Over the last few years, many coaches have started to recognize the importance of training around the hormonal cycle. But what happens to running over 50 during peri-menopause and running after menopause?
It changes things.
Simply acknowledging that is step one in continuing onward! We can’t just push through and do what we have always done. Your body is changing and your plans need to change to.
Can menopause effect running?
During Peri-menopause while hormones are fluctuating there may be days of fatigue and days where your core temperature is higher… but after menopause our big focus is cortisol.
As someone who stopped producing estrogen at 29, I actually got to figure this out early on and have continued running marathons and an Ultra happily since that time!
The idea that of menopause exercise intolerance is just a little misguided. You can and SHOULD exercise, but you might need to shift things in ways you didn’t expect.
Is running good for over 50s?
Let go of the idea that running is “for young people”. It’s just not accurate.
- Running helps to lubricate the joints
- Running provides an outlet for stress
- Running mitigates weight gain from hormones shifting
- Running gives you a community and connection
- Running gets you outside for all the mental and physical benefits of nature
Love Susan B Running for showing us how to keep going and thriving.
Menopause Exercise Plan
Let’s take not just my experience, but the things I’ve learned from working with our many runners, courses from Dr Stacy Simms and more to help guide you through this.
- Easy efforts are the bulk of training
- Plyometrics are still valuable
- Heavy weights are still valuable
- Post workout nutrition is ramped up
- Carbohydrate intolerance increases
- Blood marker testing is extremely valuable
There is a lot to unpack in each of these areas, but the key here is that your post menopause exercise plan can absolutely still include endurance training and MUST include strength training.
Why You Can’t Go Hard All the Time?
I mentioned cortisol earlier and you can read all about how cortisol from exercise causes weight gain.
As your estrogen levels drop, the body will make up for that by increasing other things like cortisol.
Every workout will increase cortisol, BUT a daily dose of something high intensity or simply doing all of your runs at a moderate effort will put you in to a too common cycle:
- workout, eat less
- weight goes up
- workout more, eat less
- weight still goes up
- you’re frustrated and totally exhausted
What many runners after menopause find is that LESS exercise and eating enough results in weight loss and feeling so much better on their runs that they perform better.
When you’re looking for exercises for menopause belly, recognize that it’s not about specific movements, but instead about putting this lower cortisol training in place.
How can you do that?
Run To the Finish Masters Running Coach Charlene has been there done that and knows what it takes to run after menopause. Reach out if you’re looking for a 1-1 coach to help customize your running and strength plan.
Plyometrics Over 50
Yes, you can still do them.
DO NOT say you’re too old.
If you haven’t been doing anything like this then we simply add them in slowly and methodically. They are a small portion of training, but are necessary to light up those powerful muscles, preventing muscle loss; it improves agility; it helps with speed.
- Squat jumps – start by just coming up on to your toes
- Speed skaters – start with small jumps and get bigger
- Jump rope – imaginary jump rope really focused an the ankles being springs
- Box jumps – start by doing single leg step ups
This can be a once a week thing you do prior to a run, which helps get the muscles firing.
Strength Training Over 50
Many women were taught that light weights high reps is what we need to stay “toned”. While that type of lifting is in fact great for endurance, what it doesn’t do is help us to maintain muscle mass that we are losing so quickly with the decline of hormones.
- If new to lifting, then yes even body weight is AMAZING
- Try once a week to pick up a weight that you can only do 5-8 reps of and then take a long break
- You don’t need to do more than 2 rounds if you are lifting that heavy
- This will increase your metabolism
- This will help you maintain muscle, which improves endurance, speed and weight loss
- This will help prevent injuries
Masters Runner Jolene makes strength a priority and it pays off in speedy racing.
The type of lifting remains extremely similar to what we want every runner to do for injury prevention and performance. Checkout the 30 Day Core Challenge for a daily 10 minute workout that you can do pre-run to prevent injuries.
Did you know that studies show we really only gain 5-10 lbs just because of the loss of estrogen? That’s right, so the rest of it is about changing our lifestyle and our training habits!!
What does all of this mean your post menopause exercise plan looks like?
- Monday: Long run
- Tuesday: Complete rest day or core workout
- Wednesday: Core workout, easy run
- Thursday: Full body strength
- Friday: Easy run + strides
- Saturday: Core workout, easy run
- Sunday: Full body strength
- Monday: rest
- Tuesday: Core workout + plyometrics
- Wednesday: Long run
Post Workout Nutrition Changes with Menopause
One of the big bummers about menopause is the body does not process carbohydrates as well, so we have to be even more careful with any simple sugars.
EXCEPT right around workouts. That’s when your oatmeal with honey or your post workout smoothie with fruit are put to use by the body for energy and recovery.
- Within 30 minutes you need to get in a high protein recovery meal
- Try a high protein smoothie if you aren’t hungry
- Leucine is the key piece of protein to help you build and maintain muscle
- Improving recovery means having the energy to go again the next day
Blood Testing for Runners
This isn’t about tracking your hormones like estrogen, which we know have dropped.
Instead, we are looking to stay on top of the other markers which play a HUGE role in your feelings of fatigue or even just low emotions.
Find out more about blood testing for athletes and what I recommend, but here’s at least part of what we’re looking at:
- Cortisol levels – weight gain, mood, sleep issues
- Vitamin D – mood, energy
- Iron – fatigue, energy, hair loss
- Ok fine all the vitamins and minerals because they’re going to help you feel better
What you should be noticing from all of this is that you CAN absolutely still train for a marathon or hit your first pull up or even run a PR.
It requires that you start to embrace what is different about your body and change your training to match those needs. The pull back from intensity is usually the hardest part for most people because it feels contrary to what we know….
Do less and lose weight.
Do it easier and run better.
Those things seem wrong, but it’s a different phase of training!
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