A long time ago, during a workout class that consisted solely of a full hour of high-intensity, fast-and-furious jumping rope, I peed a little. It was mortifying, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it except thank the athleisure gods for my moisture-wicking black leggings.
I didn’t plan on telling you that until I spoke with women’s health expert and Elvie co-founder Tania Boler. “There are so many body issues that we deal with as women that nobody talks about, and it’s a real problem,” Boler says, noting that a large proportion of women have pelvic floor problems. “It’s a huge, hidden epidemic.”
Boler developed Elvie—a device that helps women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles via Kegel exercises you can track on an app—with Jawbone founder Alexander Asseily last fall, and 5,000 women all over the world are already inserting it into their vaginas (yup!) regularly. Elvie has also developed partnerships with select CrossFit boxes and London’s Royal Ballet School, both communities in which Boler says women are majorly, ahem, afflicted, because of the frequency of high-impact jumping. When Elvie launched on Goop, it sold out within a few hours, and it will soon be sold at the trendy Violet Grey store on Melrose in Los Angeles.
Considering the novel, sensitive nature of the product, we thought you’d want to know what the heck it’s really like—especially since there’s a chance it could also boost your sex life.
The pelvic floor muscles are super important for bladder and bowel control and during pregnancy and child birth, and research has shown that Kegel exercises can be pretty effective at strengthening them.
But most women who resolve to do them try a few times while thinking “Am I really doing them? Am I doing them right?” before giving up in frustration. “Before, women were just told, ‘Exercise every day,’ but were never given a way to do it or told how to improve,” Boler explains. “It’s like if you were training for a marathon and didn’t ever know how fast you were running or how far you were running.”
Elvie attempts to address that by providing a means to track the work that women are doing that—like God and why your friend has fallen for that emotionally unavailable a**hole—can be hard to see. “From a sports psychology perspective, you want to give people targets and have them feel like they’re achieve something and seeing improvements,” she says.
So yes, it’s kind of like a vagina Jawbone, or, true to its “most personal trainer” tagline, like your Barry’s Bootcamp instructor watching your squats week after week to check if you’re really squeezing…your glutes…and getting stronger. Mahri Relin, the trainer-founder of dance cardio-toning workout Body Conceptions, became an Elvie ambassador because of how passionate she is about helping clients, especially pregnant ones, strengthen their pelvic floors. “I can’t really see what they’re doing when we work on Kegels together,” she says (thank God!), “so a device like this really ensures that they are strengthening and refining the correct muscles.”
What it’s really like
Elvie looks like a sea-foam green egg with a tail. (Actually, it kind of resembles a large sperm, which annoyed me a little. Does everything I put in my vagina have to relate to male anatomy?) It curls up in a sleek little case for charging, and because it’s made of medical-grade silicone, you just need to rinse it with warm water before and after use. You insert it just like putting in a tampon, and even though it’s much wider, it’s actually easier because of the slippery material.
Once it’s in place, you start your workout on the app. There’s a little “gem” on the screen that will then move as you contract and relax the right muscles, and each workout consists of different on-screen games that involve moving it. In one, you may be pulsing it up and down. In another, you’ll be holding it up above a line or trying to raise it as high as possible. It gives you a number that rates your “strength,” and a chart shows your progress in past workouts, from “keep trying” to “perfect!”
In the past, I always felt like I had no idea if I was actually doing Kegels when I tried, and using Elvie made me feel I had not been contracting hard enough. It was much easier and more satisfying to see the gem responding to my “work.” (Pro tip: Your pelvic floor contracts when you laugh, so if you crack up while doing it, it’ll think you’re killing it.)
Boler recommends using Elvie three times a week, and she says women have reported seeing results in as little as two to three weeks. It would be hard and unscientific for me to report any changes, especially since I haven’t had pelvic floor issues since that notorious jump rope session years ago, but I’m planning on testing out one possible effect as often as I can: Some research has shown women with stronger pelvic floor muscles have better sex—from desire to orgasm. And no one needs an app to monitor that kind of success.