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If you run exercise classes for women, it is more likely than not that your participants will experience pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.

This is because the statistics are that one in two women who have had a vaginal birth will have a prolapse, one in three women (regardless of whether they’ve had children) will have incontinence, and stress incontinence (the leakage of urine with exertion such as coughing or jumping) occurs in over 50% of women who participate in high impact exercise.

And if your female participants or patients are in their childbearing years, chances are you will regularly have pregnant or early postnatal women under your care.

So considering that so many women will suffer with pelvic floor muscle dysfunction issues (possibly silently) and/or be pregnant, and considering that certain exercises involving high impact, heavy load or abdominal muscle activation can possibly cause or make the issues worse, the question is – are you screening for these issues adequately, and do you know what to do and how to modify if someone tells you that do have issues or they are pregnant?

The reality is that our training to become fitness professionals and health care professionals doesn’t necessarily go into detail on these topics, and that’s why FitRight has created a workshop called CoreEd that is aimed at increasing knowledge about exercise for women in the community, and is run by physiotherapists with extra training in the area of Women’s Health.

The workshop can be modified to be aimed at fitness professionals, gym participants, physiotherapists, doctors, or other health professionals, and can cover any related topics including:

  • What is the Pelvic Floor and the Core and what are the consequences of dysfunction in this area?
  • How can you screen clients/patients for pelvic floor muscle dysfunction?
  • How can different exercises help or worsen pelvic floor related issues in women?
  • How and why should exercise be modified during pregnancy?
  • What constitutes optimal postnatal return to exercise, and why can’t you just “listen to your body”?
  • What is the role of a specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapist in exercise and pelvic floor muscle health?

We asked F45 Rockingham owner Brenda Lee about her experience with FitRight CoreEd, after Taryn Watson led a workshop for them on the topics of pelvic floor and exercise during pregnancy.

What made you decide to book a FitRight CoreEd Workshop for your staff and clients at Rockingham F45? 

We decided to book a FitRight Workshop for our staff and clients after hearing great feedback from one of our team members who had worked one on one with FitRight owner Taryn Watson during and after her pregnancy. Also, we currently had 12 active members (including 3 staff) all who were pregnant and wanting to educate themselves on the safest ways to continue HIIT training after receiving a medical all clear to exercise. We were finding that medical professionals were not so familiar or highly educated on modification options with exercise apart from the standard safeguard responses.

We wanted to make sure we took the extra care and time to educate these first time mothers as to what risks could be associated with this type of training during and after pregnancy (remembering HIIT training is not generally recommended for pregnant women) and how to safely modify during each stage of gestation. Our trainers also requested more resources on safe modifications and identifying ways to know when an exercise is no longer suitable for our pregnant ladies to perform. Our trainers wanted to be confident that they were taking care and prescribing the safest exercise options for each individual.

What aspects of pregnancy exercise do you feel your trainers were most keen to learn about? 

They were most keen to know when to start modifications, at what stages certain exercises needed to be removed from a pregnant woman’s programs and how different exercise options impacted the pelvic floor.

How much information do most fitness professionals get about pelvic floor muscle dysfunction in their training? 

It was essentially non-existent in our training. It was a surprise to learn that approximately one third of women suffer from urinary incontinence, pregnant or not, and the percentage was higher for athletic women in high impact sport such as the training we offer!

What feedback did you have from your trainers after the FitRight Education Workshop? 

They loved it and found it very informative. We all received much more understanding of the pelvic floor, which for our industry can be both uncomfortable and in some circumstances an inappropriate topic for both member and trainer to discuss during exercise. We all understand more now how having a qualified affiliate support such as FitRight can allow both the trainer and the mother to feel comfortable and confident that they know where to access further information as needed, especially if they have a male trainer that they might not feel comfortable talking to about these things. 

The trainers learnt a lot about when its appropriate to refer to a professional on these sensitive topics. They understand that they need to remember that we don’t specialise in this and need to stay within the scope of our qualification.

What was really great was that the trainers learnt that it can be safe for mothers to continue to train with correct modifications (and ideally co-management with a physiotherapist) even though the common misconception is that HIIT training should not be performed by pregnant women at all.

Do you feel that there is anything in general that F45 Rockingham will do in future to change the process of training pregnant clients? 

Yes we have implemented a pregnancy waiver and information document for all pregnant women who train with us, briefing them on the information we have learnt from the FitRight CoreEd Workshop and we would love to incorporate a pre-screening assessment in conjunction with the educated physios at FitRight as an option for mothers to work with them for the more intricate areas of pregnancy.

Lastly, we would highly recommend attending education workshops like these and working alongside an affiliation or a passionate professional such as Taryn and FitRight if you are a trainer, gym owner, or specialised studio who will experience working with pregnant women to avoid any unsafe or uneducated modifications or suggestions to your members or clients.

Contact us to organise a 2 or 3 hour workshop and decide how we can modify the information for your team to get the most out of it. Practical sessions with real time ultrasound assessment and/or exercise demonstrations can be negotiated.