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POP Journal: We're Ok, Brain

POP Journal chronicles my personal experience with pelvic organ prolapse. For new readers, I’m currently almost 4 years postpartum.

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I’ve been back in the gym for my own workouts with my coach for a month after taking a three-month hiatus. I knew a couple of things going into it:

  1. I was going to be very sore the first week. While being sore (or not) doesn’t necessarily mean that you had a “good” workout (or not), I knew that doing movements I hadn’t done in awhile would absolutely leave my muscles aching.

  2. I was going to feel a little out of shape: weights would feel heavier, my endurance wouldn’t be quite as good as it was before the break, and pushing myself mentally would be more challenging.

  3. My gym has no AC, I live in east Tennessee, and I train in the early afternoon. I gave myself a 50/50 chance of melting into a sweaty puddle within the first 15 minutes, leaving behind a workout tank with an inspiring, yet ultimately ironic sentiment given my unfortunate demise.

I felt GREAT the first two weeks. Sore, yes. Deconditioned, yes. Hotter than hell, yes, but it is what is it. After that re-entry period, my workouts got more challenging, and that’s when I felt it while I was deadlifting: pelvic floor pressure. Discomfort. That terrible achy feeling.

My fellow POP-tarts (is it ok if I call you that? I just can’t get behind “prolapsee”), I know you feel me when I say that my knee-jerk reaction was START PANICKING.

I did too much. I pushed too hard. This was the end of my strength training, over before it had barely begun. This was—

STOP IT. BRAIN, YOU STOP IT RIGHT NOW.

Discomfort does not necessarily equal damage. Pressure does not necessarily equal a worsened prolapse.

I thought about how my legs ached when I got off the stationary bike. Did achy legs mean that I’d torn a muscle or severed a tendon? No, of course not. My legs were achy because they weren’t used to it.

Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles, and these muscles are working even when you’re not doing isolated exercises like kegels. Squatting? Pelvic floor. Deadlifting? Pelvic floor. Carrying your screaming toddler surfboard-style out of Target? Pelvic floor.

Why should soreness be normal and even anticipated everywhere else in my body, but provoke sheer panic when it’s my pelvic floor?

I reconsidered my reaction. I talked my deadlifting strategy over with my coach, and he helped me make some adjustments. I slowed down and consciously relaxed my pelvic floor between reps; unconsciously I was holding a LOT of tension there, and it felt like it was up around my neck. I rested a little longer between sets if I felt like the pressure was building, sometimes lying down on the turf with my feet up on a box. My coach knows about all this, and doesn’t push me to get up before I’m ready.

“You ok?” he asks. Thumbs up from the floor. 👍

After a month, I can walk downstairs after a workout without my quads screaming at me. I can blow-dry my hair without my arms feeling like noodles. I can make it through a whole workout, deadlifts included, and feel minimal or no pressure at all.

Understanding that what I’m feeling in my pelvic floor is no different than the fatigue the rest of my body feels is a total game-changer for me. If we accept that the pelvic floor is a group of muscles like any other, WHICH IT IS, BRAIN, than the guidelines for smart workout progressions still apply. I’m not maxing out on my lifts or running 10 miles at a time; my hamstrings aren’t ready for that either.

People with prolapse are given so many restrictions and guidelines and told so many horror stories that, quite frankly, can scare the shit out of us and stop us from doing anything at all — if we let it. I don’t think we need to live like that. I WON’T live like that.

I’m going to keep working on my mindset, keep going to the gym, and keep calm.

I’m ok. Thumbs up from the floor. 👍