Ask the Coach: Wisdom for the ChangeDo you have any words of wisdom for a wannabe ultrarunner who is also negotiating the minefield of menopause? My goal is to be vertical at the finish line and still be running in 10 years.
—Terri Dumas, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
This article appeared in our February 2009 issue.
Coach never talks about her age but … she is starting to relate. First thing: studies indicate that regular physical activity can minimize menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, insomnia and mood swings, and decrease the common loss of bone density. Barbara Bushman, professor of health and physical education at Missouri State University, however, also notes that balanced fitness is best: include not only aerobic activity like running but also stretching and muscle conditioning, says the author of Action Plan for Menopause (Human Kinetics, 2005).
If you want to keep running for another couple of decades, keep your muscles and bones strong. “It’s a three-legged stool,” says Bushman. “You need all three or the stool isn’t any good.”
Regarding performance, Bushman says there just aren’t any studies regarding the effects of menopause. She says, however, that any performance decreases may be more due to exercising less and changes due to aging in general than to menopause. For example, your muscles become less elastic and your ability to use oxygen goes down, which makes you slower. Good news though: If you stay active, the losses will be much less. So keep running, challenge your muscles, stretch and listen to your body day-to-day.