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.
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.