Exercise for Ages 40 and Beyond: Training Advice from Stacy Sims’ Book: ‘Next Level.’
For eons Earth has tilted as it rotates around the Sun, cycling through restful, preparatory, flourishing and quietening seasons. For thirty years my body has echoed this rhythm. It has been one that I've always been in tune with and I've learnt to work with. Now that I’m entering my mid forties I'm starting to notice my own personal climate change. Though I'm not yet facing rising sea levels and shrinking mountain glaciers, I am noticing changes in cycle timing and predictability. I am entering the early stages of peri menopause. And so I’ve done what I always do in new and strange situations. I have started to read. I’ve just read an advanced copy of Stacy Sim’s latest book Next Level: Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond. It is a good one, it comes out on the 3rd of May, and you can get it here.
It is called Next Level, because that is what peri menopause and menopause are - the next stage in our life journey. We don’t go through “the change” we are still the same people whether we bleed every month or not.
To use Sims’ poetic turn of phrase - our hormones conduct the symphony of our mental, physical and emotional being. As women (or people with a uterus) go through our forties and early fifties our testosterone, estradiol and progesterone rates decline. If all that happened as a result was that our periods stopped then that would be fine. I can see that being quite convenient even.
However, as you can see from the images above and below estradiol and progesterone are pretty important hormones. I didn’t make an infographic for testosterone as it is a smaller player in the peri menopause/ menopause picture but it helps to makes muscle and bone, influences sex drive and is important for brain health.
And so as our hormone ratios change our body responds in a myriad of ways. Our body composition shifts; we have a decrease in insulin sensitivity; we feel hot flushes, experience mood swings, have decreased energy and disturbed sleep.
Sims’ book outlines useful nutritional guidance; reminds us about gut health; gives sleep hygiene tips; and hormone supplementation advice. The area that had me the most interested though was the exercise section. I’ve already started implementing her advice in my own training and my classes. So, here’s what we're doing now:
Short bursts of high intensity training
This means that we go hard for 20 seconds then easy for 10 seconds. We do this 6-8 times.
It helps to pull glucose from the bloodstream and reduce insulin sensitivity. It will improve mitochondrial function; increase testosterone; it is anti inflammatory; improves cardiovascular health; increases lean muscle mass; and burns fat. So. It might not be fun while you are doing it but your body will thank you later. 😉
To lift heavy means to do an exercise that you can only repeat 4 to 6 times at the maximum. This is because building muscle is important. It increases our metabolic rate; strengthens bones and joints; lowers blood pressure; boosts immunity and boosts lean muscle.
Jumping or plyometrics
Just 10 minutes of jumping 3 times a week helps to increase power; strength; bone strength; and insulin sensitivity.
Strengthening the core
This is essential for lots of reasons and is the mainstay of all of my training and teaching. Sims’ reminds us that core training is essential for our pelvic floor health too.
So. If you’re in your forties and you are starting to have difficulties sleeping, if your cycle is heavier, if you have more belly fat despite not changing how you eat - it’s a biology thing. And. If you jump, lift heavy weights, go intense and work your core. It should improve insulin sensitivity, strengthen bones and reduce those peri menopausal and menopausal symptoms.
See you in class some time