How to make Kegel Exercises Effective and Fun with the Elvie Personal Trainer
Kegel Exercises should ideally be part of a woman’s daily routine. Kegels, also known as pelvic floor muscles are located between the tailbone and pubic bone.They are critical for ensuring good bladder control and also help maintain a strong and balanced core.
You may be wondering why so much importance, time and effort should be put into making your pelvic floor muscles stronger, and how they came to be weakened in the first place. Various activities and milestones in a woman’s life can put stress on the pelvic floor muscles, particularly pregnancy and labour, and even impact sports such as jogging or running.
As many as one in three women have ongoing problems with incontinence after their first baby – and the problem may only get worse the more children they have. As pelvic floor muscles have weakened from the strain of pregnancy and childbirth, they do not provide the support they should. Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) occurs when the pressure in the bladder wall becomes too great for the urethra (the tube through which urine passes) to withstand.
Despite this being a very common condition, many women do little about it, or if they do seek help, struggle to get the treatment they need. A whole industry has grown up around bladder weakness with the dreaded incontinence pads being pushed at us in an attempt to normalise the problem and profit from it. Or am I simply being cynical here?
Although small compared to other muscles, the pelvic floor when strengthened, can help a lot with SUI, as well as promoting a more stable core, and an improvement in a woman’s sex life. The problem is, Kegel exercises are not easy to perform correctly: isolating these small muscles is challenging, and very often you can end up tensing your thigh muscles instead – holding your breath and achieving very little. Trying to remember to do Kegel exercises regularly enough is also quite difficult, and the lack of results makes you simply prefer to give up and hope that everything will just sort itself out without needing to do anything more about it. Just avoid jumping on a trampoline, laughing too hard or coughing, and all will be well…. ha ha.
So what are the options if you’re bored or disillusioned with trying to do Kegel exercises but still want to strengthen the hidden muscles of your pelvic floor?
Answer: The Elvie – an egg-shaped, sensor-packed device that’s inserted into the vagina (and removed with a small handle) and guides you through an exercise programme with the help of your smartphone. Yes. That’s right. A very Personal Trainer.
These days, with fitness gadgets tracking everything from sleep to calories, the Elvie joins their ranks and tracks the fitness and strength of this set of muscles – while providing a method for strengthening them.
‘The pelvic floor is the core of what makes us women and affects how we feel about ourselves,’ says Dr Tania Boler, founder of the Elvie.
She adds: ‘Kegel exercises may be the first type of exercise that comes to mind when wanting to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, but how do you know if you’re doing them correctly – or making any kind of improvement?’
How Does It Work?
You clench your muscles around it in five-minute workouts designed to ‘lift and tone’.
While you do this, multiple sensors measure the pressure – and this information is relayed via Bluetooth to an app on your smartphone to offer real-time feedback on your technique.
This helps with practising Kegel exercises correctly and updates users with their progress.
‘1 in 3 women push down in kegel exercises instead of pulling up, which can strain muscles,’ Boler says. However, she is confident that Elvie users will be well informed about how they are moving these muscles during their pelvic exercises as Elvie has motion sensors that indicate if you are using your muscles to push or pull and send you messages about your progress to your smartphone.
The Elvie smartphone app generates five minute workouts tailored for each individual, that focus on building up strength and control. Elvie’s workouts are designed in a game-like format to make strengthening muscles fun. You are basically controlling a little blue gem on the screen. You progress through different levels, and the workouts become steadily more challenging. After each five minute exercise ‘routine’ you will receive an ‘LV’ score, which gives a breakdown of your overall performance, and is stored to keep track of your improvements in muscle strength.
In the company’s own trials 8/10 women felt improvements after using the Elvie,
My Experience with the Elvie
I have to confess at being rubbish at ‘doing’ pelvic floor exercises. I know how important they are but I just lack the discipline and often simply forget about them. So when I read about Elvie I was intrigued, firstly because it fulfilled a need I had to actually get on with exercising, secondly because it was something I could in theory do anywhere and any time, and last but by no means least, it involved using my smartphone, which is always a bonus for me. The little gadget is very discreet and its carrying case also acts as its charger.
Unlike ‘conventional’ toners,the Elvie doesn’t buzz or vibrate (cue giggles) to let you know how you are doing, rather the correct squeezes are represented by a little blue gem on your smartphone screen. There are three different types of exercise that you do over your five minute session: Lift, Pulse and Hold (you can repeat the session as many times as you wish but quite honestly at least in the early stages, once is enough…) You will firstly be asked to do a squeeze test to find your benchmark level. This becomes your target for your current five minute session.
Lift involves keeping the gem above the line of your level for 10 seconds in the early stages. I found this one pretty ok to do:
The Pulse part is the one I find more difficult as it involves squeezing and relaxing the muscles to hit a line of spaced ‘targets’ with the gem. Maybe it’s the timing and the co-ordination but I found the gem bounced between the targets and I hardly hit any at all.
The Hold part involves squeezing and keeping the gem in a circle:
The final exercise in the routine is another Lift exercise where you squeeze as hard as you can and attempt to push the gem up through increasing levels: imagine one of those old-fashioned fairground attractions where you hit a hammer and watch how high up the tower it goes. The idea is that you increase your level and improve every time:
At the end of the five minute routine you will get the summary of how well (or otherwise) you have done:
As you can see from my screenshot, I got a strength LVs of 61 and also a Keep Trying in the Pulse section!
At this stage you are given the chance to repeat the workout, with the aim of further improving your performance. However, I would say here that little and often are the way to go, and I stick with doing the routine through just the once for now.
The programme can move you quite quickly through the levels, which means things can become challenging (which is probably a good thing ) and can take a bit of adjusting to. I found that I was not always consistently improving as I could feel tired one day and not perform as well as previously. One thing it did flag up for me was a tendency to hold my breath whilst doing the squeezes: once you are having to do a Hold for 30 seconds as opposed to 10 seconds you realise that you will need to normalise your breathing whilst performing the exercises – another good thing to learn.
However the important thing is to persist with the routine, and feel confident that you are at last doing the Kegel exercises properly. After one month of use, my pelvic floor muscles were stronger and more toned, I could definitely feel the difference from their previous state.
The Elvie is convenient and easy to use, and you will definitely start to feel improvements in a couple of weeks. It’s challenging, but in a thoroughly productive way, and you are reassured by having a visual representation on your smartphone screen that you are doing the exercises correctly.
The Elvie currently costs £169 in the UK, which is pretty comparable to a decent fitness tracker. It isn’t a quick fix solution, it doesn’t do the work for you, but it does make sure that your efforts are rewarded with results and it’s fun and easy to use.
I expect the improvements I have already noticed to continue with regular use of the Elvie. I highly recommend it. Squeeze the moment! You won’t regret it.