Life Lessons from a Menopause RetreatMar 06, 2023
by Selene Yeager
Our first Feisty Menopause Performance Retreat blew me away…and in some very unexpected ways.
We descended on Lake Nona ready to learn. A dozen women confident enough in who they are to be fully open to who they could become. Women who have embraced menopause as a time to turn their attention inward and get what they need to thrive for the decades that lie ahead. And boy did the retreat deliver…in more ways than expected.
We had deadlifting and back squat clinics where by the end, women who’d never touched a barbell were confidently racking and squatting and setting, pulling, and locking out. There was Chopra yoga. We learned how to nourish our bodies for lower inflammation and hormonal health. We received a detailed Dari Motion Analysis report showing exactly where our movement and musculoskeletal health was strong and where it needed work. And we pushed, lunged, jumped, and laughed our way through our own private Deka event.
We even received our own private lecture on musculoskeletal health and menopause with internationally acclaimed researcher, team doctor, and double-board certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Vonda Wright, of the Hughston Clinic at Lake Nona Performance Center, which hosted us for the weekend.
As exceptional as all that was–and it was truly exceptional–in some ways the teachings from our official itinerary were just the prologue to a tome of bigger takeaways. Here are a few that are still buzzing in my mind.
We are underestimated!
One of the biggest—and frankly most infuriating—takeaways was how underestimated we are. Despite the fact that we are seeing women in their 50s like 2021 RAAM winner (overall) Leah Goldstein and 2022 Ultraman World Champion Dede Griesbauer out there crushing it, and that we all know what we’re capable of, menopausal and midlife women are often dismissed in their everyday life.
This is a product of a destructive blend of sexism and ageism—both overt and covert. We heard from one amazingly talented trainer about how she's gotten messages from the powers that be that she’s no “spring chicken”. A badass mountain biker lamented how bike shop employees will immediately point her to a bike path when she’s renting a bike or wants beta on where to ride, though she’s an accomplished racer who can easily ride double black diamond trails. The stories went on.
It was so wonderful to be in a group of women who know what we’re capable of, brighten each other’s shine, and who challenge and inspire each other to grow and get stronger. We all need more of that in our lives.
There’s SO much room to grow!
Speaking of growing and getting stronger, the weekend made it clear that no matter where you are, there is so much room to grow! Accomplished Iron distance triathletes learned to lift. Women who had already mastered power lifts turned their attention to Olympic lifts. Those who could rock a perfect crow pose in yoga hooked themselves up to straps and took their practice to the wall.
Dr. Vonda talked about living forward as a key to longevity. That looking forward through the windshield of your life leads to a better health span than hitting menopause and spending most of your time looking in the rearview mirror when you easily have another third to half of your life ahead of you! I believe that’s true and it was amazing to watch it in action.
We need community!
Many of us are lonely. That message came through loud and clear. As active and athletic women, we’re sometimes viewed as the “oddball” in our communities. As women who came up in a time when girls lacked opportunities to play sports and were even actively discouraged from doing so, we often find ourselves alone on starting lines. Younger women are not immune. Women who go through menopause early may have more same-aged active peers around them, but often feel alone in their experience.
Finding women who “get you” can make a huge difference. And boy did we find that in Lake Nona. Women came from all over the country–Alaska, South Carolina, New York City, Wyoming, you name it–to be with women just like themselves. And it was enormously satisfying and so much fun.
We lifted, laughed, and learned together during the day and then went out at night, singing at the top of our lungs and bouncing on the dancefloor, smashing society’s preconceived notions about us under our romping feet.
I, like I’m sure many of you, can find myself holing up in my own little bubble of one sometimes, getting work done, scratching off all of life’s “to-do’s”, replacing real social interactions with those that happen online. This weekend reminded me that there’s no substitute for the magic and power of in-person contact with people who share your passion. It also steeled my resolve to create more spaces for us to find each other both online and in real life, so we can all learn, grow, laugh, and show the world all we have to offer for decades to come.
By popular demand, we’re already looking ahead to our next small group retreat at Lake Nona. If you are interested, you can add your name to the waitlist here to be the first to get the details.
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