20 Feb What fear looks like?
Women – it’s quite alright not to be Jo Pavey
This morning, a Chartered Physiotherapist who is trained in women’s health sent a link to the Grit Doctor Ruth Fields’ column in today’s Irish Times entitled ‘Women – How to run without Fear’ (here’s the link – http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/fitness/women-how-to-run-without-fear-1.2974112 . When I read it, I, like the person who sent me the link, was irritated – and here’s why.
My first read kind of missed the point I guess, probably because I deal with women who share their fears with me on a daily basis, and my reaction was certainly a bit emotive. I felt that telling women who are worried about their health to man-up and be a bit more like Jo Pavey and Paula Radcliffe was …. well let’s just say, somewhat lacking in empathy. It’s a bit like telling someone in financial difficulties to be a bit more like Alan Sugar and Donald Trump.
Everyone is different
I’m genuinely a Ruth Fields fan and loved, and regularly recommend, ‘Run, Fat Bitch, Run. I get it – we all make excuses not to do the things we know we should do. However, if working in this business has taught me one thing – it’s that everyone is different. Pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic floor issues are not a rarity – at least 1 in 3 women suffer to some degree. It doesn’t mean that the other 2 in 3 aren’t genuinely worried about it too, after all, running is actually a high impact sport.
During a calmer re-read of Ruth’s column, it’s good to see she’s recommending that people women with issues should visit a physician. There was also some practical advice about safety when you’re running alone. On the medical front, I do think it’s worth saying that that physicians or medical practitioners differ hugely in how they approach this subject, and many are simply not trained in women’s health. There are mental and emotional effects associated with these problems too – they are very real and need to be taken seriously. Different people have different tolerances for dealing with them. Tough love, and reminding them about the size of their arse might not be what they actually need.
Exercise & Activity Study – Trinity College Dublin
Here’s a few quotes from the Exercise and Activity study we conducted with Trinity College Dublin’s School of Nursing and Midwifery recently. I suppose that this is what fear feels like –
- ‘Before I had my child I exercised regularly but now it has become such as issue for me all I do is walk fast alone ‘
- ‘I exercise on my own and would be self-conscious at a gym’
- ‘It is definitely stopping me from exercising as much as I would like, making me more conscious and has changed the type of exercise I do’
- ‘It’s the anxiety relating to it that’s more the issue – urinary leakage is rare (for me) but the anticipation and anxiety can affect your confidence and how vigorous your exercise’
- ‘I used to run 40 mins 3-4 times a week and cycle 10k once a week- due to leakage I have no confidence in this now. Within 200-300 metres running/jogging even, I am leaking’.
- ‘I don’t push myself as much if I’m afraid’
- ‘I feel I cannot do any exercise in groups as worried ‘
We get similar comments and stories every day from women who are actively seeking solutions. This is how women really feel – afraid, isolated and frustrated. I don’t think they are using they’re problems as an excuse to avoid exercise or doing what they know they should be doing – they are really trying. A solution for one is useless for another. Some have had great results by seeing a physician and some have had terrible failures by taking the same route. But all of them should be commended and congratulated for keeping on trying. I think that there is a danger that articles like Ruth’s today can actually dis-empower these women by setting standards that they believe are beyond them (Derval, Paula, Jo – who have a team of people to ensure they are exercising safely around them). There’s a danger that they’ll stop talking (or won’t start) about their issues if they feel like they are perceived to be whinging and making excuses. And make no mistake – pelvic dysfunction is no myth – it’s often a taboo subject that requires open discussion.
Ruth tells us that she ‘wasn’t going to let any misogynistic nonsense about my fragile lady bits stand in my way of anything, least of all a good run’. Not everyone has that mental strength and ‘lady bits’ certainly vary from woman to woman. Many people need help, and that doesn’t make them weak or unmotivated. I’ll say it again – I’m genuinely a big fan of the #gritdoctor, but perhaps there’s some room for improvement when it comes to bed-side manner.
I’d be delighted to hear your comments on this.
PS if you have any worries with regards to your pelvic health please contact us. We are connected to some of the world’s leading women’s health physiotherapists and we are hear to listen.