Ah, skating, whether inline, roller or ice….such a hypnotic exercise…even if you’re only watching! There are not many forms of exercise that give you that feeling of flow. It’s so mesmerizing you just don’t want to stop the flow…
Did someone say “stop the flow”? Speaking of “stop the flow”, let’s talk about the pelvic floor!
The pelvic floor muscles are what help you stop the flow of urine midstream, and hold on to get to the toilet in time. They are a key part of the control of your pelvis. The pelvic floor, quite logically, forms the FLOOR of the pelvis. So these muscles really are the foundation of controlled movement and are a key part of your core. Let’s not be “ab-centric” – the pelvic floor is part of the core too! Don’t forget – the floor forms the core!
Back to skating (and I’m going to focus on inline skating here, sometimes known as rollerblading). Good skating requires good core muscle activation, and we know that the pelvic floor is a key part of the core. So logically, having good control of your pelvic floor will help your skating.
But what if you don’t have a great pelvic floor? What if you have bladder leakage (stress incontinence) or prolapse (a loss of support of your pelvic organs)? If you have pelvic floor problems, can you still skate? And furthermore…could skating actually be HELPFUL for a troubled pelvic floor?
YES! Inline skating can be a wonderful choice of exercise if you have pelvic floor problems, like stress incontinence or prolapse. Here are three key reasons.
Inline skating has potentially got the rigour of running, without the impact.
High-impact exercise, like running and most sports, can be a problem for the pelvic floor for at least two reasons. One, if you have a leaky bladder, you will almost certainly be more likely to leak with impact (i.e. when your foot hits the ground). If you have a prolapse or weak or “dropping” pelvic floor, the impact increases the force on the pelvic floor, making it more droopy. This can lead to prolapse. If you already have a prolapse (which, by the way, you may not know about), it can worsen the prolapse. Thankfully, inline skating generally is not high impact. (The only exception is if you are jumping on skates, and this is easily avoided). Inline skating, as a low-impact exercise, tends to be much safer for your pelvic floor. And although the trunk can be bent right forward for speed skating, which puts more pressure on the pelvic floor, this is also easily avoided.
Inline skating is glute-heavy.
Inline skating is all about GLUTES. In fact, it uses all of your gluteal muscles – both those that give you power in your push-off, and those that control the position of your pelvis. Going uphill in particular puts the glutes to work. So does increasing your speed, or going longer distances. If you skate a lot – particularly urban skating outdoors, rather than in a rink – one of the muscles you’ll build up the most is the glutes. This includes the gluteus maximus muscles, which give buttocks their characteristic protruding shape, and the gluteus medius muscles, which prevent you waddling when you walk by controlling your pelvic movement. Good glutes are critical for protecting your pelvic floor for 3 reasons:
One, glute contraction tends to promote pelvic floor contraction along with it.
So when you work your glutes, you get two for the price of one.
Two, strong glutes mean you can squat and bend without using your back as much.
When you avoid slumping your back with bending and lifting, it reduces the pressure on the pelvic floor.
Three, good glutes mean you improve your balance.
Balance is everything in skating. When people initially get on skates, they feel especially wobbly in the ankles. This can give the false impression that skating is all about ankle strength. It’s true that skating works the ankles like not much else! But actually, the most important muscles in one-legged balance are the glutes. Which brings me to the next point….
Inline skating works your balance muscles.
As anyone who has been on skates knows, skating is all about balance! You can be a great athlete, but without good balance, you won’t be able to skate well. Good balance is one of the most important yet overlooked attributes in a healthy pelvic floor. Good balance means you have a quick reaction time and your muscles are always ready for action. Therefore, your muscles anticipate the next movement, and work in time to protect you. When your muscles aren’t anticipating movement, they can be late to contract. If this happens, your bladder is more likely to leak with sudden movements, because your muscles aren’t “ready”. Skating makes your muscles ready for action!
Inline skating improves your muscle endurance and posture.
Inline skating is a great sport for improving the endurance of the muscles of your legs and trunk, which is great for posture. One of the things you’ll notice when you start skating is the muscle aches. As a beginner, it’s often in your ankles. But as you become more proficient and go farther, you will feel it not only in your quads (thighs) and glutes (buttocks), but in your back. These muscles are used much more intensively than in long walking. When you build up the endurance in muscles – especially your back and glutes – ordinary everyday tasks are much easier. Things like housework, looking after kids, or being on your feet aren’t as hard, and you don’t get as sore. Also, because your muscles have better endurance, they help you maintain a good posture for longer. Good posture is critical for a healthy pelvic floor. When your postural muscles are working, your pelvic floor muscles tend to as well, because they work together. But not only that – if your posture is better, you won’t put as much pressure on your pelvic floor. Constant slumping, especially with bending, is an enemy to the pelvic floor, and promotes prolapse symptoms. Good posture from muscles with good strength and endurance protects your pelvic floor.
As you can see, there’s a multitude of ways that skating can benefit your pelvic floor. So, time to make the leap to start (or return to) skating? Well, not so fast…there are a few precautions to consider first. Tune in to the next blog post to find out more.