Peri-menopause is an essential time to make changes in diet and lifestyle in order to avoid unwanted changes in body composition, prevent bone density loss, sustain your greatest muscular integrity and muscular strength and improve longevity and overall quality of life. While it’s not a given exactly when every female will hit this time of life, it is important to understand what menopause is and the changes our bodies undergo not only as a woman, but what this means as an endurance athlete.
Peri-menopause generally occurs between 36-45 years of age and lasts for 4-5 years leading up to menopause. Menopause is a timepoint in which you have had 12 months with no period. Post-menopause is life beyond menopause.
At the onset of peri-menopause, our strength training needs begin to differ. If you’ve never consistently incorporated strength training, now is the time to start, whether you have hit peri-menopause or not.
Research demonstrates women in peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause benefit the most when incorporating a variation of strength training sessions in their weekly training, including: muscular strength (heavy weights and 1-6 reps), high intensity interval training (HIIT) and plyometric based training. While this may sound like a lot, this can be broken down throughout the week and incorporated into your endurance training quite simply. Done consistently, these combined forms of strength training provide a plethora of benefits including improved weight management, reduced visceral (belly) fat, reduced blood pressure, increased insulin sensitivity, increased lean (muscle) mass development, improved muscular strength and power, improved mood, focus, memory, endurance performance and overall health.
High intensity interval training alternates brief periods of intense anaerobic exercise with quick recovery periods. These exercise sessions are short but effective, 30 minutes at most, and should feel tough to finish. A good example of a HIIT session would be taking 10 minutes to complete as many reps as possible of 20 kettlebell swings, 20 walking lunges and 20 push-ups.
Plyometric training uses speed and force to produce power. Plyometric exercises can be included as part of your weight training sessions or you can include these exercises as part of your dynamic warm-up prior to a high intensity run. A few examples of plyometric exercises include squat jumps, box jumps, bounding, tuck jump, depth jump and single leg jumps.
This brings us to our final area of strength training, a focus on muscular strength which is the force that can be generated by a specific muscle or muscle group. With strength training the goal is to work towards lifting heavier weights at lower repetitions, 1-6 reps. If you are new to lifting, start in the 8-12 rep range and make your way over time to the 1-6 rep range. When completing an exercise, use a weight that is heavy enough where it feels difficult to complete the last two reps in the set with good form.
Try these two sessions each week, at least 48 hours apart, for the next four weeks to start incorporating HIIT, plyometrics and muscular strength into your endurance training program.
SESSION ONE: HIIT with plyometrics | Complete this after a 45 minute or less easy run
Complete four rounds of this circuit. Complete as many reps as possible with good form in 60 seconds and then move to the next exercise. Take no rest between exercises and 2 minutes rest between circuits.
SESSION TWO: Muscular Strength | Complete this on an easy ride or run day in the PM
Two circuits with four exercises each. Complete two rounds of the first circuit before moving to the next. For the exercises that use weight, use a weight that is heavy enough where the last two reps feel hard to accomplish. If after each set you think you could do several more reps than what you are tasked with, use heavier weights. Go up in small increments until you find the right weight for the given number of reps.
Goblet Squat | 6 reps
Step Up | 8 reps per leg
Toes elevated Romanian Deadlift | 6 reps
Side Plank with Leg Abduction | 6 reps per side
Hamstring Curl on Stability Ball | 8 reps
Eccentric Calf Raises | 5 reps per leg
Pallof Press | 8 reps per side
Face Pull | 8 reps