Are you ‘older and wiser’? Are you feeling more confident in yourself, your values and what you want from life? Not suffering fools gladly and happy to say, ‘No’? Many women are but for lots of us, before we reach this point, we can have a huge wobble, a period of self-doubt, low confidence and even anxiety. These feelings are common around the menopause. Women at the peak of their career suddenly begin to doubt their ability to do their job, feel anxious when driving a car or travelling far from home.
There can also be a knock-on effect to your running. It can be subtle but your running behaviour might change. It could manifest as:
- Not signing up for races or challenges
- Not prioritising your running
- Not feeling like ‘a runner’ any more
- Not wanting to travel to events that are far from home
- Sticking to close by, tried and tested routes
- Avoiding challenging sessions such as hills or intervals
- Not actually running.
When you feel like this, it’s easy to think your best running days are behind you, to stop enjoying your running and perhaps find yourself gradually withdrawing from running altogether.
I’m here to say, hold on, don’t give up, hear me out…
Why am I losing my confidence?
There are lots of physical symptoms of the menopause that can make you lose your self-confidence. A leaky bladder, hot flushes and weight gain for example. But even without these, there are many women who experience a lack of confidence and low self-esteem from seemingly out of nowhere. It’s likely that the changing hormone levels of the menopause are to blame, in particular the fall in oestrogen. Oestrogen levels affect your brain activity and can have direct and indirect effects on how you feel. Testosterone levels might have a role to play here too. It’s normal to feel these things.
How can I get my confidence back?
If you’re nodding your head as you read this or recognising yourself in these words, please know this is not the end of your running journey. Your future doesn’t have to include the phrase, ‘I used to be a runner’.
Think back to when you first started running. I bet it increased your self-confidence and self-esteem, boosted your mood and made you feel like anything was possible? What did running give you?
Running is still there for you. It can do all of those things all over again. It doesn’t mind if you want to take things easy for a while and just enjoy pressure-free, close to home running. It won’t be offended if you take a few weeks off and ignore it completely. But don’t let it vanish from your life. It still has so much to give you. You need it. It’s the perfect exercise to help you through the menopause. It will strengthen your bones, muscles and heart. It will help you control your weight and regulate your mood. It will help you to cope with the symptoms and niggles of the perimenopause and set you up for a healthier future. These are just a few of the benefits of running during this time.
You might have to fight for it a bit. To refuse to listen to those voices in your head that tell you it isn’t that important. You might have to go back to a Couch to 5k for a while, to dial it right down. It’s fine. You can do it. You’ve done it before and you can do it again.
Tips for getting your running confidence back during the menopause
I’ve experienced this. I understand. It can feel so confusing and it can change from day to day too. I needed to dig deep and think of all the reasons I didn’t want to stop running. I had to work my way through this and I’m pleased I’m in a good place now. I’m also realistic that it might visit me again but I’m prepared.
Here are my tips for getting your running confidence back during the menopause. These are things that have helped me and I hope they help you too:
- Know this is temporary – Keep going, you will get through this transition
- Encourage yourself gently – Give yourself lots of pep talks. Imagine you are speaking to a friend, what would you tell her?
- Share how you feel – Friends and family can remind you how amazing you are.
- Look at what you can control – Are there other things adding to your lack of confidence? Can you reduce your stress, improve your sleep or speak to your employer?
- Set a goal – Do you need some small goals to move you forwards or are you best setting a scary big one to force you to take action? We’re all different.
- Run free – If it suits you better, remove all pressure from your running, ditch the sports watch, enjoy the scenery and walk when you want.
- Run with friends – Find yourself another menopausal woman or a group of them to run with. Off loading, laughing and most of all, knowing you are not alone does help.
- Reflect on your running journey – Remind yourself of what running has given you and how far you have come. Write it all down and look at it when you’re doubting yourself.
*Remember, if you’re struggling with your mood, if your menopause symptoms are interfering with your daily life, work and relationships, make an appointment to see your GP. Using Hormone Replacement Therapy might be an option for you. Other therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are available too.
Running will help you, just like it did before. Give it, and you, a chance. Running will help you remember who you are.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog then why not sign up for my Run Through the Menopause course? I’ll help you to get yourself in the right frame of mind to keep running through this transition, alongside looking at all the ways the menopause can affect you as a runner and what you can do about it.
Photo by Guillaume Hankenne at Pexels