Embracing Menopause and celebrating women becoming stronger during and post menopause
September was Menopause Awareness Month and it prompted me to share my thoughts on the subject both as a woman in business and from an exercise perspective.
I don’t claim to be an expert on menopause but as I approach 56 I’m definitely well on my way into this next chapter of my life, and I’m positively embracing the changes it brings despite the roller coaster hormone ride!
A friend recently made the comment that she wished she had her 58-year-old brain when she was in her forties. I thought this was particularly poignant. In our younger years, as women juggling kids and careers, we are often in a constant state of rush and stress, leaving us fatigued, burnt out and operating under a cloud of brain fog.
Moving through and beyond menopause takes us into our years of wisdom and strength. This comes from both our life experiences and the confidence of maturity. The brain fog starts to clear as we find ourselves in a calmer state and we are able to achieve great things from this place.
Magnificent Mature Women...
There are so many amazing mature female role models: Arianna Huffington founded the Huffington Post in 2005 when she was 55 years. She sold it in 2011 for USD $315 million, so definitely no brain fog in her menopausal years!
I am constantly inspired by the many amazing mature women in our studio community that are doing incredible things into their menopausal and post-menopausal years. They are strong, energetic, vibrant women that show amazing commitment to all they do both in and outside of our studio.
Perimenopause usually begins around age 40 and the end of menopause is counted when 12 months has passed from your final period so depending on when you start the perimenopause journey can take anywhere between four and thirteen years!
Given that time frame, it is unsurprising we have a large number of women in our studio community either starting, going through or having completed menopause. Understanding what works best in terms of intelligent exercise to maintain muscle mass, boost metabolism, balance out hormones and maintain optimum energy levels is crucial.
On a personal level, at almost 56 and having spent the past 30+ years in the fitness industry, I no longer feel the need to have washboard abs or be a super athlete. Far more important
to me now is remaining injury free with strong bones, good posture, healthy body weight and optimum energy levels to enjoy this phase of my life.
Best exercise choices and tips to support you during menopause include:
● Pilates is mindful exercise that activates our core muscles so is critical for posture and strengthens the entire body in a safe, intelligent way connecting breath and improving body awareness. Our Reformer Pilates is particularly effective in maintaining muscle mass due to the resistance that the springs provide.
● Barre provides the cardio element while maintaining Pilates postural principals. It also combines resistance work and is the best thing I’ve ever found for keeping my glutes lifted! It’s fun and mood uplifting so it helps to balance out our hormones by ensuring we tap over into our parasympathetic nervous system.
● TRX & Stick are both highly effective for maintaining muscle strength, balance, coordination and core strength. The degree of challenge is up to you as you can modify your own resistance by changing your position.
● Yin Yoga/Stretch & Restore/Myofascial Release are all crucial to add into your training mix as they allow the body to recover, stretch out tight muscles, rehydrate fascia in the body along with resetting your nervous system and encouraging better breath awareness which in turn helps control the stress hormones
● Walking is kind on joints and generally helpful for lower back pain. Getting outside and into nature is mood uplifting, while adding some sunshine will top up your Vitamin D levels.
● Avoid over training, listen to your body, don’t push it. Over training can trigger a negative stress response which can lead to weight gain around the belly in addition to increased risk of injuries if the body is not given time to recover between workouts.
● Avoid high intensity exercises that place heavy load on the lower back. Our more mature female bodies are not designed to drag tractor tyres around! Our discs start to desiccate as early as our 30ies so by the menopausal years we have already lost disc volume and height leaving us less protected and more at risk of injury. L5 is particularly vulnerable so a heavy deadlift with a disconnected core is an ACC claim just waiting to happen.
● Eat Well - support your training by eating a wholefood diet high in veggies, avoid processed foods and refined sugars as our menopausal bodies cannot process them the way they have previously. Drink more water and take a good magnesium at night to support sleep.