aging · health · injury · menopause

Menopause, depleted estrogen and increased rolling of ankles

By Martha

A few weeks ago, I ran into my house to retrieve a beach rug and I ended up rolling my ankle severely. While it wasn’t bad enough to warrant a visit to urgent care, I wasn’t my swiftest either.

Having dealt with the sprained ankles of others over the years, I knew I had to rest, ice, apply compression and elevate my injured ankle.

I was curious though: over the last few years, I have rolled my ankle just slightly enough to pause but never enough to feel pain.

As someone with ovaries and estrogen, it occurred to me maybe this might be connected to menopause. Our bodies change in response to depleted estrogen (cessation of periods being one symptom and hot flashes being another.

Turns out our ligaments are affected by menopausal hormone changes including increases in swollen tissues in our feet. Good foot care is important at this stage of life as recovery from sports related injuries such as sprains in feet and knees can take time.

I was lucky. I bought new shoes, acquired some fancy compression socks and regularly applied a topical pain reliever. I’m back to walking lengthy distances without post walk aches. However I’ll keep practicing my ankle exercises (flexing, pumping, and writing the alphabet with my toes) while also stretching my upper leg muscles which compensated for my injury.

So if you are a pre, post or experiencing menopause person, maintain your weight bearing exercises for strong bones and remember to pay attention to your ligaments and soft tissues in your feet.

MarthaFitAt55 likes learning new things about how our bodies work.

fitness · menopause

Catherine complains about sweating again, but this time there’s science involved

Summer has officially arrived, and warmer temperatures are here! This means many things, one of which I’d like to discuss/complain about: Major sweating. I’m not referring to a healthy pink glow here. We’re talking dripping, red-faced, soggy sweat– even at 10am. Even while doing very light activity. Even while dressed head to toe in moisture-wicking fabrics whose marketing materials guarantee a dryer, more comfortable active you.

They're lying.
They’re lying. At least to me.

I’ve written a feminist guide to mid-life sweating post with my tips here. Mina and Sam and others have also blogged about sweating in affirming ways.

But I’m back because I just last week learned a thing that science has known, but didn’t bother to tell me: the medication I take (an SSRI anti-depressant) is a known contributor to excessive sweating! When I asked Madeline, my psychopharm doc, she said, “Oh yes! This is definitely a thing.”

Did everyone else know this already? Am I the last to be informed?

Given that medications helped get me into this soggy mess, I wondered whether medications could help me out of it. The answer is maybe a little bit, but not for me. Why? Because science is complicated.

HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is commonly prescribed for menopausal symptoms. There’s lots of say about this, but you should do your own google search and consult your own experts. For me, it’s not an option.

There are other anti-sweating medications around, but they have all sorts of side effects and varying levels of effectiveness. Dr. Madeline (who knows what she is about, imho) says no to the sweat-be-gone drugs.

Instead, she recommended a portable battery-operated fan, ice packs or cold compresses on the back of the neck. The fan is a hard no for me, but I do have an extremely cute ice pack.

I own one of these. How could I not? It’s got little yellow duckies on it with the pale blue background! So cute! And it doesn’t leak.

Should I start carrying it around? That seems a bit much. I already tote a bandana for mopping up sweat around my face. Maybe go all in and order a rubber ducky tote bag to carry my sweat-mitigation gear?

Yes, it's a tote bag with images of rubber duckies. Very cute.
Yes, it’s a tote bag with images of rubber duckies. Very cute.

Honestly, maybe it’s not a terrible idea– toting around sweat-mitigation gear, that is. And engaging in sweat-mitigation and sweat-acceptance habits. After all, the body I have now is worth caring for just as it is. And this body sweats a lot. Time to deal. Cold drinks, bandanas, changes of clothes, cool breathable fabrics, fabrics that don’t show sweat as much, cool bedrooms, and more cool/cold-water swimming are all promising strategies.

Readers, do you have any sweat-mitigation or sweat-acceptance tips? We’d all love to hear anything you have to offer.

Book Reviews · Guest Post · menopause

Menopause Manifesto Reviewed (Guest Post)

by Alexis Shotwell

The Menopause Manifesto isn’t a manifesto. It would perhaps have been better for Dr. Jen Gunter, author of The Vagina Bible, to follow her previous branding and call this second book something like The Menopause Bible – which invokes a lot of information and story about which there is the need for interpretation, debate, and critique as a key part of faith.

