We live in times of oversharing and overexposure, but I belong to a group of people who believes that certain things should be kept private, like secrets that a girlfriend entrusts you with or images of you in underwear meant for the eyes of your other half only. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude and neither do I judge people who share themselves with a world, no holds barred, it’s just I do value my privacy, as well as retaining a sense of a little female mystique.
Having said that, there are important subjects that seem to be discussed behind closed doors or in hushed tones, yet they deserve the spotlight, so more people know about it and have a chance to learn or share their own experience. Our pelvic floor muscles, small but mighty powerful, stretching like a hammock between tailbone and pubic bone, in my view deserve that spotlight as much, as our abs or butt. This muscle group remains hidden, yet plays a variety of important roles, including lifting & holding our pelvic organs, assisting bladder and bowl control, supporting our back and abs & contributing to sexual sensation during intimacy.
If you scroll through social media, there are plenty of images of women exercising, but hardly any advice or visuals on exercising your private, but no less essential muscles – your pelvic floor. We generally have fairly strong pelvic floor muscles and most of us neglect them, without giving it a second thought until we give birth, become older, do certain type of sports or gain weight and then notice that things change and not for the better. When I was expecting my children a few years back, you were given a brochure about Kegel exercises during your prenatal checks and possibly had some mumbling from a doctor or nurse post delivery, about the importance of exercising your pelvic floor. This was quite unlike the experience of some of my French girlfriends, who were talked to in details by their doctors about the importance of keeping those muscles in order not to pee when running or jumping, or having an enjoyable intimate relationship with your other half. In France this is a golden standard of post-natal recovery, where all new mum have free access to pelvic floor physiotherapy. If you ask me, a few years after having my kids, pelvic floor muscles are still one of the most neglected muscles groups, yet this little but powerful set of muscles, is so important to women and that’s the reason why Elvie got me so curious.
I first came across this funky & stylish gadget (or rather, exercise tracker) at the Be:Fit London in the spring and started the conversation with the brand and their knowledgable team (thank you for being my educator Anna !). The more we talked, the more intrigued I was, but the question at the forefront of my mind was ‘does it actually work, or is that just another gadget to make an appearance on the market?’ After all, it retails for £149, so an average woman might bulk at the price, while not flinching to spend upwards of that on a new bag. Do we value out exterior more than we value our inside ? Having said that, Elvie has sleek packaging and even sleeker design, it does draw your eyes towards it and makes you ask ‘what is it?”. At the same time, it is discreet and comes with its own free App, that you will need to download, so you can monitor your own progress in real-time.
Elvie was designed for women, with an intention to give you more than simple Kegel exercises (I remember getting my Kegel instructions from none other than Cindy Crawford and Kathy Koehler, in Cindy’s post pregnancy DVD that I still have somewhere), that we all do once in a blue moon, but most never stick to. Tania Boler, Elvie’s CEO, wanted to give women a fun, five-minute workout that delivered results, as well as a competitive incentive to improve your own result, as this is not a muscle group that you can examine in the mirror.
Elvie is made by the British wearable technology company called Chiaro, founded by Tania, who is the CEO and Alexander Asseily, co-founder of Jawbone, & not a group of men in suits, who think they know women better than women do. Tania not only has degrees from Oxford and Stanford, but also a PhD in sexual and reproductive health, as well as published research on the subject. After having her first child, not only she was shocked to discover how common the problems with pelvic floor are (one in three women tend to have it in varying degrees), but how few effective options accessible to women are out there. Her plan? Well, she applied and won UK Government R & D grant to create an elegant solution that makes pelvic floor exercises a fun & quick part of female fitness routine. Elvie exercises were designed with guidance from physio therapists and experts from Oxford & Imperial College and the whole concept is now endorsed by brand’s ambassadors, like Nikki Rein, founder of BarreCore pilates chain, was recently recommended by Violet Grey and even more importantly, gynaecologists.
