There is not much research into, or information about, the impact of the perimenopause and menopause on runners. What effect might it have on women’s endurance and on our performance? How can we cope with the symptoms of the menopause? Should we adapt our training? What can we do to maintain our strength and bone density?
I’ve created this page to bring together useful information about the menopause for female endurance athletes.
Perimenopause and running – my experience
Nutrition for female endurance athletes
Jo Scott-Dalgleish is a Registered Nutritionist from London who writes and gives talks about nutrition for endurance sport. She has written an article, Female Endurance Athletes: Staying Healthy During Menopause and Beyond, about nutrition for female athletes in perimenopause and beyond. It includes a useful case study where she gives an athlete advice on her training intensity and nutrition.
Physiological impact of the menopause on runners
In article on the Running Physio website, Menopause and running – what do clinicians and women need to know?, physiotherapist Claire Callaghan looks at the impact of the menopause on runners’ bodies. She cites research into physiological changes and the benefits to mental health and wellbeing of running.
In February 2019, the Oxygen Addict triathlon coaching podcast featured a menopause special. This opens with an overview of the perimenopause and menopause from Dr Juliet McGrattan and includes interviews with triathletes Fiona Russell and Melanie Hayes and ultrarunner Erica Clarkson about their own personal experiences of the impact of perimenopause. Dr Stacy Sims, an Environmental Exercise Physiologist, gives valuable insights into adapting training and diet. I found her advice on training particularly interesting. To counteract loss of bone density in the menopause Dr Sims recommends reducing the volume of endurance training and increasing functional power-based exercises and plyometrics (jump training) to stimulate muscle fibres.
General resources about the menopause
I found this article, Eat to Ease the Menopause, by Kerry Torrens, a Registered Nutritionist, on BBC Good Food, useful. I was looking for information on oestrogen-rich foods.
Loss of muscle mass
Loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) starts in our thirties and once we are in our fifties we can lose as much as 1% a year. Dr Juliet McGrattan has written an article on impact of sarcopenia with advice on exercises that help to reduce and reverse muscle loss.
Pelvic floor health
Last year, I was a bit concerned about occasional stress incontinence that I experienced when running. I knew that pelvic floor exercises were beneficial but I never felt confident that I was doing them correctly.
I decided to see a pelvic health physiotherapist and was surprised to find out that my stress incontinence was probably caused not by weak pelvic muscles but by tension that I was holding in the pelvic floor. Before embarking on a programme of pelvic floor exercises I needed to learn to relax these muscles over a period of weeks.
Kathryn Peden, the physiotherapist I went to see, has written an article, The Hypertonic Pelvic Floor, which explain the impact of tight muscles and gives advice on how to relax them.
I’d like to include information on osteoporosis and on vaginal and vulval health. And it would be great to find more specific advice on training, recovery and nutrition for older female runners.
If you know of any good articles, please tell me about them in the comments below.
Photo of running feet courtesy of John Oldfield.