I am really excited by the increasing number of books and blogs talking openly about hormone transitions of all sorts, and how they can be made less bad. I’m a feminist who studies transformations in medical practice, and I came into this book ready to cheer for anyone attacking medical sexism, especially the specific form that sexism takes in how it talks about menopause. I’m a nerd and I love there being uncountably many books about stuff I’m interested in. I’m an easy sell!

So, I’m disappointed in how strongly I cannot recommend this book to you. I was about to write, “to you feminist readers of this blog who think critically about fitness, many of whom are nonbinary, or trans women, or fat, or disabled, or asexual, or cancer survivors, or not parents, or all those things at once.” But really, having to put all those caveats in means that pretty much wherever you land on these matrices of experience the book will stab you on one of your other vectors of awesomeness.

My impulse to say: “If you’re thin, cis, straight, monogamously coupled, have had no problems having and bearing children, never had chemo related early menopause, and if you’re otherwise are this book’s normal, you can read this book” is actually really awful. I know that the particular brand of liberal feminism that means you can write a whole book, with the best will in the world, as though all the rest of us are sidenotes, actually doesn’t help even people in the supposed centre of the frame.

And I believe that Gunter really, really means well! She has taken on Goop around its antiscience grifting, the Toronto Star about bad medical reporting, and regularly engages various randos on the internet about health generally. The Menopause Manifesto has some great parts. Gunter is very sympathetic to taking hormones, especially in the perimenopausal years when they can actually help with vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats, for example), and so she has detailed accounts of various hormone options and what they do. So those chapters will be helpful if you’re in perimenopause, having those symptoms, and interested in hormone therapy to help with them – it explains a lot.

The other very great part of the book is a list of signals for when to walk out of a doctor’s office around menopause stuff, because these things indicate that they are either quacks or so behind the science as to be potentially harmful to you. That list includes:

  • salivary hormone level tests
  • hormone level testing to guide therapy
  • recommending only hormone therapy and not the other things that can help menopause symptoms
  • prescribing topical progesterone cream to offset the dangers of transdermal or oral estrogen
  •  selling supplements or products.

(Re this last one, here is your reminder that it’s always a good time to read or reread Middlemarch and to reflect on the long history of people trying to practice integrity and care, including in and around medicine.)

 But one of *my* signals for when to walk out of a doctor’s office, unless there are really really specific conditions that actually involve weight, is when they say:

  • To solve these [waves hand] health problems, you should lose weight!

Gunter does this All. The. Time in this book. It’s SUPER WEIRD! Even when she’s talking critically about how sexist weight loss advice is, she reproduces it.

Doctors in general have a tragic axiom lock around weight – they struggle so much to look at fat people and treat our actual health, even when they know that fat isn’t the reason we’re in their office. They can say in one breath that standard measures, like BMI, are unscientific and useless and in the next breath reiterate just slightly updated versions of dodgy, unscientific pap about fat. Gunter goes for “visceral fat” and waist circumference.

Many doctors, Gunter included, go on from using bogus measures of fatness-as-illness to suggest weight loss as a good remedy for what ails us (in this case, menopause). In a book so critical of pseudoscience and from someone aware of the problems with generalizing health advice from a single person’s experience (Gweneth Paltrow might have good personal results from jade vaginal eggs, but she oughtn’t market them), it’s so odd to see Gunter recommend that her readers do what she does as though it will work for us.

She says, “Admittedly it’s a work in progress and I’m not recommending this approach for anyone. But experts say that journaling is a low-risk intervention that can help with weight loss and weight maintenance” (83). Which experts? Where are the studies? And it’s jarring to have her acknowledge that weight loss advice is sexist, and political, that weight interventions overwhelmingly fail, and proceed to give the usual pablum weight loss advice in the chapter “Metamorphoses of Menopause” (Watch what you eat! Cook at home! Don’t eat ultra-processed food!). I’m here to say, I’ve done or do all of these things and I’m still fat! And I’m good with that!

The standard move here is to follow “I’m fat” with “and I’m really healthy!” But appealing to health as a foil for the “it’s bad to be fat” line is just another trick. Many of us are never going to be not sick, and all of us deserve solid help for problems with menopause, fat or thin, sick or not.