When you first get your hands on Elvie, you will need to charge it (the charge lasts several weeks, but does depend of how regularly you use it), as well as download a free Elvie App. Once it is charged, place it inside your body gently & carefully, with a little ‘tail’ remaining outside (you have instructions in the accompanying little brochure, answering all of your initial questions & giving instructions). Elvie will then connect to an App (don’t forget to turn the bluetooth on!), which will guide you, via your phone screen, through a fun, five-minute workout, that will change when you are ready for the next challenge. Unlike the Kegel exercises, of which I only know a couple of variations. Elvie’s force & motion sensors will measure your pelvic floor muscle movement & help you visualise the exercise in real-time. The App will also track your progress, correct your technique and guide you through different levels of progress, as your muscles re-gain strength – in general, when exercising you PFM regularly, improvement can be expected in over 70% of cases. With Elvie’s guidance, you will perform the exercises correctly and with regular use ( Elvie’s team recommends using it at least three times a week), you can expect to notice the following:
– develop & maintain muscle tone of PFM (pelvic floor muscles)
– regain/improve bladder control
– improve confidence
– enhance sexual sensation & pleasure
When not in use, you keep Elvie in a smart carry case (which acts as a charger as well), that can pass as a speaker, even though I try to keep it out of kids eyesight, as they are bound to ask what it is for. Elvie is 100% waterproof and is made with a medical grade silicone, which goes through vigorous testing before it reaches the consumer. It also comes with an optional cover, so you can adjust the sizing for a better fit, if need be – there you have a thought that one size can fit most, but not all of us. Plus a trainer that is compact, discreet and comfortable to use.
I have expressed some initial concerns over hygiene, especially for those women who have IUD, as you don’t want to introduce an infection and then suffer the consequence. Hygiene is important here, so make sure you clean your hands before and after, plus clean Elvie with warm, soapy water and then let it dry naturally, before putting it back into the holder. Anna, who works for Elvie, addressed those concerns, saying provided I follow advice above, I should have no problems and have to say that after using Elvie throughout summer & now into the autumn, I can report that nothing unbecoming has happened.
You are also advised to consult the doctor before using Elvie if you are pregnant, particularly when you are in your first and last trimester and you shouldn’t use it for at least six weeks post delivery – the best thing is to talk to your doctor about it. Also, please be aware that due to the intimate nature of the product, returns aren’t accepted, unless the product is faulty and then it is covered by a 12-months warranty.
Elvie is compatible with iPhone 4S, 5 & 6, as well as Android phones 4.3 7 above, all of which should support blue tooth low energy. Some of you might question that in terms of your intimate wellbeing and I was told that Elvie uses Bluetooth low energy, which is 1000x less powerful than our WiFi connection to the smartphone. Also important to note that bluetooth is located in Elvie’s ‘tail’, which remains outside of your body.
Interestingly, I don’t find Elvie exercises boring, even after doing them for a few months. You are required to utilise your brain as well, as you do the exercises, while different aspects of the pelvic floor muscles are challenged. I actually get somewhat competitive and examine my results with interest every time. It is a validation of sorts that I am exercising this muscle group correctly and in doing so regularly will hopefully prevent multiple problems that women might experience as they age. Some of you might be familiar with being careful not to laugh too hard or jump not too vigorously on the trampoline after having kids. Others say they come ‘prepared’ for intensive gym classes or that simple sneezing occasionally makes them loose a little bit of bladder control. If you experience any of the above or just want to make sure your pelvic floors are kept on good form, Elvie is here to help!
Multiple studies show that giving women real-time feedback is the most effective method for Kegel exercises, with direct force measurement being the ‘gold standard’. In that sense Elvie is a pioneer female product, as it measures force directly & not via air pressure changes or electric stimulation. When you exercise your muscle groups you want accuracy, thus making sure that you are doing the exercises correctly to maximise the benefit and this is exactly what you get. As you contract the muscles, Elvie’s internal mechanism allows for the accurate measurement during movement, so you have a fairly personalised & optimised training geared towards YOU.
I found the device fairly easy to use to use (initially I was a little nervous, as considering the intimate nature of the device), but several months after I was sent Elvie for trialling, I continue using it and have become quite competitive with myself in terms of results at the end of each workout. I tend to use it three to four times a week and while I luckily didn’t have any significant PFM weakness after having my kids, I certainly feel that it has improved the tone of this muscle group. Unlike my Jawbone UP, that I recently sold online, as it was gathering dust (it was given to me as a gift by a family member, but within a few months I simply got bored with it), Elvie is stilling strong and thus far I haven’t experienced any significant issues to put me off using it.
What I do want to highlight is that you can use Elvie lying down or standing up – that’s a personal preference, I prefer to use it standing up and somehow I feel that I am more alert and focussed on the exercises, but you might enjoy doing it while watching TV or just dreaming on the sofa. Ultimately, the decision is yours on how to best exercise this small, but so important muscle, that does play a big part in our female confidence.
Vanity is not always a bad thing, particularly when it comes to your wellbeing. I pride myself for looking after my health, in a way investing into my own future, as I don’t want to be a burden to my loved ones or society for that matter in my later years. So taking control of my health and taking steps to make sure I am happy and healthy is important to me. Elvie now plays part in the process too!
Elvie is stocked up by John Lewis, as well as other retailers around the world. For more information please click here.