If you’re menopausal and finding running really hard, I want you to know that you aren’t alone.
I speak not only from personal experience but also from having spoken to hundreds of menopausal women runners. Through my ‘Run Through the Menopause’ online course, my ‘Menopause and Running’ talks and through comments and messages on my social media, it’s clear to me just how much the menopause can affect running. Our precious lifeline that makes life better or bearable can become so difficult to do. And that’s at a time when we need it most.
Women’s activity levels and menopause
We know that women are not as active as men generally and that women’s participation in exercise falls as they get older, particularly once they are over 75. This is tragic. The benefits that exercise brings us in terms of reducing our risk of disease and setting ourselves up for a healthy, independent future become even more important as we age.
When you read the list of potential perimenopausal symptoms (there are said to be over 40), so many of them are issues that can affect your ability to exercise. This is a time in life when we need exercise more than ever. Lifestyle measures including exercise are vital to help us through the menopause transition yet it can be harder than ever to be active.
I don’t think that this is recognised enough. Women are quite rightly told that exercise will help them in menopause and frequently advised to do more, lift weights, start yoga and so on but little is offered to help them achieve that and overcome the reasons that they are not as active as they were or want to be. Some recognition of how hard it can be is a good place to start.
What are the biggest challenges that menopausal runners face?
This is not a scientific study, this is me sharing what I have seen and discussed with women. Take pretty much any menopausal symptom and you can label it as a barrier to exercise, painful breasts, bladder leaks, disrupted sleep etc but there are a number of issues that come up time and time again. Issues that women say are the main reasons they are struggling to participate in or to enjoy running.
Here are the top five biggest menopausal challenges to running that women report to me:
1) Loss of motivation.
Just simply finding it harder to get out of the door. This can obviously be because of menopausal symptoms that make running unpleasant, it’s hard to do something that you know is going to be a struggle but also because of a more intrinsic loss of motivation in life generally. Read my blog on Motivation and Menopausal Running
2) Running feeling harder and reduced performance.
Not being able to run as fast or as easily is really off-putting, especially if you’re someone who has been driven by competing against yourself or others. This can be due to multiple factors but feeling heavier, more out of breath and just not being able to step up a gear are what women highlight most.
3) Joint aches and pains.
This is a very common perimenopause symptom and it’s totally understandable why you don’t feel able to run if everything hurts and feels stiff. Women also say that they can feel worse after exercise and recovery of muscles and joints seems to take longer too.
Tiredness is a huge issue for menopausal women. That can be because of interrupted sleep due to night sweats, toilet trips or just because sleep is affected by changing hormone levels but fatigue is also common in women who sleep well at night too. Not finding the extra energy to exercise is a reason many women don’t do it. Read my blog on Menopausal Fatigue and Running.
5) Erratic and or heavy periods.
Although we may associate the menopause with periods stopping, before they do that, there is often a time when periods become irregular, sometimes more frequent and often heavy. Of course there’s the fear of leaking blood but there’s also the premenstrual symptoms of bloating, headaches and lethargy which are hard to tolerate. Coping with a heavy flow as a runner is tricky, not just to manage practically but the associated light headedness, weakness or period pain that can go with it.
As I said, there are many more menopausal symptoms that stop women exercising but these are the most common and impactful that I hear about. Do you identify with these? I think we need to do more to help women address these in order for them to be able to experience the health benefits of exercise in the menopause and to use exercise to help them navigate the menopause too.
HRT can be used to help manage lots of menopausal symptoms but not all. For some women, they couldn’t exercise at all if it wasn’t for HRT, it reduces their symptoms and makes is possible for them to be active. But that isn’t the whole story, many women can’t or don’t want to take HRT. And HRT or not, lifestyle measures such as exercise are needed for all women. There’s no more important time to set healthy exercise habits than around the menopause when our bodies are changing and moving into the next phase of life. What we do now will determine what we can do when we’re over 75.
If you’ve got this far and have been nodding along and recognising these issues with your menopause and running, then I have a few ways I can help. You can:
• Sign up to get my weekly newsletter tips and advice on running and menopause topics (sign up below)
• Get yourself on the waiting list for my Run Through the Menopause Course
• Follow me on social media – Instagram or Facebook
• Email me (contact@localhost) if you are interested in my new one to one Menopause Coaching
Photo by Jan van der Wolf: https://www.pexels.com/photo/no-entry-road-sign-11615536/