Gunter writes:

“Obesity is a medical condition, but it’s one of the few in which we assign or imply blame to the patient. It’s also one of the conditions where medicine generally provides the least amount of guidance and support. What if we treated people with cancer or high blood pressure the same way? Can you imagine a world where a provider would give the diagnosis of breast cancer, imply it was the person’s fault, and then send her out into the ether to find help?” (85)

So, you can see that Gunter thinks that people should have more and better support around fat. But, as readers of this blog know well, obesity is not a medical condition – fat is not a disease. Even if it were, the precise approach to fat that Gunter here excoriates is pervasive in the book, not just in that chapter. Weight loss is suggested as a remedy for almost every problem perimenopause and menopause might throw at you, and it is named as a potential beneficial side-effect for almost every medical intervention Gunter recommends. I was going to try to give you pages to avoid if you want to get some of the helpful stuff from this book but not be sent down a fat-hating, body-surveilling wormhole and I’m afraid I got overwhelmed. So, general content warning, I guess.

But then content warning for so much more. I know I’m harping on this, but it really is shocking how Gunter is able to identify sexist medical inaccuracies and perpetuate them in the same breath and in the name of feminism.

Aside from leaving when medical professionals talk go first to fat, I have a couple of other signals to walk out of offices – when people go to evolution to explain health advice they’re giving me, when all their heroes are straight and cis, and when they have no disability analysis.

These are more signals that make me wish I’d walked out of this book, but, well, I guess I can offer you my experience. It is just hopelessly, deeply, pervasively committed to a particular understanding of evolution that grounds the worth of menopause in a narrative of “the grandmother effect” (a real and good thing, just not something that we should limit our explanatory scope to). This narrative pervades the text in a way that brings along with it a whole cluster of things around reproduction as the point of human existence, bundled with a whole bunch of stuff around evolutionary fitness. Making menopause a good thing because evolution just tangles us back up in eugenic narratives of personal fitness as a subset of the health of the population. This sucks.

The Menopause Manifesto is deeply straight. Its normative subject is someone who is going through menopause in her forties to fifties, with a uterus and overies, who is having sex with cis men. I feel it really minimizes cancer and decisions people might make around cancer risk that do not ignore other problems postmenopausal people face, such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

All of these grate the more because Gunter references misogyny over and over, and she is able to identify the sexism in her archive even as she reproduces it.  It is actually very possible to write a book about menopause that does not do these things – Heather Corinna has done so just this year!

I think that all of us should be demanding books that apply to and help women think about their experiences but that at the same time resist gender oppression generally. Acknowledging that non-binary people exist and go through menopause, acknowledging that trans men exist and go through menopause, that some people have had early menopause because of cancer or other medical treatment, acknowledging that not everyone wants to have vaginal sex, that not everyone needs to have a pregnancy test, and so on – these things actually help us fight sexism and oppressive gender norms. (Sophie Lewis’s book Full Surrogacy Now! offers a parallel example to Corrinna’s What Fresh Hell is This?, giving a political analysis of pregnancy without restricting it to women. It’s possible, and great!)

So, closing sidebar, not the point of the book but a plea for more science. Anyone who menstruates and weight lifts who I know probably has been interested in studies about lifting and menstrual cycles. There is data that training hard during your follicular cycle, the bit between when you start bleeding and when you ovulate, has strength benefits. I remember my aunt Karen Moe Humphreys, a two-time Olympic swimmer, gold-medalist in the butterfly, who has been a fierce and impressive athlete her whole life and continues to get stronger in her sixties, reflecting on her strength gains post-menopause and saying that she wished people would research this more.

Gunter, and everyone else writing about menopause, talk often about how perimenopause can involve higher levels of follicule stimulating hormone circulating in our bodies – but they do not make the connection to work on weight training during our follicular cycles as helpful. Rather they take it as given that menopause will make us weaker, less muscly, more fragile, no matter how much we exercise. So, I’m interested in someone doing more science on this, but in the absence of good studies, I’m personally going to decide that perimenopause is a good time to get incredibly strong.

And whatever you’re deciding to do with your perimenopause and menopause, I just want to say that you can do it just as you are, and you deserve help and care that doesn’t hate on any part of you.

