Can you ‘Workout’ the Menopause?
Women really do have a lot to contend with in our quest to have a Fit and Healthy body! And just when you thought you’d got it all under control – The Menopause strikes!
Along with the hot flushes, mood swings, tiredness, depression, insomnia, irritability and general daily craziness, one of the worst symptoms is weight gain. It’s sudden, it’s stubborn and it’s often concentrated around your mid-section. No matter how active or lazy you are – it affects almost all women.
As angry as you may feel about this – it’s not your fault! Unfortunately it’s a natural process of the menopause that we go through and although that doesn’t make it any easier, if you know what to expect and you commit to doing something about it, you can make a difference and the correct exercise plan can help!
How much Exercise do you need to do to lose weight?
The short answer: More than you think. It’s recommended at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate exercise to keep fit and healthy, however, for weight-loss during menopause, you may need to do more. The older you are, the more exercise you need to prevent weight gain and/or lose weight.
Cardio training for Weight loss
Cardiovascular exercise helps you burn calories as well as protect you from other health issues that arise when you reach menopause, such as heart disease and osteoporosis. If you’re new to exercise, it’s best to build it up gradually to 3-5 days of brisk walking for 20-30 minutes, or however long you can manage. If you’re already doing cardio exercise and you’re still not losing weight – it’s frustrating! This is when you need to make some changes to your current workout program.
Frequency – Could you add in an extra workout to your week? It doesn’t have to be an hour…just an extra 15/20 minute workout from time to time can make a difference.
Intensity – If you tend to exercise at a steady pace, try adding some shorter, high intensity sessions such as interval training into your plan to get your heart rate up a notch and burn a few more calories than your regular steady workouts. Try using a fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate so you can see how hard you’re actually working, rather than just guessing!
Time – Could your usual workouts last a little longer? Many of us could easily add 10 minutes to one or two workouts and that’s 10 minutes you can be burning more calories.
Type – Do you stick to exactly the same workouts each week? Your body becomes more efficient when you do the same activity over and over, tending to burn fewer calories. Any time you try something new, your body has to work harder at it, which will help you burn more calories.
Strength Training for Weight loss
Strength training is so important for changing your body composition, burning fat, keeping your bones strong and building lean muscle tissue which in turn will increase your metabolism (your energy burning system). You should try to do strength training workouts at least twice a week for your entire body, but you can also incorporate it into your cardio workouts as well with circuit style training sessions. You don’t necessarily have to lift weights – you can use body-weight exercises too. Make sure you’re getting the most from your strength workouts.
Lift Heavy – If you lift weights regularly, then great! But it’s important that you’re lifting the right way. Make sure your technique is correct and work as hard as you can – this means that if you’re doing 12 repetitions of an exercise for example, by the 12th rep you should feel like you can’t do anymore!
Target your whole body – Unfortunately you can’t target the body areas you want to lose fat from. Going for the whole-body training approach will recruit more muscles and burn more calories, so make sure you’re including your Legs, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and abs in your strength workouts. Using compound movements (e.g. a Squat with a press) may feel more complex than doing a set of squats followed by a set of shoulder presses but they will be multi-tasking your muscles, getting 2 exercises done in 1 move and burning much more calories than doing them individually.
Mind / Body Workouts
Relaxation is also important during the Menopause as stress can also lead to weight gain. Workouts that help you slow down, breath, de-stress and focus on the present moment can really help with menopause symptoms, getting your hormones under control and making you feel more able to deal with what’s happening to your body. Try to include these workouts as often as you can!
Stretch – Make time for a relaxing stretch after every workout. Think of it as a reward for your body and mind.
Mindfulness – Try at least one mindful workout each week. Yoga, Pilates, or even going for a walk – getting outside with nature is a great form of active meditation.
Balance – We get so obsessed about losing weight, we tend to put all our focus into burning calories. However, the body needs more than just cardio and strength training. It needs flexibility, balance, stability and rest too!
So if what you’re currently doing doesn’t seem to be helping anymore now you’re at ‘that’ stage in life, try planning a completely new training schedule. Including Cardio, Strength and Mind / Body workouts. It’s definitely worth trying – Just make sure you plan it when you’re in a good mood!
Age is just a number – Do you agree?
I can honestly say that at 45 years old I feel the most content I’ve felt in my life so far!
