I hate to break it to you, ladies, but you won’t be young forever. For my female friends in their 40s, you might feel like you’re still 25, but your body’s preparing for a major shift – and it’s going to affect the way you work out.
Menopause isn’t something we talk about a lot, but you probably already know the basics. Your ovaries slow down, and your estrogen and progesterone levels go haywire. This leads to a host of other physical changes, including hot flashes, decreased energy, mood changes, and, yes, potential weight gain and muscle loss (enter collective “booooo” here).
But just because your ovaries are done doesn’t mean you have to be. There are plenty of ways for older athletes to stay on top of their fitness game before, during, and post-menopause.
Does Menopause Impact Athletic Performance?
Before menopause, your ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are vital in many bodily functions, including temperature regulation, appetite, building healthy muscles, maintaining bone density, blood sugar regulation, and controlling heart rate.
As our bodies enter menopause, these hormones fluctuate, decline, and then eventually, your ovaries stop producing these hormones altogether. Officially, you’re in menopause 12 months after your last period. At this point, your bone density and muscle mass will decrease at higher rates. You might also notice weight gain.
For athletes, this change might all sound a bit distressing (and downright depressing). But here’s the good news: exercise is one of the best ways to keep your body strong, lean, and healthy for years to come.
5 Tips for Staying in Shape Post-Menopause
Whether you’ve just experienced your first hot flash or you bid farewell to the feminine hygiene aisle a decade ago, you can adjust your workout routine and still get the best results. Because, honestly, don’t we all still want to be performing the perfect snatch when we’re 90?
Hot flashes aren’t just an annoying by-product of the menopausal process. They’re an indicator that our hormones are shifting the way we regulate body temperature. You might notice you don’t tolerate heat as well, and you’re more likely to become overheated.
Therefore, it’s important to stay well-hydrated when exercising. If you’re working out in the heat or doing endurance exercise like a long run or bike ride, you might also consider pre-hydrating with a drink containing sodium. A cold towel or ice pack on your neck can help you cool off when you start to feel overheated.
Weight training is one of the best things you can do as you age, not only for your muscles, but for your bones as well. Menopause puts women at a higher risk of osteoporosis. In fact, one in four women will have some degree of osteoporosis in their lifetime (a risk that increases as we age). But regular weight training can reduce the effects of bone loss.
When you lift, your body responds by keeping your bones strong enough to carry that weight. If you’re already lifting, keep on keepin’ on. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Lifting saves lives – no bones about it!
Strengthen Your Core and Pelvic Floor
Yep, we’re going there. As your estrogen production decreases, your bladder has a harder time keeping everything, shall we say, bottled up. About 50% of post-menopausal women report some bladder leakage. So if you want to get those squats to the floor in your fifties – without leaving a puddle – it’s time to concentrate on that pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor and your core muscles are all related, so keep them strong means you’re less likely to tinkle unexpectedly. Kegel exercises can help, as can core strengthening moves. Want a simple 5-minute core routine? Check out our quick ab fix here!
Hormones help your body synthesize protein into lean muscle. When you take away estrogen and progesterone, it’s essential to give your body a new stimulus to burn fat and build muscle. The best way to do that, say experts, is to incorporate high interval intensity training (HIIT) workouts into your routine.
These shorter bursts of high-energy exercise can help reduce visceral fat while also keeping your heart and lungs healthy. So, skip those endless hours running and add some Tabata workouts, CrossFit WODs, and boot camp training instead.
Estrogen is vital in muscle recovery. So, reduced estrogen means longer recovery times.
It feels counterintuitive to rest longer in between high-intensity workout sessions, especially if you’re trying to build muscle and increase your endurance, but menopausal women are at greater risk of overtraining.
Be extra mindful of how your body is feeling as you age, and lend more time and effort to the recovery process.
No, we can’t stay young forever. But like a fine wine, YOU are only going to get better with age.