The Menopause Manifesto cover

Bio: Teacher, writer, SF nerd, functional potter, queer, currently obsessed with doing handstands in middle age. Author of Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times and working on a book called Collecting Our People, about getting together to solve big problems in which we are complicit.

Book Reviews · fitness · menopause

Book Review: What Fresh Hell Is This

by Alexis Shotwell

Why yes, since you wonder, I am writing this short review at 4:13 in the morning because of perimenopause. Maybe you’re reading it in the middle of the night for the same reason! If so, I am here to tell you that the Heather Corinna’s new book What Fresh Hell is This? will make you feel better than you do right now, and you should get your (perhaps sweaty, cranky, bewildered) hands on a copy asap.

Written by a nonbinary, rad, smart, funny, sex-educator, this really is a game-changer in a field of books that try to be helpful and relevant but end up just recapitulating tired gender-binary, straight, fat-hating, ableist sexism. In place of so much that makes us sad, What Fresh Hell is This? offers practical, supportive, buffet-style advice for meeting perimenopause and menopause with kindness, feminism, and science.

The book starts with a great, short history of how messed up and sexist treatment of perimenopause and menopause have been in western medicine (easily skippable, as Corinna notes, if you just want to not think about annoying things). Then it gives a clear run-down on hormones, why they are complicated, and why their changing affects us so much. (I had no idea that there are four kinds of estrogen that bodies produce? One of which is only produced if you’re pregnant, and it is made by the fetus’s liver? How wild.) But in this part, Corinna begins their reframing of the assumed subject of perimenopause with an ease that feels casual and comfortable as you read it, although it is clearly a political decision enacted with rigor.

The “proper subject” of menopause is often implicitly imagined as a straight nondisabled white cis woman who has had kids and worries about getting fat, wrinkly, nonreproductive, and moody. Corinna writes for that woman, for sure, but she is not the central subject from which the rest of us deviate. So all throughout this book there are regular people who have had or do have uteruses and ovaries, and who enter menopause suddenly because of chemo or oophorectomy or hysterectomy, or using T, or other things.

There’s an excellent supplemental section at the end about how trans women and people with testicular systems experience menopause. Being disabled, queer, and nonbinary is not exceptionalised, and Corinna marks how racialization and poverty shape the conditions of life through which we enter menopause.

I just can’t express how relaxing it is to be able to read a book about perimenopause and not constantly brace for or read around heterosexuality, fat-shaming, and ableism, a book that acknowledges racism as a structuring condition of our lives.

But then mostly the book is just helpful about perimenopause. Corinna explains the whys and hows of various things that can happen: Vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats), mood shifts and mental health upheavals, cognitive affects, chronic pain flares, and changes to digestion, skin, bleeding (of course), and sexuality.

The bulk of the book, which goes through various kinds of experiences people have with perimenopause is grounded, thoroughly researched, and measured. I learned a lot, including about things that I thought I had settled views upon, like about whether hormone therapies are good or bad. On that front, I didn’t know that the studies that convinced me that menopausal hormone therapy was harmful and bad didn’t actually focus on the people who might benefit most from short-term combined hormone therapy – they were done on people who were postmenopausal, on average 63 years old, and with an aim of preventing long-term health problems. And I didn’t know that testosterone can be used as part of a menopausal hormonal treatment plan.

 Part of what’s so great about WFHIT? is the steadiness with which it explains that the transition to not bleeding will be personal and specific, but that we can still know things about it. And it has really good suggestions in a frame Corinna calls “Ya Basics” for thinking about managing stress, sleeping, moving our bodies, finding social support, and quitting smoking. They offer sometimes irritatingly helpful advice while acknowledging that it’s sometimes irritating to be offered helpful advice. But they’re still offering it and honestly they’re probably right.

Readers of this blog are probably like me, people who think about a lot of things and who feel like we know some stuff. It is so strange and nourishing to read a book that shows how much more stuff there is to know about something that anyone who has or has had a uterus and ovaries will go through. I feel almost embarrassed at how relieved and affirmed I feel, having read this book, and I recommend it to you. And I hope you get some non-sweaty sleep.

Bio: Teacher, writer, SF nerd, functional potter, queer, currently obsessed with doing handstands in middle age. Author of Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times and working on a book called Collecting Our People, about getting together to solve big problems in which we are complicit.

