Kegel 101: How do you do Kegel exercises?
Mastering the art of the Kegel is of the utmost importance for training effectively and safely with Perifit.
"Effectively" because if you squeeze the wrong muscles, it's unlikely that you'll train the pelvic floor muscles. And if you don't train your pelvic floor muscles, you aren't likely to improve your continence, pelvic floor support, or sex life. Besides, a proper Kegel contraction will also help to suck the Perifit up, thus preventing it from sliding out.
"Safely" because if you're pushing down with the abs instead of lifting up with the pelvic floor muscles, you're exerting a harmful downward pressure. If this happens too often on an already fragile pelvis, this could lead to disorders or accelerate prolapse. In this article, we're learning how to do Kegel exercises properly.
Squeezing your pelvic floor muscles
The two most useful verbal clues are:
- "squeeze like you're trying to block wind"
- "squeeze like you're trying to stop the flow of urine" (but don't make a habit of doing it while urinating as it increases the risk of urinary tract infection)
... and you want to do it while keeping all other muscles relaxed, in particular your abs, thighs, and buttocks.
It may be hard at first, but don't despair. It's similar to playing the piano: at first, all fingers move together, but then you begin to give each of them their independence, and it becomes effortless to move one without affecting the others.
Picture yourself on a date with a romantic partner. Suddenly, wind is coming. You would like to block it while keeping a relaxed smile on your face.
So you squeeze only your pelvic floor muscles and nothing else. Done. It's really that easy! 😎
How do you know if you’re doing you Kegels properly? Another way to make sure that you're squeezing your pelvic floor muscles is to place a finger on your perineum (the space between the anus and the vulva). You should feel something move there when you squeeze.
Relaxing your pelvic floor muscles
But a proper Kegel is more than a contraction. The next step is to let go of any tension in your pelvic floor muscles to allow them to rest and lengthen.
Good results are achieved through a strong contraction, but the pelvic floor muscles get fatigued pretty quickly. Thus, relaxing during the rest period is crucial to give the next contraction your full effort and get the most out of your training time.
Besides, since functional muscles are both strong AND supple, it's imperative to bear in mind that pelvic floor training is all about strengthening without tightening. An excessively tightened pelvic floor is as damaging as one that's too weak. Both will lead to the loss of bladder function, with the former creating pelvic pain and discomfort and the latter resulting in lack of support issues.
Finally, researchers have found that proper relaxation helps you enjoy the session more and thus stick with your training program.
One thing you should never do, however, is push out or bear down on the pelvic floor to help it relax.
Adding breath into the equation
As you can see in the visual below, the pelvic floor acts like a second diaphragm:
When you inhale, your diaphragm and pelvic floor lower, and the abdominal wall goes out. This prevents intra-abdominal pressure from increasing as a consequence of your inhalation.
And when you exhale, the diaphragm and pelvic floor go up and the abdominal wall goes in.
This is the usual way we function as human beings. So, during your Kegel workouts, you could follow the flow and try to contract your pelvic floor muscles when exhaling and relax them when inhaling.
Kegel exercises for beginners: a 5-step guide
Taking into account that the pelvic floor muscles are both lifting up (toward your head) and pulling forward (toward your pubis), here is a 5-step guide to achieving the perfect Kegel:
- Take a few breaths, fully relaxing your pelvis and letting go of all tensions
- On an exhalation, close from the back, like blocking wind
- Deeply relax on the following inhalation
- On the next exhalation, close from the back again and try to bring the sensation forward, like you're stopping the flow of urine
- Deeply relax on the following inhalation
What you've done with steps 4 and 5 is a perfect Kegel. Congrats!
Getting realistic with your Kegel workout
This perfect Kegel is what you could do when exercising with your Perifit in Practice mode. That is when you have full control over when to contract.
But, when you sneeze, cough, or laugh, it usually happens unexpectedly. On those occasions, you need an immediate sharp pelvic floor contraction, regardless of your breathing rhythm.
So, this is where Perifit games come into play. They ask you to relax or squeeze at a time and for a duration that you have not carefully planned for.
In other words, if the bird needs to go down to collect some lotuses at the exact time when you're inhaling, good for you, you can enjoy a deep synchronized inhale-relaxation. But if the bird needs to go up when you're inhaling, you should be able to do that, too, because that will happen in your day-to-day life.