Consistently Working Out With No Improvements?
You can stop doing that!
Do you find yourself exercising harder and longer with no results? Are you always saying, “how come what used to work doesn’t anymore”? Do you feel like you are crazy or losing your mind because your body isn’t doing what you want it to do? You’re not alone!
Women in the throes of perimenopause and menopause commonly have more fatigue, less recovery time between workouts, and gain weight; despite doing everything the same. This is partially due to the natural fluctuation of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that occur during perimenopause. The same hormones eventually decline during menopause, which is why everything changes. Women who have lived an active life experience a sudden increase in weight, mainly in belly fat, in addition to mood swings, hot flashes, and a host of other effects related to the decrease in estrogen and progesterone. It’s a challenging time, where we become mysteries to ourselves and loved ones: What used to work often doesn’t anymore.
The Good News
Although there is no ‘magic pill’ to altogether avoid menopause-related symptoms, we can change the kinds of exercise we do to reflect our changing physiology. With planning and discipline, you can achieve your fitness goals.
A Heavier Load Will Help
It’s counterintuitive, but as women age, we need a greater stimulus to our muscles to achieve an increase in strength. Therefore, aim to lift heavier weight with fewer repetitions instead of lighter weight and more repetitions. Decreased estrogen and progesterone make our bodies less able to build muscle. As a result, our muscles need a more significant stimulus, in this case, heavier weight, to get a response or increase in strength. Correct form is essential. And patience too. What’s the right load for you? A good rule of thumb is a weight that causes you to max out at 6-8 reps for between 3 and 5 sets. Rest intervals will depend on fitness level. You may alternate the lower body one day and the upper body another; a trainer or athletic coach can advise you on your sport and goals.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) becomes more critical during perimenopause and menopause in women that are already active and experiencing a decrease in their fitness. HIIT training will help balance out the effects of swinging and declining hormones on metabolism and muscle loss. When done appropriately, HIIT training will aid in the oxidation of fat, promoting a decrease in total body fat, promoting an increase in muscle mass, and allowing for better insulin sensitivity in the hours following exercise (which means less fat storage). HIIT training also benefits in that it takes less time than traditional, moderate level exercise, but with more significant results. For more benefits on HIIT training, here is a great article to read. The appropriate HIIT training for you will depend on your current level of fitness and your goals. Like strength training, a trainer or coach can help you figure out what will work best for you.
Recovery Is More Important Than Ever
One of the most common and often overlooked areas to better fitness and adapting to training is recovery. Too often, women feel that when they are sitting or going a day without exercise, they are lazy or lose all of their fitness. However, the reality for already active women is they often don’t rest enough. Without proper rest, nutrition, and hydration, all of the hard work put into a workout can be quickly lost or not even gained! Too much exercise without proper nutrition and hydration will increase cortisol, a stress hormone. Increased stress leads to fatigue, lack of motivation, and the inability to hit your workout goals. For example, HIIT workouts only need to be done 2-3 times per week and no more than two days in a row, with at least 1-2 days of recovery or moderate workout before the third HIIT workout of the week. Similarly, strength work is the same. Do no more than 2 hard workouts in a row, wait a few days, and then do your third hard workout after some recovery and rest.
Fitting In Your Fitness Goals
It can be tricky to fit in your fitness goals between work, family, and several other commitments in the day. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. A 30-45 minute HIIT workout a few days a week has more benefits than an hour-long moderate cardio session. Strength training can be in short 10-minute bursts throughout the workday. I have weights and a yoga mat next to my desk and break them out for squats, push-ups, or sit-ups every few hours. If I can and my clothing attire for the day allows, I run up and down the stairs around the corner from my desk 3-4 times just to give me a kickstart and get my heart pumping a bit. Every little bit helps and, if done consistently, reaps benefits to your health and strength. Lastly, if you love cardio and struggle with weight training, do the aerobic exercise you love, but decrease it by 15 minutes. Replace that 15 minutes of cardio with strength training 3 days a week. The benefits you reap with the strength training will offset the loss in cardio time.
Keep It Simple and Consistent
Improvements in physical fitness and physique do take time. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or secret exercise out there. It is essential to keep it simple with an activity you like to do while increasing the intensity a few times a week to reap the benefits of your routine. Alternately, increasing the intensity lets you decrease the total time spent exercising, giving you more time in the day for other endeavors. Voila, you just found an extra 15 minutes in your day! Consistency is also the key to success for all of your fitness and nutrition goals. Exercising regularly to fit into your life is imperative for improvements to be made and seen.
To your health,