 

fitness · Guest Post · menopause

Hit Play, not Pause (Guest Post)

by Michele A.

Two years ago, when I was 49, I broke my ankle while I was out riding on local trails. I wasn’t being a daredevil and the fall was unremarkable; I just fell in exactly the wrong way. When sharing my story with various people, I was taken aback by the reaction I got from several women who all told me that I was too old to be doing such things and I should stop.

One of these women (I’ll refer to her as Nancy) was a colleague I respect and admire who I have known for over 20 years. She has mentored many women in our organization to successfully navigate their careers and has provided solid advice to countless mothers on how to effectively balance a career and a family. Nancy has both daughters and granddaughters All these factors made me especially surprised and hurt to hear this comment from her.

Shortly after I had my fall there were three other women close to my age in my office who sustained injuries. One acquired a tear her shoulder after slipping in a neighbor’s driveway after having had several drinks at a party. The second missed a bottom step while carrying a laundry basket and fractured her foot. The third broke her ankle from losing her balance and lurching forward while she was a passenger on a speedboat outing on a lake in Italy.

It made me wonder, did anyone tell them they were too old to be drinking at parties or doing laundry or boating in a foreign country? I doubt it. Would Nancy or the other women who told me I was too old to be riding a bike have said the same thing to a man my age? Perhaps, but I doubt that too.

After stewing about this for some time and then reflecting upon it further, I concluded that Nancy and the other women weren’t intentionally being sexist or ageist, but they just didn’t get it. They had never taken part in this kind of adventure sport and didn’t know other women their age that did. Because, let’s face it, there aren’t that many of us. By “us” I mean women over 45 who are fitness-focused, competitive and/or performance minded.

We are women who are out adventuring and using their bodies to do things like get themselves across many miles of various kinds of terrain, over hills and through bodies of water. Many of us are there, or have been there, or are looking to be there again, following injury or disability or other life adjustment (or, perhaps ,a global pandemic…)

Recently I discovered the podcast “Hit Play Not Pause” and am so glad I did. It’s for “active, performance-minded women who aren’t willing to put their best years behind them.” I’m certainly not willing to give up doing the things I love now that I’m over 50, and I hope to continue doing them for many years to come.

This podcast is a godsend because I’ve been experiencing unpleasant and frustrating things with my body in the past few years that I don’t understand. Short of comparing notes with friends, information about being active in menopausal years is hard to come by. Not much research has been done on active women in this age group.

I’ve gotten lots of practical advice listening to the podcast: herbal remedies that can reduce hot flashes; ways to keep my lady parts from getting dry; eating and exercising approaches that can help with weight gain brought on by changing hormones. Specifically, I’ve learned that while we may tend to gravitate towards long, slow endurance workouts, we also need to include some high intensity work, like Plyometrics, to replace in our muscles what we’ve lost from reduced estrogen. (Listen to episode 1 for the science behind this.)  

I also found out that we’re never too old to be doing Kegel exercises! It can help with incontinence.  (Tune into episode 4 to find out more.) These were all useful tips, but the most important things I’ve gotten out of listening to the podcast are a mindset and a community.

If you don’t have much time to listen to podcasts, there’s one particular episode I’d highly recommend – “Joy Goals with Kristen Dieffenbach”. There’s so much good coaching in it about how to manage your own self-image and how to think about your goals amidst a body that is inevitably going to change whether you like it or not.

I walked away from this episode inspired and also with a powerful realization. We – the over-45 women need to be the role models for the generation behind us. Our own role models for being active over 45 are few and far between. Instead of worrying aloud about the weight gain or critically eyeing the crepe-like skin below the leg of your bike shorts, appreciate all that your body has done for you. Show younger women what is possible because of strength and determination. And show them that you can keep doing it for many, many years. Let’s pave the path for them and show them how it’s done, shall we?

fitness · menopause · menstruation

Will this ever end? #menopause

Cate and I joke about being the women menopause forgot.

We’ve both blogged about it. See Cate’s super popular post about still menstruating at 53 and a half and my post from four years ago about being late to the menopause party.

Luckily, healthwise, it’s not a bad thing.

I was happy to read in the New York Times that there’s some health benefits to late menopause as well.

There’s actually some very good news for you if you went through menopause later rather than earlier: You may live longer.

