Helen Seymour is in peri-menopause, and writes every week for IMAGE about the trials and tribulations of this new stage of life.
Declining oestrogen levels in menopause deteriorate your bone and muscle mass. The right exercise can prevent bone loss and increase muscle density, but the wrong exercise will do the opposite. Here are three big workout mistakes women make when as they hit the menopause.
You only do cardio
Spin class may have kept you svelte before the hot flushes began, but once you’re in menopause, it’s not enough. Strength training is essential for a number of reasons. Firstly, your metabolism has slowed right down, so your heretofore adequate cardio routine is no longer adequate in terms of calorie burn. You need to add strength training into your mix to continue to burn your calories the way you used to.
You’re losing oestrogen, which helps lay down bone. Let me spell that out: you are losing bone strength. Strength exercises help build bone strength. That’s a very simple equation. You need to give your body all the help it can get in this department.
Finally, bone strength is not all you’re losing — muscle mass also takes a huge hit, and is continually under attack from this point forward. Building muscle mass in menopause is incredibly important, particularly the big muscles in the legs. Strong legs will help you stay independent and active longer as you get older.
You need to give serious consideration now, as to what is literally going to be holding you up in your seventies and eighties. This is not just “keeping fit” or having “t-shirt arms”. This is bulletproofing yourself for the latter years of your life. Bones and Muscles. Muscles and Bones. Let this be your daily mantra.
You 'take it easy on yourself'
Guilty as charged — I am a Pilates teacher. I teach Pilates five to seven days a week. I have a Reformer at home, and work out on it regularly. Yet, I recently signed up for a “21 Day Challenge” with Platinum Pilates, to do 21 classes in 21 days, and within less than a week of different classes with different teachers, I got results like never before. Pounds started dropping and there is a serious re-shape happening around my middle.
Why? Because good teachers push you, motivate you, and get results. Good teachers get into all the little nooks and crannies you didn’t even know existed. My home workouts are fine, but I will never push and drive myself the way a teacher will.
Same old, same old
There are three stages to exercise. In the first stage, you are learning. You are not good at this new move. You wobble, you shake, you struggle. In the second stage, you’re better, you’re improving, you can nearly do it. In the third stage, you’ve nailed it, you look and feel great doing it.
In stage one, as all the good teachers will tell you, is the best stage. Your ego, however, makes you feel like it’s the worst stage. You feel useless, frustrated, even embarrassed at your inability to complete and perfect the move. Your ego wants to you to be the Golden God, shining and performing. But stage one is, in fact, glorious — your body is learning. New muscles are coming out to play, and your brain is on fire trying to figure out how to make this happen. Stage one is where your body and mind marry beautifully and get seriously strong.
Stage Three is briefly triumphant, and then it’s a trap. Don’t get stuck patting yourself on the back for repeatedly doing all the exercises you already know how to do. You might as well be watching Coronation Street. Try new things. Explore new ways of moving and mix it up.