An overwhelming fear of trying something new was holding Fiona back from fulfilling her dream of losing weight, getting fitter and meeting new people after reaching menopause and all its associated symptoms. She had a fear of fitness after reaching menopause.
‘What are you afraid of? You’ve nothing to lose by giving it a go’.
She could hear her daughter’s voice like a constant reminder to reach out and explore. But it was so hard to take that first step. She felt too old, too unfit, too fat and dreaded walking into a room full of younger, slimmer women.
As we reach our 40s and 50s and the onslaught of perimenopause and menopause, our bodies start to slow down and even break down. We can experience joint issues, may have had various surgical procedures and old injuries are playing up. Frustration and disappointment at not being able to do things as easily as we used to can pile up and act as a barrier to wanting to exercise at all. Add onto that the particular hurdles women face as they grow older, including fear of trying new things, body image, loss of confidence, lack of support from a partner, or lack of partner. These are often emotional hurdles, which nevertheless can be very paralysing if not dealt with.
The key is to find a class that offers you a reasonable degree of challenge and an instructor who inspires you, someone who ‘gets’ you and how you are feeling about yourself and your body’s limitations, even if those are self-imposed limitations. This next phase of your life is a great chance to try those things you’ve never done before: boxing, weights, dance, wrestling, synchronised swimming, HIT and much more.
All forms of exercise can release endorphins and get our circulation going. We feel physically and mentally refreshed. But it is also important during the menopause to keep up some cardio and strength training exercises. As our metabolic rate slows down so does our circulatory system, but half an hour of cardio exercise every day will help to maintain healthy blood pressure and blood circulation. Strength training is important too because our muscle mass depletes and without strong muscles our skeletons are not well supported, so we are at risk of incurring injury more easily during exercise or daily activities.
Walking, cycling, running and swimming are all familiar forms of exercise, but have you ever tried a spinning class? It is cardio exercise with zero impact. An instructor will guide the class through a series of exercises guaranteed to give you a complete work out from warm up through to maximum heart rate bursts of spinning, sometimes standing up so the whole body, from your core, gluts, shoulders to arms, is engaged. It is aerobic and strength building in one. Depending on which class you attend it can also be extremely sociable and mutually supportive with a non competitive atmosphere. However, with classes currently being held through live videos unless you have your own turbo trainer or spin bike this is something for the future.
In the meantime, there is a plethora of online exercise sessions available throughout the day. Focus on the three key requirements for your body: flexibility, strength and cardio fitness and choose your daily programme accordingly. Don’t try and do everything because it won’t be sustainable.
Yoga, with a good instructor, can be an extremely focused, almost meditative, way of stretching and strengthening. You become aware of every part of your body, how your muscles are working and what areas need particular attention. It may not be easy when you first start, so take a deep breath, turn inwards to where the blockages are in your body and during each session focus on pushing gently against them until they are released. Yoga is a great leveller and really encourages your inner strength to increase. Once you have tapped into it and can draw on it in daily life the magic happens. You become empowered and no longer feel you have to prove anything to anyone. Once you have reconnected with your body you will be able to accept its imperfections and admire its awesomeness.