True, late menopause is associated with an increased risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. But “on balance, most of it is good news: Later age at menopause is associated with better health, longer life and less cardiovascular disease,” said Ellen B. Gold, a professor emeritus in public health at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine and principal investigator of the university’s Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, or SWAN.

Those who go through menopause later are at lower risk for heart disease and stroke, and also tend to have stronger bones, less osteoporosis and fewer fractures than those who go through menopause earlier. The average age of menopause, when a woman has her last menstrual period, is 51, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Even my Garmin knows something’s up! Just today it suggested that I start tracking my periods. That made me laugh. The software knows how old I am.

Good luck with tracking and predicting Garmin. These days it’s more like the menstrual lottery.

Crossfit · fitness · menopause · menstruation

Top Ten Posts in May, #ICYMI

  1. Women, sport and sex tests: Why Caster Semenya matters a great deal
  2. On vibrators as athletic trophies, or when a prize is not a prize
  3. Sam gets told “get off the road fat bitch”
  4. I’m 53 and a 1/2 and I’m still menstruating
  5. The Latest Weird Thing About a Stiff Neck
  6. Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies
  7. Harassment is not a compliment (Guest post)
  8. The humbling moment when you go back to lifting weights
  9. CrossFit and Women’s Bodies
  10. End Game strikes some wrong notes for size acceptance
Image description: A calendar that says “May” on a green wall. Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash .
fitness · menopause · swimming · winter

Swimming in the cold, brrr!


I love swimming outside. But I hate being cold. Probably that means I should live somewhere else! Bora Bora was lovely. See above.

The other day this came through my social media newsfeed: The remarkable health benefits of cold water swimming. That article focuses mainly on the mental health benefits of swimming in cold water, especially helping with depression. But it’s also said to be great for relieving the symptoms of menopause.

It’s said to be all the rage: Why wild swimming in depths of winter is the new natural high. I love being outside. I love being in the water. But I prefer it if the water is hot! See Sam’s day at the spa. On my spa day I did dump a couple of buckets of cold water over my head after the too hot sauna but I couldn’t get myself to swim in the river. Next time I’ll try it. Promise.

How about you? Tempted to swim in the cold water outside?

aging · fit at mid-life · fitness · Martha's Musings · menopause · walking · weight lifting

Menopause, memory and fitness

By MarthaFitAt55

 

katie-moum-446408-unsplash.jpg
Picture shows a paved highway shrouded in fog. Photo credit: Katie Moum on Unsplash

Last week SamB shared an interesting article from the New York Times discussing the brain fog of menopause. I was mightily relieved to read the article. Like the subject of the article, I once enjoyed a wonderful memory, and in recent times, I was dismayed to discover it had left me.

 

To learn there is a link between brain fog and menopause offers me hope. Over the past five years I have been actively working on improving my fitness. I have found yoga to be quite useful in helping me loosen up my ligaments. I have found swimming to be excellent at working my hip joints. My trainer creates programs that are diverse, work different parts, and are usually fun to do.

The challenge has been remembering how the strength exercises work. Despite the fact I have been doing a hip abductor stretch for five years, I never remember which arm goes up with which knee. Or she’ll say let’s do (insert name of exercise I’ve done multiple times) and all I remember is “blah, blah arms” or “blah, blah glutes.” What I do with the arms or my glutes is a mystery and I wait expectantly for my trainer to fill in my all too frequent blanks.

For awhile there, I was feeling quite stupid about not being able to remember an exercise from one week to another. Or I could remember someting I learned more than two decades earlier, but couldn’t recall a simple piece of information several hours after learning it.

Brain fog, or more properly termed “menopause-related cognitive impairment,” in women is disconcerting. We are responsible for many things: appointments, processes at home and at work, information, data. When you are used to being able to manage all the little bits in life without much effort, it can become worrisome when you lose that facility.

Luckily severe cases of brain fog can be managed with a short course of hormone therapy. However, if that’s not suitable, here something that can help: more exercise!

According to a report published last spring by Harvard Health, regular exercise can rewire your brain and help improve your cognitive skills and your recall. Plus regular exercise can help you sleep better, which also helps maintain your cognitive abilities and keep your mood elevated.

The good news is that cardio exerise really helps; the bad news is that strength training does not. However that doesn’t mean you need to ditch the weights. Variety in exercise offers you benefits in different areas and you don’t get bored doing the same thing over and over.

