Category Archives: perimenopause

Ageing in Endurance Sports

Getting older happens to us all, and if you are a competitive athlete the thought of slowing down can be scary, and also hard to deal with. Recently I have had a couple of emails from women who are concerned with ageing and how it is affecting them. From slowing down, getting more injuries, and putting on weight.

There are things that we can do to help, and taking a pro-active stance is positive for your mental well-being. But what happens when you are really struggling and nothing you do seems to help. This is the reply I gave to someone who wrote to me about her swimming declining.

Thanks for your message it sounds like you’re having a hard time at the moment.I’m assuming you contacted me, as I’m a coach, but I’ll just say, I definitely don’t have all the answers. It seems like a really hard time in our lives, and it sounds like you are giving yourself a hard time on top of that! All I can tell you is what I’ve found has helped me.

Try and think what it is you love about swimming, is it getting fast times, or are there other things that keep you going back to it? Sometimes a change of focus can help, or even a total break, if its making you miserable.

If you did break from swimming, is there anything else that can help you to get that feeling of what you love from swimming?

You may need to think about your training differently as we inevitably lose muscle mass as we get older. It will happen, and we can try and minimise it by doing weights and replacing protein after sessions. Nutrition info here

There is research to show that HIIT training is effective as you age, but again its harder to recover from these sessions as we get older. You may need to do a bit less volume, depending on what your training week looks like.

A book with a lot of info about this is Joe Friel fast after 50. (I’m not 50 but I think its still useful advice)

Sounds like you’re doing a lot of this already, though and it may be more the mental side of things that are troubling you.

When I was feeling really low I listened to podcasts, talked with friends, and also found making a list of my core values helped.

It made me realise that I was more than my times or achievements, but I also appreciate its very hard to do these things when you don’t even want to get out of bed, as I have felt some times.

I also know now that it will pass, and I’ll feel better again eventually!

I hope some of this helps, but if you are getting very low, I would see your GP, or someone you can talk to about these feelings, as it will really help if you express your fears and concerns.

Show yourself some self compassion at this time, you are not only a swimmer, you are so much more. Take Care

Celia

Of course men can feel the pressure of slowing down too, but they don’t have the same hormonal issues as women. Matt Dixon did a great podcast here  with some mature athletes. The takeaway is to be flexible and don’t be afraid to try something new. Its easy to compare yourself to how fast you were when you were younger, but that doesn’t help you to feel good about yourself. Remember that you are more than your accomplishments, be an amazing human.

Here is a bit of inspiration for you, stay positive, and if you can’t, then get help!

 

Peri-menopause, and Endurance Part 2

Perimenopuase and the endurance athlete

Perimenopuase and the endurance athlete Part 2

This year so far has been different. Different in lots of ways, kids growing up, and developing new interests. Me wanting to spend more time with them, and also needing to keep my endurance training going, as something purely for me. Life seems in a state of flux, and in some ways, I suppose that is what living with children is like, especially when they start changing so quickly. But I have also noticed a change in me, I don’t feel like I’m recovering as well from training, and I sometimes get depressed when I shouldn’t have PMS. A few months ago I had some pretty bad depression creeping in and just didn’t know what was wrong. I went to see my GP, and explained that I thought my hormones may be playing up, and also that I thought I may have low iron, (I did a home test and it was abnormal) Peri-menopause was dismissed, due to my age (I’m 43) but I still feel like my hormones have got something to do with what’s going on. The blood tests that I had confirmed that I was anaemic, but I’m still not feeling quite right after the course of tablets, I’ve been sweating at night and early morning, and have had heavy bleeding some months.

Hormones#2

What is Perimenopause?

Because it is difficult to diagnose peri-menopause (hormones fluctuate too much to get accurate test results) I still don’t know for sure, and that is what Peri-menopause is like. I’m 43, which puts me on the lower age for Peri-menopause, but I know that I feel different, and trying to persuade myself that I’m imagining it won’t help. The facts are, that your oestrogen starts to decline as you get older, and this causes symptoms, symptoms that may be impacted by the demands of endurance training. 

There is very little information about training through this period of your life, possibly because women experience it so differently, but there are a few things to bear in mind.

Tips to take away

Any training causes stress in the body, which causes the hormone cortisol to rise. Cortisol is an essential hormone, with many functions in the body, one of which is regulating hormones. I’m not a health practitioner but it seems to me that if cortisol is raised regularly then this will also impact on symptoms of perimenopause. Therefore it is essential to ensure you recover properly from sessions, eg doing Yoga, stretching, 5 minutes of meditation all help with reducing stress and kick-starting the recovery process.

Recovery may be impaired by poor sleep. If you are waking up feeling hot and bothered then that will impact on your recovery. There is some evidence to show that drinking Tart Cherry juice before bed can help with sleep, as it contains melatonin. Drinking it cooled may help to lower your core body temperature before bed and help with night sweats. 

As estradiol declines, recovery can be reduced (spotting a pattern!) as estradiol has anti-inflammatory properties. So eating a healthy and diverse diet to reduce inflammation may help. Avoiding refined, fried, and processed foods will help.

 

 

Stay on top of post-recovery protein intake. Your body uses protein less efficiently, so you can increase your protein intake over the day, and consider eating a small amount of protein before bed to help with recovery.

Bone mass starts to decline, so doing some plyometric and strength work helps to counter this. It doesn’t have to be much to get a benefit, a few minutes of jumping, loading your bones in a way that they are not used to, helps to stimulate bone growth. Regular strength work also translates to performance benefits, so it’s worth incorporating this into your training if you don’t already.

Knowing what to do is helpful, for an athlete who is used to a certain lifestyle and way of training. Making some adjustments, to your routines will probably be necessary, and accepting that it is a normal part of life and embracing the change is essential. 

But coming to terms with the unpredictability of this period (symptoms can last up to 10 years, whereas other people have no symptoms) will be a challenge. I’m aiming to have a supportive network around, along with seeking inspiration from older female role models. 

Remember that you are not broken, that you don’t need fixing, and be open to talking about it.

Useful links

https://www.fitnchips.com/2019/04/dr-stacy-sims-talks-menopause/

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/ob-gyn/gynecology/menopause-blog/january-2017/menopause-transition-don-t-miss-this-important-pre.aspx

https://www.zrtlab.com/blog/archive/menopause-all-in-your-head

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/feel-your-best-during-menopause