Navigating Perimenopause: The Crucial Role of Movement
Perimenopause, the transitional phase leading to menopause, is often accompanied by many challenges. It is a subject that many of us are intimately familiar with or approaching, along with the rollercoaster of hormonal changes, unexpected surprises, and the undeniable wisdom that comes with it all.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting Tenille Hoogland on my podcast, and the insights she shared about perimenopause and the importance of movement during that chapter of our lives were absolutely eye-opening. From embracing the physical shifts to harnessing the mental and emotional benefits, she explained how movement can become not just a choice but a powerful tool for navigating this challenging chapter.
Tenille’s athletic journey began as an Olympic hopeful in synchronized swimming. In her late 20s she became a professional triathlete. On the surface, her athletic career looks stellar. She represented Canada at International Triathlon Union (ITU) Pan-American Championships, long course events and at IRONMAN World Championships several times, winning numerous titles along the way. However, the method to achieve success had a tremendous cost. She trained relentlessly, unknowingly developed disordered eating and lost her period for 5 years. This led to several injuries and significant hormone challenges. Mentally, she lost joy in sport and retired from triathlon in 2013. Her struggle to find health and her athletic self spanned several years; first, she overcame 2 years of fertility challenges, learnt how to move again without pain and then to move consistently with joy. It came through deep curiosity, education, and trial and error.
Given all this, you can see why I was so excited to have her as a guest on my podcast.
Building a Strong Foundation
In our conversation, Tenille brought to light the paramount importance of laying a strong foundation for our health journey. Drawing parallels with her own athletic experiences, she underscored that this foundation is a universal necessity, transcending age. She emphasized that, akin to constructing a sturdy house, women should prioritize health fundamentals such as quality sleep, maintaining gut health, and cultivating mindful breathing practices.
Picture it as constructing the most resilient and enduring structure—before we delve into the decorations, represented by the intensity and speed in our exercise routines, we must ensure our foundation is rock solid. Tenille's insight resonates with women of all ages, urging us to pay attention to the core elements that sustain our well-being.
The Importance of Muscle Mass and Most Common Exercise Mistakes
Next, we dug into how intentional moves can help maintain muscle mass. Tenille emphasizes the need for activities like strength training, a good protein intake, and an overall fitness routine to counteract the natural dip in estrogen and steer clear of muscle loss. It all boils down to being in the know and taking action.
So, let's break it down: perimenopause brings hormonal shifts, and Tenille's advice is to get moving strategically. Strengthen those muscles, load up on protein, and embrace a well-rounded fitness plan. Think of it as an empowered response to the changes happening in our bodies. Armed with this knowledge, we can proactively tackle perimenopause, preserving our strength and vitality through intentional movement.
But our conversation didn't stop there; we also tackled the common mistakes women often make in their exercise routines. One major pitfall is the lack of variability in workouts. Many of us tend to stick to a routine, whether it's running, cycling, or spin classes. While dedication is admirable, introducing variety in movements and intensities is crucial for resilience. Think of it as expanding the repertoire of your body's language—while sticking to a routine can bring comfort and familiarity, introducing a variety of movements and intensities is akin to learning new phrases. It allows our bodies to adapt to unexpected challenges and keeps them agile and responsive. So, while the dedication to a routine is admirable, Tenille's wisdom encourages us to embrace the dynamic nature of our bodies and inject some versatility into our workouts, ensuring we're not just physically fit but also mentally and physically prepared for whatever life throws our way. It's a call to break free from the monotony and let our bodies thrive in the richness of varied movements and intensities.
Being Smart About Your Workouts
Navigating perimenopause also involves understanding how hormones shape our workout routines. In perimenopause, hormones undergo significant fluctuations, and these hormonal changes can have a profound impact on our bodies and, consequently, our workout routines. One of the primary hormones affected during perimenopause is estrogen. As estrogen levels decline, it can lead to changes in body composition, metabolism, and energy levels. Fluctuations in hormones may also contribute to symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, and disrupted sleep.
This is why it’s important to be smart about your workouts during perimenopause, something Tenille strongly encourages.
Being smart about workouts isn't just about lifting heavy weights or doing intense cardio every day; it's about tuning into your body, understanding its signals, and making informed decisions. It's a holistic approach that involves recognizing when to push, when to rest, and when to adjust based on how you feel.
Firstly, it means acknowledging that every day is different. Some days, your body might be ready to tackle high-intensity workouts, and other days, it might need a gentler approach. Being smart about workouts is about flexibility, adapting your routine to what your body needs on a given day. It's understanding that pushing through fatigue or soreness every single day isn't a sustainable or smart approach.
Secondly, it involves listening to your body's cues. If you didn't sleep well the night before, being smart means giving yourself permission to take it easy. Lack of sleep can impact your performance and recovery, so being attuned to your sleep patterns and adjusting your workout intensity accordingly is a smart move.
Additionally, being smart about workouts requires paying attention to your stress levels. Chronic stress can have a significant impact on your overall well-being, and pushing yourself too hard physically during high-stress periods can do more harm than good. Smart workouts involve recognizing when it's time to prioritize stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, or light movement.
Furthermore, it's about setting realistic goals and expectations. Being smart means understanding that progress is not always linear and that rest and recovery are integral parts of any fitness journey. It's not about going all out every single day; it's about finding a sustainable rhythm that supports your long-term well-being.
So, if you had a lousy night's sleep - rest. Your body knows when it needs rest. And rest doesn't always mean binge-watching Netflix or complete inactivity; it can involve engaging in lighter activities such as walking, stretching, or yoga. These low-intensity exercises promote blood flow, flexibility, and mobility without placing excessive stress on fatigued muscles.
Moreover, resting is about understanding your body's signals. If you're constantly feeling fatigued, experiencing persistent soreness, or noticing a decline in performance, these may be signs that your body needs more rest. Listening to these cues and adjusting your workout routine accordingly is a smart and proactive approach to overall well-being.
And for all of you wondering how Tenille balances strength, speed and endurance, make sure to to take a look at the fantastic free gift she generously shared : How to Balance Strength, Speed and Endurance Training.