Staying motivated to run is hard enough at the best of times. Even when you know you’ll always feel better after a run, that doesn’t seem to make it any easier to get into your trainers and out the door! Then the menopause comes along and the challenge gets even tougher. Let’s explore why that is and what we can do about lack of running motivation during menopause.
Why is it so hard to stay motivated to run during menopause?
The physical symptoms of menopause
There’s an endless list of ways the menopause can make running harder physically. Here are some of the main ones that women tell me have a big impact on their running:
• Weight gain
• Sore joints
• Painful breasts
• Heavy periods
• Needing to pee all the time
• Digestive problems
I could go on and on but the point is, all these issues provide one more barrier to overcome (or multiple barriers if you’re affected by lots of them). Extra effort is needed to start your run. You might feel more vulnerable if you’re worried about finding toilet stops. You might be in pain with breasts or joints that you know will worsen when you run. It’s no wonder you’re lacking in motivation when the act of running can be so hard!
The psychological symptoms of menopause
Alongside the way our body feel physically, there’s a lot going on in our heads too. The hormonal changes, ups and downs and decline of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone affect our brain. Many women find they have a general loss of drive, enthusiasm and motivation. Not just in running but in life generally. This is an intrinsic cause; it’s happening within due to alterations in brain chemicals. It’s not your fault.
Then of course, there are all the other psychological reasons why motivation is low. It’s hard to make yourself do something if you aren’t enjoying it and the extra physical challenges can make running difficult. Menopause often affects running performance, so if you’re someone who has previously been motivated by getting faster or going further, then not being able to reach your targets or stopping seeing progress can be so disheartening.
Exercise during menopause is hard
It’s all doom and gloom so far isn’t it?! I think it is important to acknowledge that it’s difficult. We’re often told that exercise will help us through menopause and yes, it will BUT I want it to be known that it’s not all jumping around in Lycra with a big smile on your face. Running in menopause can be grim! There will be times when you wonder if it’s worth it, times you want to give up and in fact, times when you do actually stop for a bit. Let’s not shy away from this fact. Instead let’s be open, proactive, learn, share, adapt and give ourselves a break sometimes.
Tips for menopausal running motivation
I asked my social media followers how they stayed motivated to run during menopause and here are some of their responses, along with some of my own tried and tested tips. I hope there’s something to help you here:
• Adjust your expectation of yourself. If you don’t then you always feel like you’re failing and that’s a downwards spiral. Be proud of what you can achieve.
. I have a little phrase/mantra – ‘Something is better than nothing, no matter how short or small.’ (Ros) Yes! It doesn’t have to epic and it doesn’t even have to involve a run to be good for you.
• Find reasons to run that don’t include performance. Don’t look at your watch, maybe even leave it at home. Enjoy a new route, the scenery, a podcast or focus on your running technique.
• A good playlist with your absolute favourite tracks (Jenny). I love this one. I’m someone who is always so inspired by music. Having been a devout ‘no headphones when I run’ person I’ve found a good playlist can really help me through hard runs and I even look forward to listening to the tunes I’ve selected.
• Accept yourself as you are on the day. If it’s a good day then enjoy it, if not then don’t dwell on it, move on.
• Just go for ten minutes. You’ve probably heard this one before but it works! After ten minutes the likelihood is that you’ll have got past the worst and want to carry on but if you don’t then that’s fine, ten minutes of exercise is known to have health benefits.
• Phone a friend. Running with others can be hugely motivating, from setting a day and time to go and knowing someone is waiting for you to having a good old chat on the way round. This works for me every time.
• Remembering my future self will thank me for sticking at it and doing what I can to keep healthy (Kate). I find this very motivating too. I visualise 80-year-old Juliet cheering me on and being so grateful for everything I do to take care of myself now. I know that running regularly will help me age well and increase my chances of living an independent future.
• Set a goal. I was struggling a bit with motivation and then I signed up to do another marathon. I was hesitant because I knew this meant I absolutely had to train and I didn’t know how I was going to get on doing a marathon in the perimenopause but it was really powerful motivation for me. Take your time and find the right goal for you though, you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself, especially if you’re really struggling with your menopause and running.
Find YOUR motivation
We’re all different and what motivates me won’t necessarily motivate you. Spend some time thinking about what your reasons to run are. You need to go deep and explore why it’s so important to you. Is it part of your identity? Does it keep you well and able to look after someone you love? Is it the only thing you do for yourself? How does running make you feel? Write down your reasons so you can look at them when your motivation is low. These need to be things that go to the very core of you. Hang on tightly to these reasons. It’s easy to dismiss them in the moment but keep reminding yourself of them. They are a powerful force to keep you running.
Is it more than lack of running mojo?
My former GP hat is going on here! Is your lack of running motivation part of something wider? Is the way you feel affecting your everyday life too? Are you struggling with your mood? Is there a black cloud hanging over you? Have you stopped enjoying things that used to give you pleasure? Do your bad days outnumber your good ones? If yes, then do consider whether you might have some depression which can affect women at any time but is common around the menopause. Make an appointment with your GP to discuss how you feel, please don’t suffer in silence.
I would love to hear how you stay motivated to run during menopause. Leave me a comment or come and say hello on social media.
If you want to learn more about running through the menopause then I have a Run Through the Menopause Course. As well as addressing the physical reasons menopause makes running difficult I also look at mindset, habits and motivation. I want you to feel equipped to cope with all the menopause can throw at you. Join the waiting list for when the course doors open.