Running Through the Menopause

Older couple running on beach

There is not much information about running through the menopause, the main reason being that until recently, running was not that popular a sport among older runners, especially women.

It used to be, your menopausal, you've got a belly, grey hairs and wrinkles, therefore your physical fitness is going downhill ........ only walking and gentle exercise from now on please. 

Well forget that I say, as I want to be running into my seventies. In fact I am not alone as there are now a huge number of older female runners , many of whom have been  through or are running through the menopause, and they are doing just fine.

Being a Menopausal Runner

Fifty one is the average of women when reaching the menopause (in the US and the UK) but before that most women have gone through a period of 'peri-menopause' which on average starts  4 years before the menopause.

The menopause affects women in different ways and some more than others.  Think of hut flushes, night sweats, foggy brain, random emotions, anxiety, tiredness, inflated belly and so on. Now imagine running through the menopause with those issues and you can see it could be not much fun. After all, we want to enjoy running.

It is a fact that the menopause causes our hormones to go a bit crazy. Our estrogen levels drop as our body decides "no more babies thank you". Another side effect of lower estrogen is that our metabolism shifts (hence the few extra pounds round our belly) and it also contributes to the reduction in our bone density and muscle mass.

It does sound doom and gloom but actually it doesn't have to be at all. Yes you might slow down as a runner but at least you can still keep on running. And remember that for the vast majority of women, the symptoms don't last.

In my mind the biggest issues to deal with are decreasing bone density and loss of muscle mass. Those 2 things mean you are more likely to suffer a running injury and therefore you need to take more care to ensure that you keep your muscles and bones in the best shape possible.

Reasons to Keep on Running 

> Running can actually help reduce the symptoms of the menopause.

> Exercising during and after the menopause has been shown to give women a better quality if life than those who are much less active.

> Exercise helps you sleep better.

> Running lifts your mood by releasing endoprhins - "happy hormones".

> Running outside boosts your vitamin D levels which are vital in helping to keep your bones strong.

> Exercise contributes to better bone density.

> Running helps control weight gain. More exercise and less time snacking has got to be good.

Tips to Keep on Running through the Menopause

Running through the menopause and out the other end is  totally doable. Just keep on running with these added tips to make it easier:

Keep Strong

  • Make sure to do some from of strength and resistance training a couple of times a week. This will pay huge dividends in helping to counter muscle and bone density  loss. 
  • As we age, our tendons and ligaments get a bit stiffer so stretching or yoga on a regular basis can really help. I stretch my calves as I clean my teeth and touch my toes whilst the kettle is boiling.

Keep Cool

  • Change your running schedule if necessary and run in the cooler parts of the day.
  • If lack of sleep is an issue, try and get a small nap in during the day. Also look at your sleep schedule and bedroom temperature. I've heard that drinking a cool glass of tart cherry juice just before going to bed is meant to help in cooling your core.

Balance your Food and Fluids

  • Watch your diet. Avoid sugary things and cut back on carbohydrates which increase insulin and your stress hormones which in turn helps pile the pounds on round your tummy. Instead focus more on leafy green vegetables and dairy for extra calcium.
  • If you are sweating a lot, then you'll need to up your fluid intake. Have a look at your pee - it should be pale yellow if you are properly hydrated.
  • If stress incontinence is a problem, you can do something about it. Here's how to deal with pee problems when running.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

  • Accept that your body will slow with age - it is the same for us ALL. However slowing down does not mean giving up. Just take things a bit slower and go by how you feel rather than following a rigid schedule. Take an extra day off if you feel like it or enjoy a longer run if it feels right.
  • You might be slower in shorter race distances but your secret trump card could be your slower training. Slower training is a key to excelling at endurance events so marathons could be your new target.

Smile and Feel Smug Because.....

  • You no longer need to carry tampons and pads in your running belt. Yeah!
  • Hair growth slows so your arm pits and legs are smoother and sexy for longer.
  • Your poor sleep patterns are forcing you to get up and run early when the birds are just starting to tweet and life is deliciously calm and quiet.
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