10 Goals to Get You Stoked During MenopauseOct 05, 2022
Menopause got you feeling like throwing in the towel? Here are some ways to help reignite your athletic fire.
By Selene Yeager
Missing your usual mojo and motivation? You are not alone! Menopause can be rough on active performance-minded women.
The good news is that as goal-oriented women, we can use the skills we’ve built and honed in our sports to tackle this new challenge, says exercise scientist and mental performance expert, Dr. Kristen Dieffenbach. Dr. Dieffenbach is the director of the Center for Applied Coaching and Sport Science at West Virginia University and a menopausal athlete herself.
“I think there's an empowerment in menopause if we can step away from viewing it as something that is happening to us and say, ‘You know what? This is my life. This is my experience. What am I going to do with it?’ And move forward from there,” says Dieffenbach, who shared her advice on episode 9 of Hit Play Not Pause, Joy Goals. Here’s what she recommends.
It takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication to work out regularly and/or get yourself to starting lines. Even among those who can, not many exercise regularly. If you regularly do endurance and strength exercise, you’re in an even smaller minority. Only about 15 percent of women in countries like the U.S. and Australia regularly engage in the minimum amounts of strength and cardiovascular exercise. Your first goal is to step back and give yourself props.
Find a medical ally.
Your doctor should be an ally in your active life. If that’s not the case for you, now’s the time to find a doctor who understands athletic people, Dieffenbach explains. “I was 48, playing competitive soccer and a guy twice my size ran into me, and I broke my ankle. My doctor said, ‘You need to stop doing that. It’s just too dangerous for someone your age.’ I said, ‘Well, you don't know who you're talking to. And this is the last time we'll be speaking.’ The medical profession doesn’t deal with athletes a lot. Someone with a medical sport background will say, ‘All right, do this and this, and keep going.”
Join a supportive group.
Brain fog, hot flashes, depression…we’re all going through menopausal challenges, and nobody understands that quite like other active women going through them. Along with working with your doctor, find a group of like-minded women to share struggles and potential solutions. It helps you know you’re not alone and can inspire you to tackle new challenges. One place to try is our private Hit Play Not Pause Facebook group, where more than 17,000 active women are sharing their journey.
Apply your growth mindset.
As athletes and active women, we’re always chasing goals and asking, “what’s next”? When we hit the hurdles of menopause or the changes that can come with simply getting older, we can start looking backward rather than forward. That’s not going to be very productive or helpful. Instead of trying to compare now to then, go into that growth mindset and ask yourself, “What can I do now with the resources that I have to optimize myself right now?” You may need to do more strength training. You may need to shift your training so you’re doing fewer miles, but better quality miles. There are always steps you can take to grow from where you are.
Write a new self-talk script.
We can be pretty hard on ourselves when we’re experiencing changes and challenges in our performance. This is a good time to practice some cognitive behavioral therapy and catch yourself when those thoughts creep in and ask, “Is this something I would say to another female?” The answer is likely, “No, I wouldn’t say that to anybody. That’s not helpful. It’s not nice. It’s not compassionate. And it’s certainly not productive.” So how can you speak to yourself in the same kind, compassionate way you would to somebody experiencing what you’re going through? Practice saying those same things to yourself. When all else fails try saying, “Yep. This is hard. But I got this.”
Expand your horizons.
If you’ve hit a spot where the transition feels raw and you’re simply not enjoying your sport or activity, try stepping away and finding another outlet for your athletic expression. “When I picked up adult competitive soccer, I hadn’t played since I was 18 or 19, so I had this great outlet to be competitive without comparing myself to my recent former self,” Dieffenbach says. If you’ve always been a road runner, try trail running, so you can rediscover the joy of the activity without worrying about hitting a certain expected pace. If you’re a powerlifter, try CrossFit. Change it up just enough to find that intrinsic excitement, joy, and motivation.
Find your flow.
The rhythm of your training life will change over time, and menopause can be one of those times. Maybe you always jumped out of bed and ran 5 miles at 5:00 in the morning, but that’s not calling to you anymore. Try waking up and doing some yoga and walking the dog some mornings instead. Work in more of a warmup and recovery. Tweak your routine until you find the new flow that fits where you are now.
Practice your swagger.
There are going to be those moments, looking down at your legs and seeing cellulite where muscle tone once was; new wrinkles in the mirror, broken blood vessels, padding around your middle, all the things that can make us feel ashamed because of how we’ve been conditioned to view aging. Your body will change. And that does not mean you can’t still be a badass. Those superficial things do not stop you from doing the sport you love. They are also far more pronounced to you. Give yourself grace and self-acceptance. Then practice holding your head high, giving yourself a wink and a smile in the mirror, and carrying on. This can be hard. And it’s also very worth it.
Become a student of yourself.
Your fueling and training needs may change during the menopause transition. The best way to discover what works best for you now is to be a student of yourself. Keep good training logs and be reflective, rather than rigid about your structure. If you like being coached, find a coach who will work with you through this process.
Blaze the trails.
We’re the first generation to see so many women coming of age playing sports and to continue being athletic and active throughout our adulthood. We’re literally pioneers in the athletic menopausal space. If you find yourself feeling self-conscious about being a menopausal athlete, remember you’re part of something bigger and that is creating an empowering culture for your peers and the women coming up in your wake. And that’s a very worthy goal!
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