As I was lying awake at 2 am last night, it hit me that menopause was going to affect my training. When you are staring at the clock in the middle of the night, all you can think about is how the heck you are going to get up at 4:50am to run. Sleep deprivation during training stinks and I contemplated how this will effect the months ahead. My recent bouts with insomnia, hot flashes, and lack of energy have all been manageable so far, but the weight gain in new places just seems unfair. I have been seeing a change in my body and want to shed some weight before I crank up the intensity in January. December is for getting in shape. I did my first 11 mile push (ie. pushing the pace) this week and it was hard. I notice the extra pounds. Can I run through menopause? I wondered if I was fighting a loosing battle.
There really is not much information out there for running women over 50. And although there is more and more information on aging runners in general, there is little info for the woman runner going through menopause. I found this this somewhat dated, but very helpful post on this subject by notable sports nutritionist Nancy Clark. According to Nanz, there are other factors that contribute to our menopausal weight gain that aren’t scientific. When asked if all women gain weight at menopause she answers:
“No! Women do not always gain weight with menopause. Yes, women commonly get fatter and thicker around the middle as the fat settles in and around the abdominal area. But the changes are due more to lack of exercise and a surplus of calories than to a reduction of hormones.”
Such things as being less active (empty nests, more secure job positions are among the reasons), loss of muscle mass,
(She notes: “Because muscle drives your metabolic rate, less muscle means a slower metabolism and fewer calories burned. That is, of course, unless you wisely preserve your muscle by lifting weights and doing other strengthening exercises.”)
and insomnia (OK, so maybe I have wandered into the kitchen when I can’t sleep) contribute to weight gain in menopausal women.
According to the Mayo Clinic page on Menopause there are genetic factors that also contribute to this weight gain;
” genetic factors play a role in weight gain after menopause. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you’re likely to do the same”
and as you age you just don’t need as many calories.
“To maintain your current weight you may need about 200 fewer calories a day during your 50s than you did during your 30s and 40s “.
It seems that the plan of cutting back slightly on my usual training diet and consuming most of my calories early in the day will help. I love this saying I found on WebMD’s article about weight and menopause:
“Reverse your meals. Eat like a queen in the morning, a princess at lunch, and a pauper at dinner (I think there is a card/tee in that). Taking in the bulk of your calories earlier in the day, when your metabolism’s going strong, helps a lot.”
Nancy Clark has some great tips on training diets on her blog that are worth checking out.
It’s also reassuring to know that exercise, strength training, and monitoring my diet (all part of my usual marathon training regime) can help alleviate my menopause symptoms. Maybe when I start to pile up the miles, I will finally be able to get some shut eye. So…now not only do I run marathons to get a girls weekend, but I run them to get a good night’s sleep!
Week 2 Training Focus:
1. add miles
2. lift weights
3. eat like a pauper…no more late night visits to the frig