Over training or the Menopause?
Over training or the Peri-Menopause
‘Hot topic of the Week’
It was great to see Louise Minchin (Fellow GBR AG Triathlete) taking on the feature theme: ‘Wake up to the Menopause’ on BBC Breakfast(May 12-17th 2019) and for her to share personal experiences of the Peri- menopause
So I thought I’d strike whilst the ‘iron’s hot’. I tweeted Louise and fellow BBC Triathlon commentator Annie Emmerson to see if they would continue sharing their experiences in light of their involvements in triathlon during the perimenopause through one of theirs podcast the ‘Tri pod’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p075vrmq/episodes/downloads ) based on training and competing through the Peri- menopause. Simultaneously I’ve also been badgering Simon Ward https://www.simonwardtriathloncoach.com/ to host a podcast with Louise and Annie where Fellow GBR Age groupers can submit questions and share their top tips for training and racing well throughout this life stage.
Why? You might ask, ‘Just get on with it’ you say. Well I do, but I want to train and race to the best of my ability and knowledge is key right?
There’s tons of stuff about triathlon and training in all spheres; on line, in books and magazines but most tend to be geared towards men with the odd article or book targeted at women. To my knowledge, none of these ‘articles’ offer specific advice for training adaptations or considerations for women entering the Perimenopause or the Menopause, in fact I don’t think there’s a specific sports book out there that recognises or advises on training or racing for woman at this stage in their life other than Stacey Simms ‘Roar’ which offers great advice but is more specifically geared towards the older women with a ‘regular menstruation’ . She gives excellent advice on nutrition, strength training, and training in line with your periods but is not specific enough, in my opinion about Perimenopausal women involved in the multisport discipline of triathlon.
Trying to reach out about this subject I been heartened to receive support to research this but as Dr Josephine Perry (https://performanceinmind.co.uk/about/) explained no one is really interested in the ‘Masters’ category.
“There is a lot of work going on at the moment to get more coaches talking about periods with athletes so they are better able to adapt training around when an athlete will be in different phases of their cycle. This issue will be I imagine that all this type of work tends to focus on junior and elite athletes so they won’t be interested in pushing something that impacts master’s athletes’
I get this but times are changing. The profile of women in sport is going through a welcomed change #changethegame campaign. Womens’ sport is being taken more seriously, we are now able watch live coverage of female elite competitions and matches on TV for example, The Women’s Football World Cup. In light of masters events, you have to be seen to be doing something extra ordinary for example “Richard Bideau, 101 years young shatters British 100-mile time trial record” https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/richard-bideau-shatters-british-100-mile-time-trial-record-180632 Or “The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88” https://www.tampabay.com/sports/2018/04/26/the-iron-nun-still-going-strong-at-age-88/
The media is fast growing and all-consuming it’s not uncommon now to tune into one of the many channels on TV and find your local Ironman or Triathlon evet being featured with glimpses of Age Groupers and their successes. British Triathlon always publicise and name podium finishers in all Age groups on the ITU or WTS stage. So why not take sport for women to the next level and dig and delve into sport advancement for women Age Groupers and Masters athletes?
As mentioned in other blogs women’s age groups 40- 60 boast some of the largest fields of Triathlon competitors out there, ‘we are just getting on with it’, but could we be racing and training better and featuring even further up the field than before? Advancement in knowledge, technology, nutrition and training methods could pave the way to break even more boundaries. Therefore, I want to get as much information together to help support both new and existing Peri-menopausal triathletes and their coaches to work together and help each other reach their potential.
I self-coach with the experiences of my; level 2 Triathlon coaching course, an avid prescriber to Joe Friel ‘Training bibles’ (2009 & 2016), knowledge as a PE teacher and experience from having had 3 years previously invested with two local coaches who based my training around key races. Armed with all this information, I plan my own training. However, of late this is becoming more and more challenging. I’m back at the drawing board having rewritten this month’s training plan for the ‘umpteenth’ time. Why? Well I’m struggling with my training due to a recent surge in Perimenopause activity. I’m tired from sleepless nights and constant hot flushes, I can’t think straight, decision making is a challenge and I’m just not myself.
When I do train, I usually struggle, my legs are quick to load, the tempo efforts feel harder than they should, I have more joint pain which affects my morale and enthusiasm for the sport. I can’t always nail my sessions especially the Vo2 max sets and the threshold ones. I use TrainerRoad’s mid volume, sprint triathlon bike set and have followed this through base, build to race phase for the past two years and have found that it works until recently. I now have more days when I simply cannot complete the set which leaves me demoralised. I’m also finding it a struggle to squeeze in all the training, Currently I do; 3 bikes, 3 runs and 4 swims a week along with 3 strength and conditioning sets but do I really need all this volume and can I recover appropriately whilst holding down a job and managing homelife?