I was 35 when I started FitSista. At the time I was so worried that I was too old to be a successful Personal Trainer, as all the trainers I knew were buff 21 year olds. Luckily for me, I had the Life experience that they didn’t. I’d been there and done that (not just read about it!). My age was actually an advantage in my profession – and it still is as I get older!.
So rather than having a moan about the downside of getting older – Here’s to the POSITIVE POINTS!
- Life Experience – You certainly don’t have that in your 20’s.
- Greater Knowledge (although I do forget things!) – Hopefully by your 40’s you’ve learnt a few things.
- Increased Confidence – I do things now that I’d never have done when I was younger.
- I’m happy in my own skin – It’s taken me 45 years, but I’m extremely comfortable about who I am.
- I take no shit – The days are well and truly over that I try to keep other people happy at the expense of my own happiness.
- I’m much more productive – I’ve got fire in my soul and I’m extremely passionate about my ambitions.
- I need less sleep – I’m up and at ’em early and I get so much more done in a day than I ever used to.
- I know exactly what’s important to me and what I want in life – and I really don’t care if I don’t match other peoples expectations.
- I’m actually living my best life – Life is GOOD!.
This FAR outweighs the wrinkles, grey hairs, flabby bits, mood swings and hot flushes!
So whatever age you’re at – don’t use it as an excuse. It’s never too late to try something you want to do and quite often, being older has its advantages!
Hormones – They’ve got a lot to answer for!
No, it’s not an excuse, but it is a very valid reason for why things can go terribly wrong in your Fitness programme if you don’t understand how your hormones are affecting your training.
Our hormones don’t stop and start. They are constantly flowing through our bodies at fluctuating levels throughout the month and this can mean constant changes to how you feel emotionally and physically during your menstrual cycle.
There’s the ‘Good Weeks’ – When you’re full of energy, your skins glowing and your libido is boosted (make the most of it!)
Then there’s the ‘Bad Weeks’ – When you seriously can’t be bothered to do anything you don’t have to; you feel like a fat pig and you could eat everything in sight!
It’s not surprising that these constant changes in hormone levels mess up our fitness goals!
Our changing hormone levels throughout the month can really affect your ability to exercise and knowing how your menstrual cycle influences your workouts can be really helpful – e.g. If you’re able to push your workout or if you should just go for an easier option. We’ve all been there – frustrated at not running our fastest 5K, not lifting our heaviest squat weight, or just not having the energy for our usual workout. It’s frustrating!
‘Time of the month’ is not a reason NOT to exercise (I remember forging letters from my mum to excuse me from PE because I had my period!). You just need to plan a workout to suit your hormones.
Although everyone’s menstrual cycle is different, here’s a guide to what’s happening during your cycle and which type of exercise is more beneficial at each stage.
‘I’ve just started so I’ll watch a Netflix series and eat pizza’
There’s actually no medical reason why you shouldn’t be able to exercise during your period. In fact, it can be beneficial and for many women it can help ease the symptoms of PMS due to endorphins (which are the body’s natural painkillers) released during exercise. It might be the last thing you feel like doing and you might not reach a PB during this time, but you’ll probably feel better for it.
‘Woohoo I’ve finished!’
After your period your oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone levels start to increase which is when your energy and motivation rises, so now is the perfect time to use that energy for your most intense workouts. Testosterone (usually associated with men) affects women too and while its in high levels you can really use it to increase your strength training capabilities. So now is the time to go for your deadlift PB!
And just when you’re back on a roll….
On around day 14 of your cycle (usually when your workouts are back on top form) – you ovulate – and this rapidly decreases your Oestrogen levels! You probably feel more tired and workouts become a huge effort again. However, at this stage of your cycle, your lungs function better, so it’s the perfect time to progress your cardio workouts! And according to research, women tend to burn more calories during this phase too – so fuel up!
If you’re going to have a rest week, then this is the time.
At some point this week your body will begin preparing itself for your next period. Tummy ache, fluid retention and your mood turning slightly psycho! Your body temperature rises which might cause you to sweat more during exercise. If you don’t feel like an energetic workout, this is the week to focus on stretching and Yoga is the perfect workout. Your training may not be at its best, but just give yourself a break – your body probably won’t thank you for pushing it to the max this week.
It really is worth Listening to your body and trying to work with your cycle, not against it and by doing this, you may find you don’t lose the plot completely while your hormone levels are constantly changing.