…your fitness practice is killing your sex life
I know, I know, exercise is healthy.
It’s prescribed for MANY a health problem.
And movement is GREAT for ALL aspects of your health, including sex, BUT you should know that there are some popular trends in fit culture and some physiological responses to exercise that can negatively impacting your sex life.
Three Ways Your Fitness Practice is Killing Your Sex Life
1. Sex hurts from over-recruiting your abs and pelvic floor.
Recruiting your abs too much feel strong and supported in movement, to get those six-pack abs or make your stomach appear flat negatively impacts your breathing mechanics and can OVER-RECRUIT your pelvic floor!
Symptoms of an over-recruited pelvic floor are the following:
-achy tight hips
-pain during intercourse or when inserting a tampon
-abdominal gripping/tightening (you suck in or tense your belly/abs all of the time, especially during exercise)
-low back pain
-symptoms of a bladder or yeast infection, but no yeast or bacteria present?
-constipation or slow, challenging elimination
-urge, stress incontinence or maybe just a need to only workout with an empty bladder (incontinence can also be a sign of pelvic organ prolapse and a lax, under-recruited pelvic floor. Best to be evaluated by at PT if you are dealing with it!)
Um not great for sex, not great for daily life either.
Core strength and stability does NOT in fact come from having a six pack, sucking in your belly to spine or clenching your abs all of the time.
Yes the muscles of your core play a role, ESPECIALLY the DEEP ones like the transversus abdominus (sounds like a dinosaur, doesn’t it?) BUT it’s the COORDINATION of the pelvic diaphragm, thoracic diaphragm, TA and multifidi IN MOVEMENT that gives us resilient. moveable, dynamic strength.
The core is NOT designed to be this rigid, tense, inflexible cannister, but rather this DYNAMIC system of pressure, relaxation, space and compression.
Tensing your belly all of the time is a RIGID form of strength and rigid things over time, wear out, cause problems or can even break.
Ab grippin prevents your diaphragm from DESCENDING when you inhale.
It limits the coordination of your pelvic floor/diaphragm in movement-they need to move together to help you mange pressure and generate tension when needed.
It’s makes your pelvic floor work OVERTIME, so that it is too tight and too active both during exercise and after.
Work with someone that can teach you how to build strength and perform the movements you are doing in fitness WITHOUT CLENCHING your abs all of the time AND will teach you how to relax your pelvic floor consistently throughout your day to allow that tension to DISSIPATE. DOWNLOAD THIS FREEBIE!
Having a flat stomach or a six pack does NOT necessarily mean that you are at risk for pelvic floor dysfunction, BUT if you are someone that tenses their belly throughout their day and in exercise to feel strong, you might consider learning a new and different strategy ESPECIALLY if sex hurts and is uncomfortable.
2. Your libido is gone because you are over-training.
Biologically speaking, sex is designed to perpetuate the species.
When the body senses that it’s stressed, it shuts down reproductive systems because stress indicates that well, it’s not a time to make babies.
We see this with women that are under-eating or over-training and lose their fertility, but what you might not know is that even before that happens, our lack of rest and recovery from exercise can cause us to lose our desire for sex.
Basically, exercise is good for us, but it’s also a stressor.
Too much stress and not enough rest and recovery sends the body into HIGH ALERT and keeps it there until it has recovered, become less stressed.
If we stay in this state too long or too often, our body becomes LESS sensitive to cortisol and we also experience a decrease in dopamine and serotonin. Testosterone also decreases, which is a MAJOR driver of libido in both men AND women!
Take a second look at your programming and or gym habits.
For my clients, I recommend working out NO MORE than two consecutive days in a row without resting, UNLESS they are temporarily training hard for a race, performance, etc.
Most people aren’t professional athletes or competitors.
Most of us are working a typical stress-inducing job and doing their best to have adequate, high quality nutrition and 8-9 hours of sleep night.
We can’t train like athletes, even if we feel like them, because it’s not our JOB.
We don't have the recovery and nutrition resources that they do.
Exhaustion, persistence soreness and injury are signs of over-training, but if your libido is subpar, I would DEFINITELY take a second look at how much and how often you are exercising WITH RESPECT to how much stress you have in your life outside of exercise.
If your libido is suffering, take a week or two off from training. Get in some sleep, walks, adequate nutrition and gentle movement and see if you experience improvement in this area?
3. You’re insecure in your appearance from too much #fitspo
This is one that I hear about OFTEN from my momma clients.
