GUEST BLOG BY JACQUI, FOUNDER OF THE 'FIT SHACK - WIMBLEDON'
For women over 40 - take note. This blog is for you. What you could get away with in your younger years just doesn't fly anymore! How many times have you said things like "I used to be able to eat anything and not put on a pound" or "I can survive off 4 hours sleep a night". HA! Not anymore.
At first, you may not notice any major changes. Or you may be blaming them on other external factors. But for most of us, if you are over 40, you are more than likely to be in the perimenopause transition and I want you to understand what this means and start being aware of the tell-tale signs so that you can steer your own ship.
What IS perimenopause?
It is a change in the levels of the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This can start as early as your 30's (earlier sometimes in exceptional circumstances) and continue until you have your final period (average age is 51). It is also the biggest opportunity for personal growth and empowerment since puberty!
You would most likely think that the obvious telltale sign is changes in your menstrual cycle and sometimes this is the case. Your cycle may become irregular, bleeding becomes heavier or lighter, more painful, go on for longer or shorter. Or you may be regular as clockwork and so assume that everything is 'okay'.
But......what about your moods, your thoughts, your forgetfulness, your libido, your bladder, your weight, your sleep.....
ALL of these things are affected by fluctuating hormones.
I was 41 when I had my second child after suffering from 5 miscarriages after my first. I'd kind of given up hope and was on my 'last chance'. I think mentally I just couldn't take anymore. I never had a problem getting pregnant, but since my first pregnancy I had never managed to get to 12 weeks. I'd reached that stage of almost giving up. I prayed. I got pregnant. I prayed again. I got past 12 weeks. Then I reached 20 weeks. I still believe to this day that it was divine intervention, but that's another story.
Age 43 I realised that my body felt different than after my first. I blamed post baby hormones. By now I had retrained into the health and fitness industry and gained my personal training qualification. We didn't learn about hormones specific to females. We didn't learn about symptoms like mood swings, brain fog, irritability, forgetfulness, trouble sleeping, water retention, PMS, weight gain, loss of libido, decreased sense of well being, depression, headaches.
I started doing my own research and fell into the 'perimenopause' world. I was shocked. Like standing there open mouthed shocked......WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS? Why isn't there a little manual given to us all at puberty to explain what happens when our periods end and not just begin? Why is there ante natal classes for giving birth but nothing for perimenopause to prepare you? I mean, it's LIFE CHANGING right?
In a nutshell, you need to prioritise self-care. There are very important lifestyle areas to focus on that are imperative to get yourself into optimal health in your 40's to make this transition a smooth ride rather than a choppy one.
eat well (prioritise gut health)
If I had to choose just ONE of these to start, I would say move well. This will help with all the other area's above.
Movement is non-negotiable. There, I've said it. And this is why......because it will help with:
sleep (especially if exercising outside, it helps set circadian rhythms)
sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass)
heart health (the biggest killer of women over 50)
mental health (endorphins/serotonin)
reduce joint pain (increase synovial fluid)
helps with thermal regulators
increased mobility & flexibility
more likely to make healthy food choices
I could go on. But I won't. No one can do it for you. Show up for yourself. Start where you are. Remove any barriers. What's holding you back? Be accountable. Find an exercise buddy. Find a knowledgeable expert. Find a community of like-minded women. Find group classes. Build a habit.
Women are not small men and should be exercising in a way that is beneficial to women.
If you don't know where to start, here are my top tips.
Walking. Find a partner, start slow, build up, walk up hills, maybe power walk intervals.
Strength training. You need to put the muscles and bones under stress. Start with bodyweight then add weight.
Flexibility/Mobility. Get to know your body, where you have limited range of movement and work on it. Try Yoga or Pilates classes.
Restorative exercise. Breathe, learn to meditate, be mindful.
So ladies, crack on and get steering your ship and I will get working on that perimenopause 'manual'!