The Menopause made me a runner

The Menopause Made Me A Runner

March 13, 20246 min read

Anyone that knows me well, will categorically agree that exercise was never my preferred activity. I like to eat (a lot), I love lie-ins and I really hated the look of leggings and Lycra on me.

I have had many gym memberships over the years and sometimes I went along and sometimes I didn’t. When I did exercise, my priority was only to tone up and as I got older, this became harder because my body was changing and more often than not, I simply couldn't be bothered.

Like the majority of people around the world, 2020 was a life changing year and it did some unexplainable things to my mental health. I say unexplainable because I didn't know why I suddenly felt so down. 

We had just moved into a beautiful house, in a lovely new area, and my youngest son was offered a place in the local secondary school with an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating. Life was good. I blamed this feeling on the pandemic. That must be it right? No.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the start of peri-menopause. I was 46 years old. 

I only associated the menopause with hot flushes and no more menstrual periods and couldn’t understand how this could apply to me. 

Single parenting and running a business, while trying to navigate the changes in my body has been no mean feat. Therapy has been fantastic, support from family and friends has been priceless and the patience from my clients has been heartwarming.

But when I gained two stones and went up two dress sizes, I knew I needed to make some changes. It was never about how I looked, but how I felt. As a Style Coach, I experienced first hand, exactly what women meant when they would say “I don’t want to buy any new clothes until I lose the weight”. I didn’t want to spend a single penny on this new body that I didn’t even like.

I re-joined the gym…and never went, not once. It’s really hard when you haven't been for so long. I didn’t feel confident enough to be seen inside a gym anyway, so I soon gave up on the idea. I know, I know, no one is looking at you in the gym, blah blah blah, but I didn't want to go.

I tried going for power walks because I love walking, but again the walks became shorter and shorter until I stopped altogether. I then saw a post in my local Facebook group last year advertising a running club. I’ve always liked the idea of running. 

I tried the ‘Couch to 5k’ challenge once and of course I didn't complete it, but I did experience a teeny bit of the ‘runners high’ that I kept on hearing about. Thanks to the brain fog or ‘meno-brain’ as I like to call it, I completely forgot to sign up for the running club! Luckily I only had to wait a few months for the next cohort and put the date straight in my diary. I really wanted this ‘high’, I wanted to feel better.

From the outside, my life looked fine. I get paid to change lives everyday, I’m fortunate to work with well known brands, I have a loving and supportive circle around me, but the past 4 years have been hell inside my head thanks to the menopause. I would rather feel like I'm going to burst into flames from hot flushes, than the mental toll it brings. 

In June 2023, I woke up on my 50th birthday in Jamaica surrounded by my family and had an absolutely amazing time, but I was in a real slump when I returned home. 

I put my sudden low mood down to holiday blues and then as the weeks went on, I thought it could be the fact that I turned 50 and reached the dreaded ‘mid-life’. When I spoke to my GP, she said “we need to check your oestrogen levels”.

The menopause made me a runner

The ‘runners high’ has been the medicine I was missing. I actually wake up looking forward to the day ahead, when I know that I’m going to run. I used to see runners in my local park and stare in awe as they ran past me thinking that I could never be like them. 

Like any new habit, I found it tough at first. I couldn't even run up the stairs at home, let alone for 3 minutes when we first started. 

Consistency and focus has been a struggle in the past 6 months, so I used this to ‘fuel’ my efforts, by visualising myself running towards my goals and my future and leaving behind the thoughts and circumstances that hold me back. 

As I’m writing this (still in my running gear) I am proud to say that I completed my first 5k practice run today in just under 40 minutes.  

It's true what they say about the mental benefits of running. It elevates my mood and has an anti-depressive effect. But more importantly I have a sense of pride when I run and a euphoric feeling when I finish. 

The ‘Change’ as our mothers called it, is an understatement when describing the menopause. The brain fog, low mood and hot flushes are just a few symptoms that many women face. It's great that there is so much more awareness around the menopause now and it's not a taboo subject anymore, but I wished there was more awareness around the mental effects, as they can be equally if not more debilitating, than the physical symptoms.

“I don't feel ‘old enough’ to be feeling the way I often feel.”

While my body continues to change, I’m happy that I have found a new habit that not only improves my mental health, but my physical health too. I'm less likely to sabotage my efforts by eating junk food, so turn to healthier alternatives. It’s a lovely feeling to need a belt, as my jeans are now loose on me. 

Running is also an exercise that I can be in control of. I set the pace that I run and apart from training days, I can run whenever and wherever I like.

If you’re in peri-menopause or fully into the menopause and are looking for a different form of exercise, try a local running club. Running is free and carefree. You choose the pace you run and where you run whether that’s on a treadmill or in your local park.

At 50 years old, I feel a lot more energised, I’m almost at my target weight and dare I say it…leggings and Lycra aren’t as ugly on me as I previously thought! 

In fact, I actually enjoy shopping for pieces to wear when I run and creating a capsule wardrobe just for my workout clothes. 

Who says you can’t look good while you run!

Next goal: To run 10k!


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