Summer is just around the corner, and that can only mean one thing: swimsuit season. In January, women everywhere resolved to get ahead of the game this year with a new gym membership and a dedication to get in shape. Perhaps you were successful in your endeavor, and can’t wait to sport your brand-new washboard abs at the beach; bring on the heat waves! But more than likely you’re starting to realize that instead of burning up those thighs, all that gym has done is burned a hole in your bank account. It’s okay, we get it, working out is expensive, time-consuming, and just plain exhausting! But if there is one exercise regime you should never neglect, it’s your kegels.
The muscles that make up the pelvic floor are commonly referred to as “Kegel muscles”, and the benefits associated with regularly exercising these muscles are endless and widely researched. The pelvic floor muscles can weaken over time due to stresses exerted on the body from things like vigorous intercourse, stretching from pregnancy and childbirth, carrying extra weight, aging and menopause, and even certain abdominal surgeries. Stimulating contractions of these muscles regularly will help keep them toned and strong. Kegel exercises are frequently recommended by doctors to prevent urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse, and make for smoother pregnancies and transitions into menopause. Best of all, strong pelvic floor muscles will lead to more control in the bedroom, allowing you the ability to grip your partner during intercourse, and even help to induce the elusive g-spot orgasm.
Perhaps the greatest thing about kegel exercises is that they’re easy, they’re free and you can do them anywhere! First thing’s first though: let’s find those muscles! It’s time to get intimate with your body. Don’t be shy, your vagina is a beautiful thing! Start by inserting one finger as far as you can. Keeping your breathing steady, try to tighten the muscles surrounding your finger. Your vagina should give a gentle squeeze as your pelvic floor rises. Do this as many times as you can and try to hold the contraction for about five seconds if possible. Once you have identified the muscles, remove your finger and get in a comfortable position as you continue. Don’t worry if you aren’t getting it right away, it does take a little practice, particularly if your pelvic floor has weakened and the muscles have been dormant for some time. There’s a great trick to finding them if your are having trouble; during urination try to stop the flow half way through. You may not be able to stop it completely but you should now be able to identify which muscles are being used. Use this method with caution: be sure to empty your bladder completely before continuing your workout, and only use this as a means of identifying the muscles the first time. Doing kegel exercises with a full bladder can actually weaken the pelvic floor muscles, and stopping the flow of urine prematurely on a regular basis can lead to incomplete urination, which can cause infections.
Now that you’ve gotten the hang of it, try to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine. Aim to do sets of ten repetitions (holding for five seconds at a time) three times per day. The best results come when you can train yourself to isolate and flex only the pelvic floor muscles and to avoid clenching your abdominal muscles, buttox or anus.
If you’re still having trouble, or if you just want faster results, there are many products out there that assist with these exercises. Probably the most common are called Kegel or “Ben Wa” balls, which are weighted balls that are inserted into the vagina and lifted using the kegel muscles. They come in varying sizes and contrary to what you might thing, it is actually best to start with the largest size and work your way down, as your muscles may initially be too weak to hold the smallest sizes inside. Kegel balls also stimulate the secretion of natural lubrication, making them great for foreplay as well as aiding the common problem of dryness associated with menopause. I am personally an advocate of the Smartballs by Fun Factory as a beginner’s set. They are about the size of a walnut, with a hard plastic center and wrapped in non-porous silicone for easy cleaning. Another great set is Lelo’s Luna Beads (check out Erika’s Luna Beads review).
Regardless of your age, size or sexual activity, exercising your kegel muscles should be an important part of every women’s day.