Healing Prolapse: Why Squats are the Best Exercise for Women

The floor doesn’t have to be out of reach, and getting up from the floor shouldn’t be a team activity. Squats are a fundamental, full body exercise for balance, flexibility and strength that allow you to do more, better, and look good in the process.

In the pursuit of wellness, your foundation has to be solid. Inner strength and the ability to weather storms is more important than merely looking good. Squats are the bedrock of fitness. They develop the fundamental muscles necessary for security and strength in daily life.

I did not grow up knowing how to use my body properly. Exercise wasn’t really my gig. I didn’t realize how much could go wrong without a base fitness plan. After the birth of my second son, I was advised to not pick up my children. That was not good advice. Our inner organs are held in place by ligaments and the surrounding muscles of the core and pelvic floor. The diaphragm regulates pressure in the cavity, which helps to support the spine and pelvic floor while lifting heavy objects. Without proper breathing and muscle tone all the way around, back pain is likely and a hernia or prolapse will appear. A minor slip on a wet floor could turn into a major injury. Proper core fitness is crucial to moving and accomplishing daily activities safely.

But I didn’t know all that, so I’ll skip ahead and tell you that four more children didn’t make anything better. Groceries and babies still needed lifting, regardless of how much it damaged my body. Although I never mentioned it, I was not alone. Depending on the source, anywhere from 20-50% of women have some sort of pelvic floor disorder or outright prolapse. Surgery is available, but again, depending on the source, failure rates for the different surgeries are 37-60%. This is deplorable. Like most ailments on the rise today, these are almost completely preventable.

Losing tone in your body doesn’t come from age – it comes from lack of proper use. Our bodies are designed to maintain integrity, heal from injury and continue to work well through the years. Yet, I struggled with the fact that, although my chiropractor could adjust everything back into place, it wouldn’t stay. Kegels were good, but insufficient. They only work the bottom sling of the torso, not the supporting structure. In order to strengthen the internal web holding organs in place- tighten the puppeteer’s strings, if you will – squats need to be incorporated.

Squatting is a natural human movement, and should be a part of our everyday activities. Somehow, though, the western world has nearly eliminated the need for squatting with the invention of toilets and EZLift recliners – much to our detriment. A squat, done properly, maintains flexibility of the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. With proper flexibility comes solid muscle tone to hold those major joints in alignment. It is really a whole body exercise that strengthens and stabilizes the foundational muscles. With a strong core and rear end, falls are more easily avoided and getting back up from a fall is much easier.

It was hard at first. I didn’t see much change, and if anything, it seemed like I got worse. My knees hurt and my heels would not stay down. I found out how little I actually flex my hips, and had to learn where my glute muscles were. My breathing while lifting was actually pushing my organs out of place. I worked to match my form to the fitness experts on youTube. I was motivated by seeing disability rails next to every toilet in America and photos of people in foreign countries happily squatting for hours next to their wares at the market or over their work. I couldn’t even get in that position, much less hold it for hours AND get back up!!

Several sites helped me immensely. The first, to help me bring that prolapse under control and learn proper breathing, was the “Lift” series by FemFusion Fitness, which is a treasure trove of everything women’s fitness. The second, to improve strength and posture, was Foundation Training. His 12-minute workout is one of the best I’ve ever found for keeping my body working well. The biggest thing in learning to squat properly was to realize that the hips are a big hinge: start by bending there and pushing your weight back. Keep your weight in your heels, don’t let your knees go past your toes or fall inward, and try to make strong angles with hips and shoulders (curving your lower back or shoulders signals a need for better strength.) Work on form first, and depth of squat later. Here’s a good example –

Don’t think you have to join a gym to do this. I began doing a little each day, whatever I could fit in or felt like doing (or remembered to do.) Within two weeks, my kids commented that my posture had changed. I looked stronger. Whenever kids notice Mom, that’s significant. It took a few more months, but prolapse is no longer something that bothers me. Every week I am stronger and feel more secure. I don’t worry about picking up a child or a bag of dog food.

Fitness is a choice. It is up to you what you choose to lose or to keep. The floor doesn’t have to be out of reach, and getting up from ground level shouldn’t be a team activity. Squats are a fundamental, full body exercise for building balance, flexibility and strength, allowing you to do more, better, and look good in the process. Add a set or two into your day for 30 days, and see if it doesn’t change your baseline fitness. Your body was designed to work, and work well for many years. With the right foundation and maintenance, it will do so for a lifetime.

Getting it Done: Achieving the Goals You Set

You had great intentions. Two weeks ago, you set a goal to become a better person, and you threw yourself into it. But now a few days have been missed, and rationalizations have dismissed much of the initial importance. It’s beginning to look like you’re just like everyone else, after all. Another week and what was so important three weeks ago is about to be another embarrassing failure.

It doesn’t have to be. The question is: “How do I break down my goal into achievable steps and then, how do I follow through on them?” There are so many facets here. I’ll try to hit the ones I see and hopefully have something that helps you.

Specific steps depend on what the big goal is, of course. But determining what those steps are is somewhat generalizable. For anything new to become a habit, the old way of doing things has to change. Something has to drop, and a better routine must take its place. Wholesome foods must replace junk food, and a reading or exercise plan will have to supercede another, less productive activity.

Tap into something that already works.