Image from Breakfast TV Monday 13.5.19
After re- reading ‘The Triathletes training bible 4th Edition (Joe Friel). I came across a certain page which resonated with me. Page 169 ‘Common symptoms of over training’ and guess what? Well you take a look:
Category Common symptoms of over training Physical Resting heart rate higher or lower than usual
Greater hunger than normal *
Loss of appetite
Restless sleep. Insomnia *
Chronic fatigue *
Muscle soreness *
Muscle and joint injury *
Minor cuts heal slowly
Menstrual cycle dysfunction *
I’ve starred * the ones which I have and consider these to be due to the Perimenopause Performance Greatly reduced performance in hard workouts *
Low bike power at a given heart rate
Inability to complete work outs*
Decreased muscular strength*
Loss of coordination*
Deterioration of skills* Psychological Moody, Grumpy and emotional*
Low motivation to train* (sometimes)
Poor concentration *
Decreased Self-esteem *
Very high levels of race anxiety **
Loss of competitiveness *
Depression * Wow this sound like me or any other ‘menopausal woman’ Physiological Low level of Peak Lactate Low heart rate at high power or pace (unsure if this was a misprint??)
Heart rate high at low to moderate intensities
High perceived exertion at a given power or pace*
Low heart rate variability
Increased oxygen consumption during sub maximal exercise
Reduced maximal exercise capacity Well I wouldn’t know about the science stuff but my thighs burn so much more quickly on the bike than they ever did and I definitely breathe harder at sweet spot efforts which I perceive to be harder work than they should be even though I’ve been consistently training and have an appropriate FTP. Immunological Increased susceptibility to colds, flu and allergies
Swollen lymph glands
Abnormal white blood cell differentials This year alone I had a bout of flu and subsequently 2 head colds which I think are because of the menopause going from feeling like an inferno to a glacier in a matter of minutes. Now I’ve got a bit of hay fever and seem to react to the pool chemicals? Biomechanical Reduced muscle glycogen concentration
Elevated serum cortisol
Decreased serum Ferritin
Decreased bone mineral density Clearly, I wouldn’t know about these unless I was tested, but as a hunch the menopause does seem to affect bone density due to falling Oestrogen levels
Now look at this list :
I think it’s funny how these symptoms share some commonalities, so I’m asking myself am I over training or am I not training smart enough?
Simon Wards’ podcast with Joe was very insightful in light of this matter: https://simonward.podbean.com/e/simon-ward-and-joe-friel/ . From what I can gather Joe’s book ‘Fast after 50’ was written basically for him, he said it was a ‘selfish venture’ to help his train well for Triathlon past 50. In this light I guess it’s not really going to address all my questions as a Female Peri-menopausal triathlete but there may well be some very sensible takeaways hence It’s on order!
The pod cast was indeed interesting. My ears picked up on lifestyle, diet, rest and especially the idea that Masters athletes needed to do more HIT’ (high Intensity training). Did Joe mean change the ‘golden rule of training 20/80 (Matt Fitzgerald 2016) to a 40/60?
“I think there is a tendency among endurance athletes to do far too much CV work and not enough strength work. The same for intervals with most in the 'sweetspot' zone (between aerobic and anaerobic threshold). As you get older the HIT work is >90%mhr but still only 10% of total weekly duration. Strength work isn't normally counted in the 80/20 (weekly workouts) or 90/10 (weekly duration) and there must be more of that even if CV work is sacrificed I don’t think there is much if anything on menopause in the Fast after 50 book To clarify this rule ‘80 percent of training at low intensity (training below the lactate threshold) and the other 20% at and above lactate otherwise known as HIT work. Training peaks have a great article on this https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/using-the-80-20-rule-to-balance-triathlon-training-intensity/ written by Matt Fitzgerald, who goes on to fundamentally suggest that,
‘A majority of recreational triathletes unconsciously self-select swim, bike, and run speeds that are slightly above the ventilatory threshold in basic aerobic conditioning sessions. In other words, when athletes think they are at low intensity, they are in fact at moderate intensity, a phenomenon I call “intensity blindness”.
Perhaps I have ‘intensity blindness’ it’s not something I’ve really considered. I guess previously I’ve done sessions based on; easy/ miles or technique (when in reality both of these can accumulate a lot of lactate!), hard intervals and then Sweetspot work so if this is the case, I’m definitely not following the 20/80 rule. Sweet spot is not low intensity!! So maybe this is where I’m going wrong? Are you sticking to the 20/80?
He also stresses the importance of lifestyle and rest whilst making a point of reminding us that instead of getting faster, if you’ve been well conditioned for years you may well have reached your peak in which case it’s about limiting the loses in form, technique and fitness. I like to think that I’ve got good conditioning, I’ve been in the sport for 7 years and now training consistently for at least 5 years. I believe I could make marginal gains from technique and form in all aspects of Triathlon but to do this I will need to invest in a mentor or a coach to analyse my current technique, suggest and oversee these changes to ensure I nail good form.
Hope this helps? As always please let me know how you plan to improve or minimise your loss in speed.
Happy Training The Peri-Menopausal Triathlete
Fitzgerald. M. May 2016 Using the 80/20 Rule to Balance Triathlon Training Intensity , training Peaks
Friel. J The Triathlete’s Training Bible 4th Edition 2016 Velopress
Dr Leonard. R interview with BBC Breakfast ‘wake up to the menopause’ may 14 2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0794y0s Wake up to the Menopause Image https://www.50sense.net/home/bbc-breakfast-wake-up-to-the-menopause