How to Keep Tri-ing for Peri and Post Menopausal WomenApr 01, 2022
We’re calling BS on the idea that women should slow down in peri and post menopause. Here are some ways you can find your best performance at any age.
I coach women of all ages to reach inspiring goals of all types. I sincerely believe in the resilience, strength, wisdom, and physiological capabilities of women. Yet recently, when taking the time to reflect, I realized that I still have thoughts rooted in ageism - both in triathlon and beyond.
According to the World Heath Organization, ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudices (how we feel) and discriminatory behaviors (how we act) that are directed towards others, or oneself, based on age. We often see and think of ageism affecting older individuals, but it can be applied for people of any age. For the purpose of this article I am going to focus on the impact on peri and postmenopausal women in triathlon.
It is no secret that research can back the fact that athletes peak in sport at younger ages (typically 20-mid thirties). And this fact, combined with a culture that is hyper-focused on the benefits of youthfulness, and the physiological changes that take place with age and hormonal shifts, can lead women to believe that they should let go of focusing on sports performance as they age. This obsession with the “young is better” influence can also lead to a denial of aging, especially for women in peri and postmenopausal stages of life.
This belief does not serve women who still desire to participate in triathlon. Rather than deny aging, athletes can benefit from gaining knowledge, understanding, and acceptance in order to evolve with triathlon through stages of life. The menopause transition and flatlining of hormones greatly effects our minds and bodies. But, this does not mean it is automatically time to pull out the lawn chair to cheer while the youngsters keep challenging their bodies through the sport you “used to” enjoy.
I know that for many women the transition to menopause can leave you generally feeling “not like yourself.” But I am here to encourage you to not settle for the bullshit that our ageist culture has established. Use this opportunity to check your own biases and read below for tips to defy the parameters of age and keep participating (and excelling) in triathlon.
(FYI- Menopause is defined as the one moment in time where women have been without a menstrual period for 12 months. Postmenopausal is the term to describe the rest of your life after that moment. Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause that you begin to notice disruptions in your menstrual cycle, moods, sleep patterns, and temperature fluctuations, etc.)
General Tips for Aging with Triathlon
- Check your own thoughts regarding ageism. Work to understand aging and how you react to it in yourself and for others. Try to accept that we are all aging, rather than deny it. Continue to intentionally cultivate self awareness as your body and mind changes. Use it to focus on what you really want, rather than what the outside world is dictating that you “should” want at every age!
- Think ahead. If your identity has been highly wrapped up in your athletic endeavors and/or accolades, be proactive in planning your evolution through aging. It is often true that we cannot physically perform at the same levels that we could in our younger years. Consider ahead of time how you want to stay active in your sports or pivot to others, rather than react when your body is not as capable to reach certain levels anymore.
- Learn NOW. Define and learn about your stage of life so that you can be more intentional with your goal setting and training/racing strategies. You can still perform well in peri and post menopause!
- Engage in different communities. Women desire to be seen, heard, and informed. Support systems with shared connections are monumentally important through these transitions. (Check out all things Feisty Menopause!) I also suggest joining multigenerational teams and other triathlons communities to cultivate connection, empathy, and wisdom that transcends age.
Practical Tips for Peri and Post Menopausal Triathletes
- Perimenopause is a time where hormones are constantly fluctuating. Track how you feel for 6-8 weeks of training, so that you can work with your own patterning. Use this stage of life to prepare for your postmenopausal body composition and other changes by shifting your training focus (see next point.)
- Change your training focus to high intensity interval training (done in and/or separate from swim, bike, run sessions); plyometrics; and heavy strength work. Although you need less emphasis on long and slow efforts, you can still do them if that’s what you enjoy! You just need to do BOTH (and keep the long and slow REALLY easy to be able to have the energy to do the workouts that produce more adaptations). **Try to avoid training in the “gray zone.”**
- Combine workouts to increase adaptations while best utilizing your time. Follow a heavy strength session up with a short interval workout on the bike. Try a high intensity plyometric workout the day before the long and slow efforts, in order to stimulate the bone, muscle, and plasma volume needed.
- Focus on sleep! We need more rest to activate our parasympathetic nervous system as we age. Schedule your training around your sleep and incorporate more recovery days throughout the week, rather than in training blocks.
- High intensity exercise and hormonal shifts can mute our hunger and thirst sensations. It is important to develop and implement specific before and after training habits for protein and carbohydrate intake, for better performance and to avoid Low Energy Availability (LEA).
- Eat more protein! Among many other things, when our hormones flatline we lose the anabolic stimulus for lean muscle mass development. We need more protein in our daily diet and a focus on post-workout protein consumption. Dr. Stacy Sims recommends 35 grams post workout for peri and 40 for postmenopusaal women.
- Eat carbs too, but get them more from fruit and vegetable sources.
- Research and consider trying adaptogens to manage the effects of peri and postmenopause (i.e. mood swings, hot flashes, lower sleep quality). Talk to your doctor about Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT).
There is so much more that can be said about the positive impact of exercise (and triathlon specifically) on the aging process; the importance of not engaging in ageism; and the overall physical, mental, emotional impact of defining women by their age. While there are always more articles to write, my hope is that today you will be encouraged to look outside the culture’s parameters of age and continue to “tri” through perimenopause and beyond.
Miranda Bush is the Head Coach and Educator at Feisty Triathlon. She is USA Triathlon and Training Peaks certified, as well as a certified Health Coach. She is also a graduate of Dr. Stacy Sim’s Women Are Not Small Men and Menopause for Athletes courses. As a longtime coach specializing in training women, her passion lies in using lessons from training and racing to teach athletes to evolve physically, mentally, and emotionally through sport. Miranda is also a longtime athlete and multiple Ironman and 70.3 distance podium finisher, maintaining a consistent racing career while working and raising her kids. She resides in Wisconsin with her three teenagers and husband who all love to race triathlon.
Get Feisty Triathlon straight to your inbox
Get the low-down on what's happening in the world of women's triathlon, tips & tricks to crush it on the race course and be the first to know about special offerings from our feisty sponsors.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.