Tania Boler from Elvie, the pelvic floor exercise tracker for women, talks about her career and why this most personal trainer makes a huge difference
How much do you think about the function of your pelvic floor in daily life? I bet that tiny muscle does its work mostly by itself – without you even noticing – helping you to keep the middle of your female body all in check. Now Elvie is hitting the market, a tiny device that makes pelvic floor muscle training easy. Tania, the company’s founder, explains here why training this muscle may be more important than you think:
I’ve always been interested in women’s health, particularly from a health promotion perspective. After studying at the University of Oxford and Stanford University, I went on to undertake a PhD in HIV and teenage pregnancy in South Africa. I also worked at the UN and with various charities in Africa, promoting research into maternal and reproductive health. One of my biggest achievements was launching the first-ever UN Curriculum on Sexuality Education.
Later on, I won an innovation competition for £100,000, so I literally handed in my notice the next day! Until that moment, it was an idea in my head and I had no way of knowing if it was a crazy idea or a good one. Winning the competition was a big validation that this wasn’t 100% crazy! I wanted to create a connected devices company which is led by women and designs products specifically made for women.
The first product was, naturally, Elvie’s Kegel tracker – a discreet yet fun and simple way to do your pelvic floor exercises. The small pebbled-shaped pod, which is inserted into the vagina like a tampon, connects to an app on your phone that guides you through five minute workouts to strengthen and tone your pelvic floor.
Like a lot of women, I never really thought much about the pelvic floor until I had a baby. I was surprised by the changes happening to my body and how little I knew about the importance of the pelvic floor muscles. It is a powerful little set of muscles that sits like a hammock between your tailbone and pubic bone. They might be hidden from sight, but it’s not a muscle group you want to forget about! Kegels are important for core strength, bladder control, and even better sex, but one in three women will feel the effects of a weak pelvic floor.
Just like any other muscle, regular exercise is important to keep your pelvic floor in good shape. My husband is French and I discovered it is normal for French women to attend pelvic floor rehabilitation classes after birth. I was shocked to learn that nothing like this existed in other countries, and that pelvic floor weakness is so common. As I did research and talked to experts, I realized that there was very little in the way of technological innovation. Women were buying lots of different products to rebuild their core strength with little evidence that they are effective.
Most of our customers are mothers and are typically aged 36-45. This is because during pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through a big transformation. Pelvic floor muscles become strained due to the weight gain (10-12.5 kg on average) and shifts in our center of gravity, often leading to physical problems that impact most mothers-to-be. The one thing shown to work is giving women real-time biofeedback, but this technology existed almost exclusively in hospitals. Women need better technology that fits around their busy lives.
My research revealed some shocking statistics. I learnt that more than half of all women have physical problems at some point during their lives and that one in ten women need to have an operation because of a pelvic floor related problem. The adult sanitary pad market is valued at close to $10 billion over the next couple of years. This is crazy as these problems are largely preventable, and so I committed to doing something about it.
One of the first people I raised money from was Alexander Asseily, who started Jawbone and had experience in creating connected devices. His knowledge of the industry was invaluable and he saw the potential right from the start in how this could transform women’s lives. He came on board and we quickly became business partners too. We recruited a very talented engineer from Dyson, Jon O’Toole, and together have built a passionate team of engineers and marketers.
We worked closely with physiotherapists and experts at the University of Oxford and Imperial College to create the Kegel tracker which set the new gold standard in biofeedback technology, as well as motivational workouts that women love to do. Women of all ages deserve smarter technology that has been developed to support and empower them. From pregnancy and childbirth to periods and menopause, being a woman is a pretty unique journey, yet much of the technology available to women isn’t really tailored to our needs. We create extraordinary products that change women’s lives for the better.
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.