Not seeing results in your workouts? Noticing weight gain, despite the healthy habits?
I get it. Let me tell you how strength training is a game-changer during perimenopause…
From revving up your metabolism to supporting your bone health – adding more strength exercises into your routine can really help to take the edge off some of the most difficult parts of the perimenopause.
What used to work for me isn’t giving the same results – what’s going on?
Perimenopause is an important life stage for women when your ovarian hormones – estrogen and progesterone – begin to decline, leading to a host of symptoms such as an irregular menstrual cycle, hot flushes and low mood.
Researchers have also linked declining estrogen levels to a decrease in metabolic rate (the way you burn energy), a loss of lean muscle tissue, a loss of bone density and an increased risk of weight gain – all of which probably explains why you feel like you’re fighting against your usual routine and habits.
What’s the answer?
Rest assured that the hormone changes you’re experiencing won't prevent you from getting the results that you want.
Look at this time as an opportunity to shake things up and prioritize yourself. Remember: your hormones are doing their best to keep you healthy – so, if they change, it’s more than worth adapting your exercise and synchronizing it to what’s happening in your body and strength training is an excellent place to start.
So, what exactly is strength training?
Strength training – or resistance training – simply means working your muscles by pulling or pushing against a force. This force can be:
• Your own bodyweight, like when you do a press-up or squat
• Weights like dumbbells or kettlebells
• Weight from a weights machine in the gym
The best part is that you don’t need to become queen of the squat rack if you don’t want to. Start with little hand weights, a light kettlebell, or introduce resistance bands to your workout.
With strength workouts, you carry on burning energy even after you’ve stopped doing strength exercise.
Why is strength work so effective during perimenopause?
Strength training particularly helps with our metabolic health – which starts to dwindle from perimenopause. The reason for this is that it engages lots of different muscles, which is really helpful for burning energy more efficiently. Plus, with strength workouts, you carry on burning energy even after you’ve stopped doing strength exercise.
In turn, having more lean muscle (or having a lean body mass) and less fat has also been strongly linked to fewer vasomotor perimenopausal symptoms – that’s the hot flushes and night sweats.
A recent Swedish study found that women who did resistance training three times per week saw the frequency of their hot flushes reduced by 44%. The theory here is that strength-focused exercise improves our vascular function, helping us to better regulate our body temperature.
Then there’s that loss of bone density, which makes you more susceptible to injuries. Bones love estrogen, so as your levels decline, we’re also at greater risk of osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease. Strengthening and loading your skeleton with resistance training improves your bone health in the long-term. Even women many years after menopause have seen big benefits – it’s pretty amazing.
But I don’t want to bulk up…
You won’t….trust me. Bulking up is actually a very hard thing to achieve for women and requires years of specific training, dedication and eating a surplus of calories.
By introducing or adding in more strength training, the reality is that you’re more likely to build more lean muscle and reduce fat – which gives you that longer, leaner and more ‘toned’ look.
Because our testosterone levels (the main muscle-building hormone) are much lower, women will also never be as naturally muscular as men.
Okay, how do I adapt my perimenopause workout routine?
This depends on your starting level. If you’re a regular gym-goer or you already weight train, this might look like gradually and safely upping your weights to help you up your game. If you’re completely new to strength training, it’s best to slowly introduce more exercises.
Wherever you’re at, we could probably all do with a reminder that there are different types of fitness beyond just cardio, too. Here are some guiding principles to help you change things up:
1. Pause and review
Whatever your fitness level, it’s worth stepping back and spending some time reviewing your current routine. Perimenopause can actually be a positive time, giving us the opportunity to re-think your workout regime and shape it around what your body needs and what makes you feel good. If you run 4 times a week, you could start by changing one of those sessions to a dumbbell workout, for example.
2. Start simple
You don’t need very heavy weights or to overhaul your entire routine. Tailor your workout according to what you feel comfortable lifting. Try simple upgrades like adding light dumbbell weights to your normal HIIT class, or ankle or wrist weights when running.
3. Add more bodyweight moves
You could focus on simple bodyweight exercises – think planks and squats – or try group classes like Pilates or Barre that use resistance bands.
4. Don’t skip the warm-up
To avoid injury and to keep progressing over time, your warm-up and cool down is really important at this time. 5-10 minutes is ideal.
5. Get serious about rest and recovery
If you’re used to intense training, this might be a difficult one to hear, but trust it. Don’t underestimate the power and importance of matching what you’re doing with rest for your body to recover and reap the benefits of what you’ve just done. Especially when your perimenopausal hormones are a little bit Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and all over the place.
6. Get sleep smart
When we hit perimenopause, our hormone spikes and things like night sweats and hot flushes can play havoc with our sleep quality. Good quality sleep is vital, so if you need sleep support, try breathwork sessions for sleep and anxiety. Try a short yoga session which can help to reduce cortisol and contribute to better sleep hygiene.
Perimenopause isn’t all doom and gloom. Because our health suddenly comes into focus, it can be a stage in life where women prioritize themselves for the first time in decades. To reduce symptoms, get the results you want and feel better than ever, email me today at email@example.com.