Boosting Athletic Performance
Getting the Most from Exercise
Exercise is an important part of healthy living, both in terms of physical and mental health.
For some people, sporting and athletic activities are more than just a past-time or a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle – it can be a highly competitive and important part of their life where optimal athletic performance is critical.
That’s why there’s no one ‘right way’ to exercise. We all have different exercise goals and preferences.
If you have, or are at risk of, pelvic floor problems it’s important you seek professional advice before you commence, or continue with, any exercise programme.
The Importance of the Pelvic Floor
However, there is one area that’s important to everyone, regardless of their exercise goals – having an engaged, functional and well performing core.
And a vital component of your core is your pelvic floor – it forms the foundation for all movement, balance, stability and flexibility.
Almost every exercise or physical activity you do affects your pelvic floor. And some activities place greater stress on your pelvic floor than others. For example, you can be at significant risk of developing pelvic floor problems if you are involved in high impact or high stress sports or activities such as:
- gymnastics or trampolining
- athletics or triathlon
- basketball or netball
- rugby, soccer or hockey
- tennis, squash or badminton
- boxing or other martial arts
- weightlifting or weight training
- crossfit, aerobics or other exercise classes, or
- running, skipping or jumping.
In fact, any activity or exercise that places constant and excessive downward pressure on your pelvic floor can lead to issues and injury, or worsen existing conditions, if there is any muscle weakness or imbalance in the pelvic floor muscles.
It can also significantly affect athletic performance by limiting strength, speed and movement, and leave you vulnerable to injury to joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.
And of course, it can increase the risk of more personal issues such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or sexual dysfunction.
It’s All About the Core
Most of us have heard of the term ‘core’ but what does this really mean? Many people believe their core refers to their abs and lower back, but the true core is more than that. In fact, the pelvic floor is a significant piece of your body’s core.
Your core consists of four key components:
- the pelvic floor muscles
- the deep abdominal muscles (Transversus Abdominis)
- the deep stabilising spinal muscles (Multifidus), and
- the diaphragm (i.e. the ‘breathing muscle’).
Core stability therefore doesn’t just require a healthy back and strong abdominals, it also requires healthy pelvic floor function. Even if you have incredibly strong abdominals, if you’re not activating your pelvic floor muscles and deep spinal stabilisers correctly, you may not be optimising your core stability.
Why is the Core So Important?
Your core works to support the spine and control the pressure inside the abdomen. For example, during exercise (e.g. lifting a weight) the internal pressure in the abdomen changes (e.g. the internal pressure increases while the weight is being lifted, then returns to normal when the weight is put down).
A fully functioning core will actually anticipate and prepare us for whatever activity we are about to undertake before we even move. In a dysfunctional core, the ability to anticipate and prepare is hindered in some way and this can result in significant pain and injury.
Improving Athletic Performance
Your pelvic floor muscles are an integral part of your core. And, like any group of muscles, it’s very important to exercise them so they function properly. Doing this will not only have significant health benefits, it will also improve athletic performance.
At the Coregood Institute we can offer a full range of non-surgical treatment options, and tailor a plan to help you strengthen your entire core and reduce the risk or incidence injury while exercising or competing.