What are my fitness goals at menopause?
The FITT principle will keep you on the straight and narrow, when it comes to your exercise plan.
How frequently do I exercise?
Five days per week, for thirty minutes, is the basic standard for health. I want to re-iterate here the notion that you are still aiming (possibly over time) to achieve 10,000 steps per day, every day. So getting that 30 mins might help to accrue 4,500 of them (plus or minus); movement will have to do the rest. I talk of 45mins per day as being an achievable goal for most of us & certainly, a goal worth aiming for.
How intense is the exercise that I do every day?
Ideally, moderate intensity is the goal; to maximise efficiency of calorie-loss, fat-loss and for time-management reasons. This means exercising at approx. 60% of your maximum heart-rate. The trick here is to take your age from 220 to calculate your maximum heart-rate and aim for 60% of that; that’s moderate intensity exercise. You can talk comfortably, but not too comfortably!
How much time should I give it every day?
No less than thirty minutes, ideally and preferably three quarters on an hour (once you’re out, stay out). You can spend more time of course, but for most, it is a time-management issue, as well as a fitness one. Just know that this minimum of thirty minutes can be achieved in three ten minute blocks. Make your own rules for what works for you – just stick to them.
What type of exercise should I do?
Anything; that raises your heart-rate, makes you breathe harder and ideally, produces a little sweat. There are no bad exercises; just bad habits around exercise. On my insta feed today, I was fed a video of a woman teaching jazz-hands dancing; that’s it; wriggle your bum, hips & legs around while displaying jazz-hands, to jazz music and there you have it. Fabulous. Fun. Guided. And all in the comfort of your own home, for a sum total of 15 minutes out of your schedule. Now, if you were to add another 15 minutes of push-ups, walking lunges & squats, to finish, you would have a fun-filled and very productive (in terms of muscle and bone-maintenance) exercise session. There are no right or wrong ways to break a sweat and raise your heart-rate.
This works for fitness, weight-loss, maintenance & an abundance of wellbeing; much of which is unquantifiable, yet life-altering! Imagine, actually looking forward to tomorrow’s exercise session because today’s was such fun. The magic of on-line sharing!
Am I strong enough?
I’ve said it many times; that we underestimate the value of feeling fit. For me, to feel fit means to feel fully alive, vital, well in my skin. Strength, for our generation of women, can be underrated. It was associated, negatively, with being ‘man-ish’. Martina Navratilova, back in the day, because she was so strong, used to hold the ever-so feminine Chris Everet to task and ultimately slayed. So strength was considered good, but at the cost of femininity. One had cropped hair and rudimentary style; the other, ribbons in her pony-tail and a diamond tennis bracelet. Today, strength and femininity are partners. We should strive to be strong, for strength’s sake, with the bonus of weight-maintenance, its close companion. Strength isn’t equal to bulk. Strength can be quite invisible. Core strength, for instance, to me, is defined as my ability to run up a flight of stairs with gusto and for it to take nothing out of me; not a puff, a pant, nor a sweat.
For someone else, this might mean holding a plank for two minutes. Another, to stay in a yoga balance. In yoga terms, this is the stuff of engaging the core by sucking it up and in, while relaxing the shoulder blades down into the back. Core strength is underrated! Core strength makes you feel like a warrior. You are unshakable. You cannot be pushed off balance. You are in control of your body.
How do I get there?
As I have alluded to before; there are two main goals for women I coach at this stage in life. The top priority tends to be weight-loss (loss of muffin-top, bingo-wings, back-fat, specifically). To fit back into the old wardrobe of clothes is a solid goal for most. For others, it is to regain the feminine shape and lightness of their twenties/thirties. Of course, the weighing scales is a good measure of this. But, there is so much more to the story. If you park the weighing-scale approach and focus on the clothes end of the scale, you will move your focus from loss to gain.
When you work hard to gain muscle, you notice it in the tightening of those all-important areas (mentioned above) and therefore loosening of the clothes around the waist and torso. This is so much more satisfying than losing numbers on a scale, with everything that bit more wibbly as a result (cellulite becoming more pronounced, quite often, with weight-loss). With improved strength comes tone and the regaining of your feminine physique, contrary to what your inner voice might be telling you. You will not bulk-up and become big, but rather, regain your lean, youthful self.
Back to tennis (what better analogy than tennis!); the astounding Australian Open finalist (final yet to watch!!) Aryna Sabalenka, at six foot of fabulousness, embodies what I am talking about here. Is she muscly? Yes, she most certainly is. Is she fit? Of course. Is she man-ish? No; only on court, where her aggression could be described as traditionally masculine in nature. Off-court she is a renowned feminine sweetie (according to tennis commentators). She embodies what our generation never had as a role model. She is strength and femininity personified.
For us, we need to learn this new standard of strength as beauty. As I post this, I see in the background, the final of the European Championship Figure Skating competition. Women competitors are elegant, with grace and poise; but strength. Is there a more feminine sport? Lycra, sequins, eyelashes are all I can see. But the real beauty I see in is the strength. The triple axel depends on strength and flexibility & phenomenal fitness. Strength of such extraordinary levels comes in all shapes and sizes.
Be happy to be your strongest self and your size will take care of itself.
Channel your inner figure-skater, tennis player or footballer. Be the warrior you were destined to be.
Do not be afraid of lifting weights to achieve your strength goals. To build from where you currently are will be subtle. Your strength and vitality will be invisible in your clothes, but evident in your energy. Your clothes will fit better in all the right places. You will not bulk-up overnight.
Go to a gym; follow a plan; lift weights. Yes; walk, jog, run as well. But lift, now, at midlife. You will have too many naysayers when you’re older. Do it now. Become stronger, fitter, fiercer. Do it for now as well as for your future. Become stronger!