The menopause is a phase of life we will all face. For some of us it will be straightforward, for others it will mirror a ride on Thunder Mountain. The timing, severity and duration of symptoms is hugely variable, but most women in the UK have their menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 years, with the average age being 51 years. We are technically through the menopause when we have not had a period for 12 months.
Not just me but him as well
This is not something that only affects women. It’s vital for the men in our worlds to adapt and adjust to this stage of life with us. Our loved ones will come on this journey too and it is crucial for them to understand and embrace the changes we face in order to be able to fully support.
The menopause is a large and involved topic. My aim in this article is to focus on the common symptoms and then follow it with how running may help us navigate this period of our lives.
Symptoms - a quick over view
This can be so severe that you start to question whether you are in the initial stages of Alzheimer’s. If you can’t remember the next word in a sentence, the name of a common household object or regularly lose things, you aren’t alone. It’s all part of the process and you don’t need to start reserving your bed in the nearest home. A whopping 60% of women report difficulty concentrating and have issues with cognition. Lack of concentration can also be a real problem. A study found that women in menopause scored the lowest in tests involving evaluation, verbal reasoning, memory, motor function and attention.
These can hit you out of the blue, night or day. You may find others shivering, whilst you are flinging open the windows and stripping off clothing. Flushes can be embarrassing. Imagine entertaining your best client with your makeup unceremoniously sliding down your face. It is not easy, but keep your clothes light and layer up. You are then able to adjust by peeling off clothes as your core temperature rises. Omega 3 can help reduce night seats and hot flushes.
Reducing levels of oestrogen may leave you feeling pain in your joints. Aches, stiffness and swelling around joints are common in around 40% of women. Oestrogen controls and influences many of our bodily systems. In this case its loss as an anti inflammatory agent leave us in pain.
Oestrogen is also important in regulating fluids in your body, as this hormone lessens you might find that you body can’t retain water as it might have previously done. The result of which is that you become more easily dehydrated. A by-product of being dehydrated is the build up of uric acid in the body, which once again can result in inflammation.
Irritability, Depression, Anxiety
It can be confusing when you have been a calm, well-balanced individual and you suddenly turn into a Rottweiler. You may find yourself flying off the handle and becoming angry and upset for seemingly no reason. 70% of women describe irritability as their main emotional problem during the early stages of menopause. Crying and feeling weepy is another side effect. Patience and understanding are paramount from those we love.
1:5 women report having bouts of depression as they progress through menopause. Drops in oestrogen, which controls levels of serotonin and norepinephrine are thought to be the cause.
Anxiety can worsen or strike for the first time during the menopause. Its symptoms can be frightening and you may even think you are having a heart attack. Symptoms include: Shortness of breath, dizziness, Heart palpitations, nausea, muscle tension.
Menopause and Exercise: the facts
There are a few specific changes we need to be aware of as we navigate peri menopause as athletes.
There is less core temperature change tolerance, so you cant handle the heat as well. Coupled with this you sweat later in the activity.
Solution: cooling down post exercise might include cool showers, cold towels or cold water immersion. during exercise consume cool fluids.
There is greater sensitivity to carbohydrates which means you will have more blood sugars swings and need less carbs overall.
Solution: aim for a lower carbohydrate intake but do this with care. Carbs still play an important part in your diet especially if you are exercising but look for mixed macronutrient foods.
Your body uses protein less efficiently during peri and post menopause so focus on the type and quality of the protein you eat to help you build and hold on to your lean muscle.
Solution: focus on your protein intake and have 10-15g of proving b before bed to help with recovery.
You have less power production so you have to train for power and not endurance. the speed and strength of mulcts contractions dimmish with age so focus on this in training.,
Solution: high intensity power training is really important.