Running through menopause: How to navigate the challenges and be stronger

Running through menopause is a topic that is very much on trend right now.  We are all learning to talk about it which is a really fabulous thing, but how can we learn to navigate it? 

Not just us as women but how do we allow our men folk to help us, to understand what is happening to us?  Indeed, I believe from experience working with male and female athletes ‘’of an age’’, that men might actually feel some of these symptoms too.

Symptoms can wreak havoc on running performance, so you start to run less often, and lose motivation and confidence until maybe you don’t run at all….

Menopause is not a rabbit hole to fall down, I believe it’s a tunnel and there is light at the end of it….

For every woman the symptoms are different, but here are a few to look out for as a runner:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Hot flushes or extreme sweating
  • Nausea
  • Joints and muscle aches
  • Easy runs feel like hard work
  • Legs feel heavy like concrete
  • More injuries
  • Weight gain
  • Sleeplessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • A feeling of low drive and lack of ‘’mojo’’

The official description of Menopause from the World Health Organisation:

‘’Natural menopause is deemed to have occurred after 12 consecutive months without menstruation for which there is no other obvious physiological or pathological cause and in the absence of clinical intervention.

The regularity and length of the menstrual cycle varies across a woman’s reproductive life span, but the age at which natural menopause occurs is generally between 45 and 55 years for women worldwide. 

Some women experience menopause earlier (before 40 years of age). This ‘premature menopause’ may be because of certain chromosomal abnormalities, autoimmune disorders, or other unknown causes’’.

How do we navigate the menopause?

You’re a runner! You already have a positive outlook on your health, fitness, and well-being. You have the tools to run through this and mitigate the effect the symptoms have on you. 

A study published in the journal ‘’Menopause’’ found that sedentary women experienced more severe menopausal symptoms than active women, while other research suggests exercisers suffer less sleeplessness and sleep disturbance, less mood disruption, and less weight gain during the menopause transition. 

In fact, research suggests that being active, and taking regular exercise will help the fight against mid-life weight gain, fat storage, potential cardiovascular issues, and sanity!

Tools in our armoury!

Walking — jogging — running

Strength and conditioning sessions

Maintenance sessions

Yoga / Pilates 

We do love as runners, structure.  That game plan, that training plan, and the goal.  I found that grading your current energy levels and working from there to help adjust your schedule can work, with 1/10 being low or no energy and 10/10 absolutely raring to go.

Also, try changing the time of day that you run/exercise. 

Plan of action

  • 1-2 Go for a walk around the block, even if you don’t feel like you want to. Getting out for just a few minutes can improve your mood greatly. Take a ‘’round the blocker’’ or ‘’between meetings’’ walk
  • 3-4 Do a light activity: yoga, stretching, easy swim, bike ride, peloton, jog, mobility/maintenance/ conditioning session. 
  • 5-6 Do a reduced version of the planned workout, fewer reps/ distance or perhaps just practice running drills or concentrate on form.
  • 7-8 Attempt planned run/workout. If it doesn’t go according to plan, don’t beat yourself up, you started it, you got out there! Reduce the volume as necessary
  • 9-10 Seize the moment!  Get out there and run like a warrior

Allow longer to warm up. 10-15 minutes of light jogging will ease stiff joints and sore muscles. To cope with hot ‘’flushes’’ during a run, dress in layers so you can adjust body temperature, reducing the effort until it’s passed. Drink cold water and dousing your face, head, neck, and arms can help.

Overall, drink more water.

Continue with your strength sessions. Strength training enables us to hold on to, or even increase, muscle mass, which helps maintain healthy body composition, reduces injury risk, and aids recovery.  It is vital for bone health.

When long runs don’t feel doable, focus on short sprints or strength training which stimulate muscle growth, rather than endurance work which depletes energy and requires extended recovery times

I really believe that running will help you through this transitional stage of womanhood….

Remember, menopause is not a dirty word, talk about it, and ask your GP, there are remedies, both synthetic and natural that might help, talk to your friends and equally as important, talk to your coach……

Articles on Menopause and running that are worth a read

https://www.asics.com/gb/en-gb/frontrunner/articles/running-and-menopause-what-you-need-to-know

https://www.runnersworld.com/women/a20856097/menopause-and-running-what-you-need-to-know/

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''Your mind is like a parachute, it works best when open''
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