Running is always challenging. Remaining consistent, staying motivated and making progress are just a few of the issues we have. And then, just when you thought you’d found some kind of steady state and your running is going well, along comes the perimenopause. Up pop new problems that make running even more difficult.  

It’s easy to see why many women stop or run less when perimenopause strikes. This is sad because it’s a time of life when we should actually be increasing our activity levels and not reducing them. Exercise is something that will help us to manage many symptoms of the menopause, reduce our risk of endless numbers of diseases which increase around this time and set us up for a much healthier future.  

I don’t think there’s enough help and support for women in perimenopause to overcome some of the big barriers they face to being active. It makes so much sense to stay active yet it can be so difficult to do.  

Here are six of the biggest challenges women complain to me about. Things that make running really difficult.  

  1. Fatigue. Feeling tired all the time doesn’t make you want to go for a run. When you wonder how you’ll even get through the day, the idea of summoning up the energy for a run can be impossible. It might be fatigue from having sleep disturbed by night sweats or multiple wees. It could be from increased life stresses draining your battery. Or it can simply be from being in this phase of life where hormone levels are like a roller coaster which seems to directly cause tiredness.  
  1. Falling running performance. Making good progress in your running is so satisfying but lots of women tell me that their ability to run seems to nose dive in perimenopause. They feel heavier, more out of breath and just not able to step up a gear. If you’re someone that likes to compete, against others or just yourself, then this can be really frustrating. You can lose any joy from uploading your runs when you see your comparable runs and personal bests and you can’t get anywhere near them.  
  1. Lack of motivation. Struggling to stay motivated is a problem for lots of runners but from my experience, it seems to ramp up a level in perimenopause. It’s hard to be motivated when you’re tired and when your performance is plummeting but even without those reasons, many women say they just seem to lack motivation and drive to run.  We know that changing hormone levels directly influence how we feel mentally and that includes competitive drive and motivation.  
  1. Aches and pains. All of sudden you feel stiff as a board when you get out of bed in the morning, like you’ve run a marathon when you haven’t. Do you find yourself letting out a groan when you lower into or rise out of a chair? When your joints and muscles hurt like this, it’s understandable why running doesn’t seem appealing, after all, walking around can pose enough of a challenge.  
  1. Period problems. Changing periods are a classic symptom of perimenopause. Before periods stop they often get heavier, irregular or more frequent. Managing heavy or erratic flow can be difficult as a runner, no one wants to leak through their kit. Heavy blood loss can also make you feel exhausted and possibly push you into being anaemic where your body has low numbers of red blood cells and exercising is very hard. And if you’re having more frequent periods, that means you’re getting premenstrual more often too with bloating, lethargy, headaches and all the other lovely feelings that can bring. None of these make you want to run.  
  1. Fuelling issues. One problem that many runners talk to me about it is the way their gut has changed. Some suddenly develop the runner’s trots, others say that they don’t feel their usual choice of race fuel seems to give them the energy they need any more. Favourite pre-race meals don’t sit well and indigestion is more common. When you have long established routines and habits, you certainly notice when things change and this can have a big knock on effect to running ability.  

There are of course, many, many more menopausal symptoms than this and most of them have some influence on how easy it is to run but these are the six that women most often complain to me about.  

Hormone Replacement Therapy (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.  

I can’t solve all these issues in one blog but if you stick along for the ride, follow me and use my resources you’ll hopefully gain knowledgeable and get tips and ideas to help you keep running through the menopause. Sign up for my weekly newsletter below and I’ll pop into your inbox every week.  

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