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Coaching female returners? Coaches be Aware

Written with the kind permission of Alex Hewitt

This is an issue that is not talked about but may well have a great affect on adult female participation. More coaches need to be aware of bladder weakness in women.

You might be surprised how many women are let down by their pelvic floors when they exercise. Over 1 in 3 women regularly experience bladder leaks and in a survey of 2000 women conducted by Pelviva36% of women who don’t currently exercise said they would definitely start if their pelvic floor muscles were strong enough. On a psychological level over 15% of the women that Pelviva talked to said that worrying about wetting themselves stopped them from exercising the way they wanted to.

The majority of leaks during exercise are caused by weak pelvic floor musclesthat run from front to back under the pelvis. Their job is to help control the bladder and bowel; when they’re strong and working well, women tend not to focus on them. Muscles often get weaker often due to having children, the menopause or just because many women are made that way. A weak pelvic floor prevents many women from loving the sport they do, or from doing the sport they love!

Pelviva discovered that bladder leaks don’t put everyone off; in fact they found that over 16% women experience some bladder leakage while exercising; Over half of this happens while running or jumping. Some sports like netball which involve both running and jumping can cause a real problem, especially when women want to get back into the sport after a baby or if muscles weaken during the menopause.

Top tips for coaches to be aware of:

  • Emptying the bladder before exercise can reduce the chance of a leak. Ensure there’s plenty of time beforehand for loo stops. Ensure you can always point someone in the right direction to the toilet.
  • Women may need to change clothes or change a pad after exercise, so ensure they have opportunity to do this.
  • If you want to tackle this issue as a group, you can use Pelvic Floor Age Calculator to start a conversation. You’ll be surprised how easily women share experiences once a conversation has started.   
  • It’s the “S” words that can cause issues: Sprinting, Star jumps, Squat jumps, Skipping and Sit-ups. Be aware of these activities and either reduce the level or replace with something more pelvic floor friendly.
    • Star jumps and squat jumps cause issues because you’re landing with the legs wide apart. Lower impact versions will work, but why not try spotty dogs, or high knee lift runs on the spot instead?
    • Sit-ups put pressure on weak pelvic floor muscles, so try a plank or bicycle crunches. Pulling your pelvic floor upwards during these moves is a great way to strengthen the pelvic floor too.
  • Try to spot women who may be suffering, Women who always go to the loo, nip home to get changed quickly or seem to struggle with those activities which challenge their pelvic floor.
  • Point women in the right direction for help. Pelvic floor muscles can be strengthened and women do not have to put up with this.  Exercising the pelvic floor with doing pelvic floor exercises or with an exerciser like Pelviva is the best way to treat the leaks, but there are plenty of other solutions too.