Think about what’s working already. If you have a good morning routine of shower, shave and shine, then tap into it. Add exercise to the front of it, or a devotional time to the end of it. Some years ago, my exercise plan fell apart. My lifelong walk-the-dog-after-dinner habit went down the drain with the advent of children. I had to rethink it. It was harder, but it worked. I woke up with my husband’s alarm and went for a walk while he got ready in the morning. I already had an accomplishment under my belt by the time I’d entered the shower.

Another idea I came across last year was to do a few exercises every time you go to the bathroom. Ten squats, 10 sink push-ups and 10 tricep dips on the edge of the counter – then wash your hands and walk out. Depending how many times you visit the restroom, you could get a decent amount of exercise in this way. If you’re doing this in the company restroom, you may get some strange looks on occasion; but hey – we all need a good laugh, right?

If you don’t have something good you can tag onto, start one. One very cold winter, I could not get outside. My attitude was in the toilet and I had no motivation for anything. I needed an infusion of positivity. I chose a book (it could be anything, but mine was a Bible study) and made myself a warm, health-inspired mocha and nestled into a sunny corner. I couldn’t believe it when the dog curled up on my feet. It was perfect. And it was easy to remember to do the next day – it has now been my habit for several years.

Make it rewarding.

Do you see the magic bullet that made each of my strategies stick? It’s the reward. With my morning walk, it was the feeling of accomplishment during a time I normally wasted waiting for the shower. In my bathroom scenario, little snippets of exercise add up quickly – when else was I going to fit 50 squats and push-ups into my day?? And the Bible study hit my positivity button before I ever opened the Book. Seek steps that reward the effort.

This is harder with food. You have to be careful not to take the cheap reward. Choosing something smarter that still hits the spot but does not trigger an insulin response is tricky. Grabbing a Snickers bar is reward in itself. But 20 minutes later, the body is craving another sugar hit. You have to find something with a similar mouthfeel without the carbs. I keep a pretty bowl of something on my desk, usually raw cashews, that is easier to snitch than getting up to get what I don’t need.

Plan ahead, and commit to the plan.

So here’s the next tip that I just alluded to: Plan ahead. If it’s for exercise, lay out your clothes and sneakers the night before. I have been waylaid by something as simple as my elderly dog asleep across the door of the closet. It’s easier for me to go back to bed than move him. Clothes laid out take away any excuse and guilt-trip you into working the plan. For reading goals, make sure to set up your desk or reading area the night before. Make it comfortable and welcoming, with a special coaster for the coffee cup. Dust and bills gleaming in the morning sun are not welcoming. Keeping those at bay become secondary goals – that must be addressed, too.

And this is where solid intentions make the difference. It is your goal to actually do this, so the clothes must be laid out, the dust must be abated and the bills have to be under control (or at least elsewhere.) Setting aside a minute to do the supplementary goals makes the primary goal more likely to happen. If any one of these things gets done, you need to recognize it as an accomplishment. You are further ahead than yesterday!! (You may not have gotten out the door for that run, but you’ve now figured out what you’re going to wear to run tomorrow. You are a step ahead!) Little strides make big changes.

Make a plan for your plan. Know which route you’re taking, or how far you intend to read. Have a backup plan for illness or setbacks (There are plenty of options for even seated yoga moves at Darebee.com) Set out the recipe for the new meal. Remember, it’s easier to just do the plan in the morning than to come up with a new idea. My grandmother always set out an egg the night before for her breakfast. She had to use it now that it had sat out all night. She committed herself to her plan, and it worked.

Notice the progress.

We are all works in progress. With intentional effort each day toward the goal, however little, overall improvement happens. If you realize later in the day that you forgot to (whatever it is), then at your next moment, do it. Even if you have to get back up out of bed to do it before you go to sleep, that’s where the real progress happens. At this point, partial completion sometimes has to be enough. Five chapters won’t happen at bedtime, and 45 minutes of cardio probably isn’t smart. But one chapter, or one set of squats moves you toward the goal and does not allow an inch of failure.

And that inch forward is what gets you there. Don’t worry about the day you fall down. You’re bigger than that setback. Get back in the saddle in the morning. If something isn’t working, sit down and rework the plan. I’ve reset my exercise goal three times already this year. But it’s okay, because I’ve exercised every day. The goal wasn’t to complete X workout; it was to exercise daily.

Stop and assess every night before bed or at the end of every Friday. What have you done? Did you get 3 days in? How does that compare to where you were before you started? If it’s an improvement, you are making strides. If you’re losing ground, assess that, too. If boredom is getting you down, change the plan for next week. You are not failing; you are finding what works. Boredom is similar to muscle fatigue: you’ve accomplished what you set out to do and it’s time to step up your game. You have achieved your initial goal! Mark this on your Achieved list!

Every day, every Monday is a new beginning. Be intentional about getting better and becoming the best you possible. Because it is possible. You are worth the investment. You just have to go out there and do it. And then you just must celebrate the victory. Comment below with your victory – I’d love to celebrate with you!!

My son, celebrating his way.

** Personal note: Some years ago, I was coming off a pretty serious ankle injury. I was given a camera, which set in motion what has since become this article. I set myself a goal of finding one photo-worthy thing each day. I had to walk to find it, and was not allowed to photograph the same thing twice. In just a few months, I went from walking to the end of my driveway to several miles a day, renewed my love of photography and conquered depression – all from that one goal.

All photos in this blog are mine unless otherwise noted, and are copyrighted.