One of the keys to good running is consistency. Running regularly over a long period of time brings great results in terms of running performance and health gains. Most runners are striving for consistency and get frustrated if they’re unable to run, for example, if they’re unwell.
When the peri-menopause strikes, it causes all sorts of problems with running which make being a consistent runner difficult. Of course, there’s usually a knock-on effect to performance which can leave you feeling demoralised. Committing to and training for an event becomes a significant undertaking.
So, what can we do to make things a bit easier for ourselves? How can we keep running consistently through the menopause and feel able to set and reach our goals? Let’s explore…
Why is consistent running hard around the menopause?
Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels all fall during the menopause. However, they don’t do so in a nice smooth downward line. It’s much more of a roller coaster ride with fluctuations up and down along the way. You never know how you will feel day to day. The variety of menopause symptoms is vast, from muscle aches, to sore breasts, headaches to fatigue. All of these can be big barriers to running. It suddenly becomes very difficult to keep any sort of consistency.
Training for running events during menopause
‘Relax, be flexible, don’t run if you don’t feel like it’. These are all great words of advice but what if you’re training for an event? What if you’ve set yourself a challenge to help you remain positive through the menopause and you need to stick to a training plan? What if there really isn’t much scope to miss runs?
This is a position lots of runners find themselves in. I believe it puts many women off entering events and setting goals in the first place. The menopause can make you lose your confidence and succeeding at a target can really help. It’s a big shame that women often feel unable to sign up for, set and strive for goals.
What can you do to help running consistency in menopause?
As someone who is nearly at the end of a marathon training plan and firmly in the middle of the perimenopause, I wanted to share some tips that have helped me. These are things that I have done to try to put myself in the best position to run consistently over several months leading up to my event:
- Extend your plan. Whatever distance you’re training for, I recommend building some extra weeks into your plan. Give yourself plenty of slack and factor in a few ‘menopause weeks’. This just takes the pressure off a bit. If you’ve a bad week and hardly run, then it really doesn’t matter because you have plenty of time. This will make you feel more confident that you can get to the race feeling prepared.
- Avoid triggers. There are lots of well-known triggers that will induce menopause symptoms. Every woman is different but common ones are caffeine, alcohol, stress, and lack of sleep. Look for patterns in your own life. For example, I know that if I have more than one glass of white wine or a single glass of red, I will wake up with night sweats, not sleep well and then find a run really hard. It’s no big deal for me to avoid alcohol the night before a long run or just have one glass of white! While symptoms can still be random, identifying your own triggers is a good place to start.
- Prioritise your recovery. Life is tiring. Training for an event is tiring. The menopause is tiring. That’s a whole lot of tired! When you’re pushing yourself a bit and gaining fitness your body is using extra energy. Allowing it to rest and recover is crucial. It is after all when you rest that your body repairs and re-inforces itself to make you stronger for the next session. You simply must allow time for this. It’s not easy but an extra half hour of sleep a night might be a good place to start. Constantly running on tired legs is tough mentally as well as physically.
- Reduce your run frequency. There’s plenty of advice that ‘less is more’ when it comes to run training. What you’re aiming for is to run consistently for a big block of time. This may be more sustainable for you if you run a bit less often. I think that sustaining three runs a week over 14 weeks is going to be better than aiming for five runs, missing lots and getting over tired. Of course, a lot of this depends on what your normal pattern is but I wouldn’t be afraid to drop one run a week to allow you recover well. Find a training plan that fits or adapt one that you’ve used before. Try to keep one hill/interval/faster run, a long run and an enjoyable potter/recovery run.
- Don’t skimp on the extras. Strength work and good nutrition aren’t always easy to maintain. Runners are notoriously bad at doing strength work. Training for an event makes you really hungry and unless you’re super organised it’s easy to fill up on low quality food. I’m far from perfect but doing what you can to improve in these areas will help you. Being stronger will definitely benefit your running and eating well will give your body the building blocks it needs for repair and recovery. Have a think about simple things you can do that will fit with your life. Even 15 minutes of Core work and a bit more fruit in a week will have benefits.
- Have a good attitude. Be open minded and curious. I’ve tried to see my marathon training as an experiment and a learning journey. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t, crossing my fingers for good days and enjoying it as much as possible. I knew it would be bumpy and far from perfect but I was ready for the challenge. I’ve kept an open-mind with what my race pace target will be. I want to see how it’s going and set a realistic goal right before the event. There are still a few variables between now and then. I think this attitude has allowed me to feel more positive, not beat myself up on bad days and gain confidence from the small things along the way. Can you take a fresh approach?
I’m not using any HRT at present. I don’t feel that I need it. I’m happy to look at it if I feel my lifestyle measures aren’t enough to keep me happy and well. Don’t be afraid to have a discussion with your doctor if your symptoms are interfering with life and that includes your ability to exercise. Physical activity is crucial for your present and long term physical and mental health.
If you’ve enjoyed this post and are finding running through the menopause a challenge then come and join my Run Through the Menopause course. Let me help you regain your running confidence and navigate your way through this tricky time of life. All the information you need is here.
Featured image by Philip Ackermann at Pexels