COME AGAIN: YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF SEX & WELLNESS
Competitive sports have never been my thing. Yes, I was the little girl who couldn’t catch a ball to save her life (still can’t).
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a sloth. Give me lots of yoga and dancing with a healthy side order of swimming or hiking in the summer, and I’m good to go, fitness-wise. Still, I’m the last person you’d ever see with a Fitbit around her wrist. I don’t really care about measuring how hard I’ve worked out; I’m mostly interested in how my body feels.
But my attitude changed when I met the kGoal, a small, insertable silicone device made to measure your Kegel skills — via video games. Now, I haven’t played any video games since I was a teenager (hi, Legend of Zelda, I’m looking at you), but when I found out that I could challenge my vagina to a workout — I was all in. The kGoal syncs to an app via Bluetooth, and you use it while it’s inside of you. This “Fitbit for your lady bits” is changing the conversation about how to do your Kegels, while teaching you to do them well and regularly. (There are other Kegel trackers on the market now, but this is the only one I’ve tried.)
You probably know you’re supposed to do your Kegels by now, but it’s always worth reviewing why. It’s all about pelvic floor health, which is vital to women’s wellness on so many levels — for your sex life, for pregnancy, for lower back strength, for avoiding incontinence and much more.
I talked to Marcia Brenner, a Chicago-based writer and Pilates instructor specializing in pre- and postnatal and a founding editor of Ms. Fit Magazine, about why pelvic floor health matters. “I like to think of your pelvic floor muscles like a pair of Spanx you wear inside your pelvis; they support your uterus, bladder and internal organs, as well as helping to stabilize your pelvis. Studies have shown a strong, healthy pelvic floor can make for better orgasms, and not just for women. A 2011 Duke University study found that regular pelvic floor exercises for men were more effective than Viagra.”
According to Marcia, Kegels are just one part of a multi-tiered strategy to achieve robust pelvic floor health, but an important one that’s often misunderstood.
“Kegels have gotten a bad rap lately because many OB GYN’s note a common problem with delivery is a tight pubococcygeus muscle. While some pelvic floor dysfunctions can be exacerbated by Kegels, in the vast majority of cases women don’t really know how to do them, so the tightness issue isn’t due to ranks of women Kegeling non-stop; more likely, tightness may be due to stress, or our increased hours of sitting, and it indicates overall weakness.”
Brenner suggests that if you really want to master pelvic floor health, you find a local pelvic floor specialist who can guide you through the practice. “Learning how to do any pelvic floor exercises correctly may simply be a matter of practice, but there’s really no way to tell if you’re engaging correctly without a pelvic floor specialist checking you.”
But if you’re not in the market for such a specialist right now, you might be just the kind of person to start with a Kegel app like I have. I understand the value of Kegels and have for years — but remembering to do them on a daily basis is quite another thing. Having an app to remind me has been helpful — and a lot of fun.
When I first got my Goal, I was perplexed by the size and shape. It looks and feels like a semi-soft silicone balloon full of air, and I wondered how it would feel inside of me. The instructions suggest that you use lube every time you work with your kGoal, and I concur — on the few occasions I’ve forgotten, I was very uncomfortable, to say the least. This may be in part because the top half of the kGoal — the part that syncs with your app — remains external, extending over your pubic bone, while the balloon shaped part is inserted.
I mentioned that I’m not athletically competitive, but that doesn’t mean I’m not competitive. Let it be known: I am extremely competitive. So the first time I inserted my kGoal and pulled up the app, I expected to kick its butt handily. (I did, after all, beat my high school boyfriend at the aforementioned Legend of Zelda in a marathon post-Christmas binge competition he launched.)
I did not kick the kGoal’s butt as I hoped, at least not at first. In fact, my early scores were so awful that I feared I had terrible, horrible, embarrassingly bad pelvic floor strength. The truth is that as simple as the games are, it takes at least a few rounds to master the basics of how to play. I had never before in my life used my vagina for such things — there was a definite learning curve.
The first game I tried was called “Shape Shift” – triangles, rectangles, squares and ovals floated down my screen at various rates of speed after I hit play. The aim is to squeeze and trace each shape with your pelvic muscles. For me, strength wasn’t the issue — I could squeeze those shapes until the sun came up — I just couldn’t figure out how to release them. Initial score: not good.
I quickly switched to another game — “Moving Target.” This one asks you hold to different kinds of Kegels — long ones, short ones and a bunch of short, intense ones in a row — and to breathe in between and release. A band rises toward the top of the screen to show the intensity of your Kegel. Guess what? I sucked at that one, too, in a similar way. I could not control the release part of the game, and I almost cried because, goddamn it, I insist on winning things.
The more embarrassed I felt about how poorly I was doing, the more driven I became to master the game — and it paid off. Within a week, I had improved my control (my biggest problem) and even my strength and endurance.
The newest game, and the one I’ve played the least, is called “Bricks.” Remember Breakout? This is basically vagina Breakout. You move the slider along the bottom of the screen with your Kegels, but you have to be able to release quickly to stop it from moving — and if you push it too hard, you miss the ball and you lose. If you’re like me, this will drive you nuts, and you’ll keep playing until you get it right and realize you’ve been playing Kegel video games for two hours, then sheepishly put yourself to bed.
Whether you’re a serious runner who’s obsessed with her Fitbit or someone who wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but four-inch platforms and a mini-skirt or ever go near a gym, I suggest that you get competitive about your pelvic floor health. You will have fun, and your vagina — and your partner(s) — will thank you.