Right now I’m going to keep focused on my workout plan, I am not going to stress myself out over the need for repetition in instruction, and I will add in a couple of extra walks to keep the blood flowing to my brain as well as my feet. I will also celebrate the small wins like remembring when it is my turn to post!

— Martha is a powerlifter who lives and writes in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

 

 

 

hiking · menopause · running · training

Now That Getting Stoned Is A Legal Training Option

Before I dive into this post, I want to put a caution up front. This represents my personal views. I’m coming from a cannabis-positive direction and will not look at the risks and downsides. Others will represent that perspective, to be sure!

Yesterday the recreational use of cannabis became legal in Canada. As if I needed another reason to miss my homeland! By way of celebration, I considered getting stoned this morning before my run, but I’m only a baby stoner and consuming cannabis straight out of bed (and by myself, since my partner is away) felt more than a wee bit outside my comfort zone.

photo-1498671546682-94a232c26d17
lush green cannabis plant

This article in Canadian Running about the potential benefits of cannabis on training might change my mind about running stoned.

By way of background, I consumed virtually no pot until I was into my thirties. Then a few years ago I became intolerant of alcohol, likely related to the onset of menopause. I was never a big drinker, but I enjoyed the social aspect. I miss the festive feel of a cocktail or the last glass of wine around a dinner table littered with the debris of a long meal. I’m glad that I have access to edibles (products like candies or brownies containing cannabis) and enjoy them as an alternative that never gives me a hangover.

Cannabis products didn’t really figure in my athletic life. Sure, there was the marathon I finished where a friend with a joint was at the finish line, touting the anti-inflammatory benefits. I can’t remember if I recovered more quickly from that marathon. Until recently, I had not used cannabis specifically as a recovery tool. Yes, I am likely to consume in the evening after a long effort, but that’s a reward, a celebration. The pain relief is a bonus and I haven’t tracked the efficacy.

Then, about a year ago, I had a period where my hip flexor started bothering me out of the blue. Putting on a pair of pants was uncomfortable. Running got hard and slow, because lifting my leg invoked the pain. My partner counseled me to use the CBD oil he’d bought a while back. I was skeptical. Then I was a grateful convert. Since then we’ve bought a couple of other CBD products for muscle pain, and my acupuncturist uses it. Wow. Nothing topical has worked so well for me. This summer when I was training for a 30k mountain run, I would mix CBD cream with foot salve, to my feet’s delight. I used it on my sketchy hamstring and my cranky shoulder blade muscle. All were happy.

IMG_2122
White plastic bottle labeled Muscle Melt Active Cannabis Heating Rub, beloved by Mina’s muscles

While training for that long run, I did a couple of runs with some younger folk. They were mountain goats with incredible endurance, agility, quite a bit of speed and a lot of good cheer. I also realized that two of the three of them were stoned. That gave me pause. I had never thought about the potential training benefits of cannabis. If anything, I assumed that being stoned would diminish my ability to work out.

The day after one of our four-hour training runs, my partner and I decided to do a 10-mile, steep hike, as a way of being on our feet, without using the exact same muscles. I suggested we follow our mountain-goat friends’ example. We had a cannabis candy as we started up the trail.

I was curious to see how it would feel. Would we be slower? Would we lose the thread of the hike? Would we just sit down and admire the forest? Nope. We charged up the mountain and got to the top as fast, if not faster, than we usually do. We were so jazzed by our ascent that we run-hiked back down. We were so focused on whether we were having a “better” time on our hike, that we didn’t even notice our performance. We concluded that the forest had seemed just as spectacular as always, the view from the peak as breathtaking, and the high meadows of wildflowers as eye popping. With or without cannabis enhancement, we got the same joy out of the experience. It was only afterward that the performance side sank in. Hiking stoned was hiking strong.

That one anecdotal event was not enough to change my training habits. I didn’t overcome years of a strict church and state separation of the workout part of my day and the relaxation part; that prude in me who clucks her tongue at having too much fun when I should be working. I thought of that hike as a one-off. But when I add in the new information from the Canadian Running article about the potential benefits of cannabis during training runs, well, I can feel my no-no stance crumbling.

I’m always curious about new training modes, so why not running stoned? Have you tried it? What are your experiences with cannabis and training?