Tag Archives: endurance

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

So, after another sleepless night, I think I may be perimenopausal. I’ve noticed a pattern of depression before my period, which is out of sync with how I normally feel. I had noticeable heart palpitations a few months ago, and have been getting hot at night sometimes.

To be honest I don’t really want to admit to it, because, well, the word menopausal has many negative connotations to me. Maybe I just don’t want to admit that I’m getting older, just yet; However I also know that until I accept this part of myself then I’m not going to be feeling more positive any time soon!

During the last few months, I have found that there is information for women out there, but as symptoms can be so different. I could attribute my feelings and symptoms to so many other things. It feels a bit like being in the dark. I have talked to friends about it, and we all feel a little bit confused.

Symptoms of perimenopause can vary but here are a few of them

  • Changing periods – length of cycle, duration of period
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue – tiredness or a loss of zest
  • Anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression
  • A feeling of being invisible and a loss of confidence
  • Decreased libido or sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Increased PMS
  • Urinary leakage or urgency
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • Heart palpitations

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

What to do?

The last few months I have found myself in a very dark place, at times, and its hard to know what to do about it. Standard advice for perimenopausal women is to get your nutrition right, exercise, get enough sleep etc, but there is not much information out there for women who are already doing these things, and who are also training for endurance events. The standard advice of exercising may not be the best option here. If you are training a lot, then your stress levels may be raised, so it might not actually be the best thing for someone who is already pushing themselves close to their limits.

It may be more beneficial to incorporate a bit more recovery, and some strength work at this time in your life.

A lot of information is also for menopausal women, who have already stopped their periods. So what happens in-between? It seems to be a kind of no mans land, possibly because everyone is so different in how they experience this transition. It makes it difficult to study. There is no way of knowing if you are perimenopausal, as the tests that can detect it are based on hormone levels, which fluctuate throughout the month anyway.

Future research

It would be interesting to see some research in this area, but I’m pretty sure that perimenopausal women and endurance are not going to be the focus of many scientific studies in the near future. Talking about it can help us to realise that we are not the only ones going through it, and may help you to feel supported. I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s experience during this time, so feel free to get in touch if you have any ideas or information that you want to share.

If you’re looking for some more resources I have listed a few below, and you can read about my experience at a race when I was suffering with symptoms here

NHS site

Ride strong through the menopause, cycling magazine

The British Menopause Society

What is an endurance ride?

Or, riding in Zone 2

An endurance ride or run means different things to different people, and it’s something that a lot of people get wrong, so I thought I’d try and clear up a few misunderstandings and misconceptions.

When I describe an endurance ride I ask someone to ride in Zone 2 for an extended period of time. The way that training works is that your body adapts to the training load that you place on it, so it is important to increase the distance that you ride, and make sure that you plan this well. If you increase your long rides/runs too early you will be at risk of burnout and reach your peak fitness too early. If you don’t increase your long rides/runs enough then your endurance will be compromised.

It is also important to make sure you pace the ride correctly, some mistakes that people make are:

  • Riding too hard on hills, and then recovering on the flats and downs.
  • Not riding consistently on the flats and downs.

If you are using a power meter it is easy to see if you are in the right zone, and I have found I ride more consistently when I use my power meter. If you are using heart rate then you can see from your heart rate graph how consistent you are. If your heart rate graph looks like the one below, then you may not be getting the benefit of an endurance ride.

Heart rate dips and peaks a lot.

Heart rate dips and peaks a lot.

Shown below is a more consistently paced ride where the heart rate remains fairly steady

Heart rate does not dip and peak as much.

Heart rate does not dip and peak as much.

People’s heart rates don’t tend to dip as much when they are running, but it is still important to be aware of your effort level and keep a constant pace. Don’t forget, triathlons are steady state events and you need to be able to swim, bike and run at a steady pace for an extended amount of time.