If you have pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti and/or you're newly post natal, I strongly recommend that you visit a Women's Health Physiotherapist before embarking on any high impact exercises or exercise with multi-directional movement, such as Zumba.
Zumba is an aerobic fitness programme featuring movements inspired by various styles of Latin American dance and performed primarily to Latin American dance music.
Recently, I was invited to a friends Zumba class, and asked to provide feedback on any movements that may not be suitable for women with pelvic floor and core issues.
I LOVE Zumba so it didn't take much for me to accept her invitation.
I went with the aim of going at a slower pace so that I could see how many moves I could make "pelvic floor friendly". Now the atmosphere does invite you to get into it, making it easy to get carried away with the crowd. I did find myself jumping and springing more than I should have, however I believe that I have come up with a few alternatives.
Before I go into those movements, I will mention here 2 reasons that you should see a Women's Health Physiotherapist (WHP) before embarking on a class like Zumba.
1. You leak urine or faeces when you cough, sneeze, run, jump, change direction.
Wearing an incontinence panty liner and getting on with it isn't going to make the issue go away. Zumba, does have an element of jumping in there and many changes of direction. If you notice that you leak during a class, get some rehabilitation first from a WHP.
2. You have a large Diastasis Recti (tummy gap) and have trouble with balance, coordination. Especially when doing diagonal movements such as walking, running, bowling, tennis etc.
You experience doming or a "bubble" in the midline of your tummy.
If you have a tummy gap, you may need to rehabilitate those tissues to help manage load and movement without injuring your back or losing balance.
A WHP or trained Pelvic Floor & Core Coach will help you get coordinated again and get your centre communicating again.
After you have learned to connect to your body more effectively, you can start returning to higher intensity training with more awareness.
Okay! Now we've covered that, lets go into some tips and regressed moves to help you have fun without doing yourself a mischief.
(Because lets face it, you glazed over the above section right?)
Tip 1 - Arrive Early & Talk to Your Instructor
If you had a bad knee, you'd talk to your instructor about some alternatives right? Pelvic floor weakness and tummy gaps are no different.
Just because it's not on the pre screen, doesn't mean it isn't worth mentioning!
Currently, pre screening forms don't tend to ask questions related to your pelvic floor or core. If you have an issue, please get there 5 or 10 minutes early and have a chat. Your instructor may come and show you some alternatives during the class.
Tip 2 - Change Wide Squat Moves to Narrower Squats
The inside muscles of your legs (adductors) are connected to your pelvic floor. Wide stance moves could pull on the pelvic floor openings, causing leakage.
When a move calls for a wide squat, do the same action but in a narrower stance. With your feet no more than shoulder width apart.
Tip 3 - Step Instead of Jump
If you are worried about leaking when you jump, you can step the move instead. The trainer may already be demonstrating this option if there are some people with other injuries preventing them from jumping.
Again don't rely on there being others who the trainer is aware of. Make sure you speak up before the class begins.
Tip 4 - Watch out for Diagonal Moves
As mentioned earlier, if you have a Diastasis Recti (tummy gap), you may not be able to manage moves that require more coordination.
Also, some of these diagonal moves, like the side standing crunch action, are working the Oblique muscles. Tightening these muscles can increase the gap between your Rectus Abdominus (6 pack muscles).
Alternative options - just move the arm or leg or change to a forward position rather than side.
If your tummy is trying to audition for the next Alien movie, then Zumba isn't right for you at this time. See a Women's Health Physio and learn how to reconnect to your body so you can return to doing what you love with more gusto!
If you are finding the travelling moves equally difficult, you are more than welcome to move on the spot to avoid tripping over your feet.
Tip 5 - Exhale on Exertion
As with any workout, when things get hard, or as we get tired, we tend to hold our breath.
If you find that you are holding your breath during any of the moves, slow it down or pause and reset.
Don't worry about looking foolish. Everyone else is either having too much fun or trying not to fall over themselves to notice you.
Anyway, holding your breath creates a downward pressure on your pelvic floor and out into your abdomen. The air is going to escape through the path of least resistance, so unless you want to pee your panties on the dance floor:
Remember To Breathe
So there you go, 5 tips to help to support your pelvic floor and core during Zumba.
If you would like to learn how to connect to your body after pregnancy, so that you can enjoy your Zumba or [or insert gym class here].
Please visit www.connecthealth.fitness/postnatalwof to get assessed OR visit a Womens Health Physiotherapist near you.