and rehabilitate the correct pelvic floor muscles. These include biofeedback training, electrical stimulation, and, for women, vaginal weight training.
As well as basic PFM exercises, Dr. Arnold Kegel also pioneered the biofeedback approach to rehabilitate and exercise the pelvic floor muscles. PFM exercises performed with biofeedback equipment has been demonstrated to be a highly effective treatment procedure for incontinence, because it helps to isolate PFM activity and gives an immediate audio or visual indication of successful exercises. Muscle contraction exercises performed without biofeedback assistance sometimes leads to contractions of other muscles, like the abdominals, and may cause undue fatigue and pressure on the bladder.
These different training aids have also been known to add discipline to a Kegel program – helping people to stick with a routine. Talk to your healthcare provider about these and other ways to assist your pelvic muscle strengthening program.
Working With Your Healthcare Provider
Because these muscles are out of sight, they are frequently out of mind and difficult to isolate. If you have any questions or difficulties, be sure to discuss them with your healthcare provider. If you are considering Kegel exercises, it is wise to get proper instructions from a health professional before you invest the time in the program.
In addition to the techniques mentioned previously, bladder retraining, medications, and surgery are also used to treat incontinence. Sometimes a combination of all or some of these therapies is most helpful in managing and improving your incontinence.
Exercises Specifically for the Pelvic Floor
Pelvic muscle exercises are an important part of the behavioral treatment techniques that help increase bladder control and decrease bladder leakage. These techniques require your conscious effort and consistent participation.
Pelvic muscle exercises, also called pelvic floor muscle or Kegel [Kay-gull] exercises – after the Dr. Arnold Kegel, have been shown to improve mild to moderate urge and stress incontinence. When performed correctly, these exercises help to strengthen the muscles at your bladder outlet. Through regular exercise you can build strength and endurance to help improve, regain, or maintain bladder and bowel control.
The muscles of the pelvic floor are located in the base of your pelvis between your pubic bone and tailbone. These muscles have three main functions:
(1) They help support the abdominal and pelvic contents from below,
(2) They are responsible for helping to control bowel and bladder function, and
(3) They are involved in sexual response. Like other muscles in the body, if these muscles get weak they are no longer efficient at doing their job.
How to Find and Recognize the Muscles
As you can see from Diagram 1, it can be difficult to find these pelvic muscles. The pelvic floor muscles (PFM) are the ones you use to hold back gas or to stop a urine stream. For instance, imagine that you need to hold back gas. Squeeze and lift the rectal area, and for women also the vaginal area, without tightening the buttocks or belly (abdomen).
Another technique used only to help you identify the PFM is to attempt to stop or slow the flow of urine. While urinating, partially empty your bladder then try to stop or slow the stream of urine. Remember to relax and completely empty your bladder when you have finished this test. Do not do this start-and-stop test on a regular basis (no more than twice a month). It is not a helpful way to exercise the pelvic floor muscles.
Locating these muscles may also require you to use a mirror or one of the variety of training aids such as biofeedback, muscle electrical stimulation, or for women, vaginal weights.
This informational brochure, based on the proven PFM exercises developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel, is designed to describe a variety of techniques to help you exercise your pelvic muscles.
There are two types of exercises that you should perform to improve continence.
The first exercise, Type 1, works on the holding ability of the muscles (building a strong dam to hold back urine). It is done by slowly tightening, lifting, and drawing in the PFM and holding them to a count of five. At first, you will probably notice that the muscles do not want to stay contracted or tightened very long. You may only be able to hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds. Progress slowly over a period of weeks to a goal of 10-second holds. Rest for 10 seconds between each contraction.
Whether you experience urge incontinence or stress incontinence, Kegel exercises — performed cor-rectly — can offer relief. By strengthening the muscles that hold urine in the bladder, you can either decrease or possibly eliminate incidences of urinary incontinence. The key to Kegal exercises is iden-tifying the pelvic floor muscles and performing the prescribed routine properly.
WHO SHOULD DO MUSCLE TRAINING EXERCISES?
Anyone who experiences either urge inconti-nence (an intense urge to urinate that develops suddenly and makes it difficult to get to the bath-room in time) or stress incontinence (loss of urine during activities that increase intra-abdom-inal pressure like coughing, sneezing or straining) can benefit from Kegel exercises.
HOW DO KEGEL EXERCISES HELP URINARY INCONTINENCE?
Kegel exercises can strengthen the periurethral (in men and women) and perivaginal (in women) muscles that make up the muscles that help you hold urine in your bladder so you can get to the bathroom before urinating. Doing these exercises regularly can decrease the incidences of urinary incontinence you experience, and in a smaller percentage of individuals (10-15 percent) will even totally resolve the incontinence. You need to per-sist with the exercises, however, to continue to benefit from them.
If you have stress incontinence, once you learn the exercise you will be able to contract your pel-vic muscles during sneezing or coughing and de-crease the frequency and quantity of urine loss. It will take at least 4-6 weeks for your muscles to get stronger and for you to see the benefit of these exercises. For individuals who are 65 years of age and older, it may take 8 weeks to see the benefit.
HOW TO DO KEGEL EXERCISES
STEP I: Get to know where your pelvic floor muscles are by trying to stop your urine stream while paying attention to the muscles that do this. Place your hand on your lower abdomen to feel if any tightening occurs. You want to avoid tightening your thigh muscles, your buttocks or your abdomen. Do not hold your breath. You should feel a sensation of closing and lifting in as you squeeze the pelvic floor muscles.
STEP II: Perform muscle-training exercises. Al-though these exercises can be done in any posi-tion, it may be easiest to perform them when lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Squeeze or tighten the pelvic muscles (as if you were stopping the flow of urine or the passage of gas) for 10 seconds. Then relax this muscle for 10 seconds. Repeat this process 25 times. Do a set of 25 contractions twice a day.
If you find that your muscles get tired doing 25, you can do a smaller number of contractions at a time. Try to work up to a total of 50 per day.
Try to use this muscle contraction technique to decrease the passage of urine when you cough or sneeze.
After a 6-8 week period you may cut down to 25 contractions daily to maintain the benefits you have gained (decreased episodes of urinary incontinence).
COMMON MISTAKES WHEN DOING KEGEL EXERCISES
It is important to do the exercises correctly; improper or poor form may make the inconti-nence worse. Common mistakes include contract-ing the stomach muscles, thigh muscles and mus-cles of the buttocks, or holding your breath. Focus on keeping your stomach, buttocks and thigh muscles relaxed. The muscle you want to work on is your pelvic muscle.