Watching how age, babies and time constraints have impacted our bodies can for SURE shake our confidence in our bodies.
Confidence is an IMPORTANT aspect of sexual health.
”Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Teddy Roosevelt
When my clients don’t feel secure and comfortable being naked with their trusted spouses after babies, then they find it IMPOSSIBLE to relax enough to get the blood and feel good feels flowing.
Fear, anxiety, insecurity, concerns about our appearance, these things are incapacitating. They prevent us from being at ease which on a cellular level makes us too tense to be aroused, playful, and vulnerable in the way that we need to.
**There can ABSOLUTELY be an issue here related to how our partners communicate their attraction for us and if that’s the case, I would HIGHLY recommend that you get with a counselor/mediator and talk it through. Sex is an ESSENTIAL aspect of your marriage and while it’s ok to have struggles in and around this area, abandoning it altogether will only cause problems, pain, communication breakdown and hurt feelings.
But say that’s not the issue.
Say you’re like many of my clients that feel loved by their spouse, but yet they still feel insecure in their own skin.
We all have to practice accepting and loving our bodies AS THEY ARE, even if we would like to work towards physique changes, feel frustrated about scars and whatever other physiological differences we might have now.
What can make this EXCEPTIONALLY difficult is the CONSTANT surrounding ourselves with images of women and bodies in a manner where we use THEM as the measure for what we should look like.
Immersing ourselves in certain aspects of fitness culture can be PROBLEMATIC because of the physique standards for women.
There is a HUGE part of the exercise world that is MAJORLY toxic for all of us in that it puts certain (often unrealistically portrayed) bodies on a pedestal and BOMBARDS us with images of said bodies to get us to buy a product, join a gym, subscribe for supplement, etc.
I know MANY women that use images of other fit females on Pinterest, Instagram or real life people at the gym to MOTIVATE them to change THEIR movement and nutrition habits.
BUT if surrounding ourselves with these images, putting other women at the gym’s bodies on a pedestal makes us feel dissatisfied in our own bodies, like we don't measure up, we’re not attractive enough, fit enough….like we have to earn our way back before we can relax and receive love,then IT’S TIME TO MAKE A CHANGE!
This is a serious problem and you should consider taking DRASTIC measures.
-Quit that gym or class with all the “perfect” bodies
-Unfollow the social media accounts
-Cancel the magazines
These are NOT longterm solutions.
We can’t avoid images of other woman’s bodies forever.
We can’t cut our all of the people in our lives whose bodies we covet. We can’t go around blind-folded in public to avoid being triggered.
But just like anything, it’s ok to TEMPORARILY cut down on something while we build new perspectives, mindsets and boundaries and change how we see bodies, how we view fitness.
When I was struggling with my own body image issues, I IMMERSED myself in a community of STRONG women that were amazing, beautiful and strong in ALL DIFFERENT SHAPES and SIZES!
I changed the goals I had for my body-shifting from being less, skinny and small, to STRONG, CONFIDENT, and CAPABLE.
You can do the SAME!
-Surround yourself with messages and women that EMPOWER YOU!
-Read books about intimacy and sex for ALL BODY TYPES
-Talk with a counselor or coach that can help you begin to see your body in a NEW light and quit the comparison game-again, totally fine to have goals for your fitness and physique, BUT in my experience those goals are MOSTLY only achieved when we get INTENTIONAL about STOPPING COMPARING ourselves to either an older version of us, or women that we perceive to be more “fit” and begin to INVEST in ourselves, our health, skills and strength.
As someone that works in the world of fitness and exercise, I believe that movement and training can heal us of SO MANY mental, emotional and physical health challenges.
But, like anything, there’s good and bad.
Extremes in fitness culture can cause some MAJOR damage to many areas of our lives.
The happiest people tend to live somewhere in the middle.
Whether we are talking about:
how much we exercise
or the expectations we put on our bodies.
If our sexual intimacy and love life is suffering, then we should consider that a red flag, an indicator that something is off.
It’s time to take a second look at our fitness practices and make sure that we are living more in that middle zone between all the extremes.
Sarah Smith is on a mission to help women conquer their pelvic health struggles and build STRENGTH and SKILLS!
She is a strength coach, RKC2 Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Soil and Agricultural Science.
She works online and in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sarah is a Believer, wife to her best friend, Jeremiah, a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog.
She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. Come follow her on Instagram or Facebook.