I’ve been running seriously for just over 16 years. When I say seriously, I mean following a training plan – for most of the time anyway. Until a relatively short time ago, I felt my training had served me well; in my road running days it enabled me to run some decent times, and as a triathlete and a trail runner, allowed me to successfully finish some pretty tough events. But over the past 18 months or so, I’ve felt that the training I was doing was increasingly not working for me – at least not as well as I’d have liked it to. In my running, I've felt I was having to work harder and harder to achieve the same results, and in life generally I've been struggling with my body composition, brain fog, and quite often, mid-afternoon slumps, amongst other things. With a 32-mile, 10,000-feet-of-ascent mountainous ultra lined up for next year, I was very aware that something needed to change.
Having first read Dr Stacy Sims’ book on female physiology and training, ‘Roar’, a couple of years ago, I knew that taking on board just a couple of her suggestions had not been enough. I needed to finally accept being a menopausal woman and start to tailor my training and eating accordingly. I signed up to Dr Sims’ new online course for coaches and athletes, and made a commitment to myself to not only improve how I train myself, but to help all of you menopausal women become better runners too.
So, over the past 5-6 weeks I’ve started to change what I do. There are still other adjustments to come, but what have I done so far?
- I’m running less – yes, that’s right, shock, horror, I’m not running as often each week. I’m still doing my guided runs and any runs where I’m coaching, of course, but otherwise, I’m focusing on one or two long, ultra-specific runs (or power walks) – I need these to complete my target event. I’m also doing one short, sharp speed or hill session each week.
- I’m doing a lot more strength and resistance work, including plenty of plyometric, power and high intensity activities. Currently this involves one HIIT circuits session in the gym each week, and another where I’m doing running-specific strength work. I’m keeping up with my Pilates too.
- I’m eating as soon as I get up every morning, even before I’ve had my cup of tea! This is perhaps the biggest change of all! I’m making my breakfasts much more varied too – I was very much a porridge everyday person.
- I’m eating a lot more protein, a lot more. I’m trying to make sure it’s really good quality, and I’m eating some of it within 30 minutes of any training that feels hard.
I’ll go into the thinking and science behind these changes at another time, but in the 5-6 weeks since I first made them, I’ve had some really positive results. I’ve seen and felt them, and others have too!
- My clothes are feeling a lot looser
- I’ve discovered (and can see!) muscles in my upper body and arms that I didn’t even know I had
- I feel so much stronger
- I feel so much better in myself – more alert and those mid- afternoon slumps have completely gone. I’m generally sleeping better too.
It’s early days but from the changes I’ve made so far, I’m happy I’m on the right path. Come next June, I’ll be eating those Lake District mountains for my breakfast!