Mastering Menopause

Mastering Menopause

Mastering Menopause

We cannot pretend menopause is not going to happen. We cannot wish it away, or hope that it won’t happen to us.

We also cannot think that it won’t affect us. It will, and it will affect those around us too.

So, instead of putting out the fires and the hot flashes as they happen, let’s start learning what changes to our lifestyle and mindset we need to make to give us the greatest impact.

Yes? YES!

What’s the difference, perimenopause and menopause?

Perimenopause happens 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but it can start in her 30s as well.

Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, which is the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs (ie. we stop having periods).

To be fully out of perimenopause and menopause (medically speaking), we need to be without a menstrual cycle for one full year.

How will I know when I am postmenopausal?

A woman is considered to be postmenopausal when she has not had her period for an entire year.

Measuring through a blood test called the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level is another way to determine if you are postmenopausal.

FSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain). However, the routine use of the FSH test is not needed to help the vast majority of women. Sometimes, the levels can be misleading since the levels go up and down during the transition into menopause.

What are the heck are the symptoms?

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats and/or cold flashes
  • Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex
  • Urinary urgency (the need to pee more often)
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or staying asleep
  • Emotional changes (irritability, anger, mood swings, depression)
  • Dry skin, eyes or mouth
  • Brain fog

Women who are perimenopausal also have this barrel of fun to look forward to:

  • Racing heart rates
  • Headaches
  • Joint and muscle aches and pain
  • Changes to sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Acne

Can my lifestyle trigger the symptoms of peri and menopause?

A number of the symptoms of menopause can be set off and intensified by lifestyle choices. For instance, the following have been known to trigger hot flashes:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine (this sucks)
  • Alcohol (this really sucks)
  • Spicy foods
  • Hot foods
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Fatty cuts of meat

What else can go wrong, after 40?

On top of all of our menopause and perimenopause symptoms, we also have age-related changes happening to the body.

Why we are getting fat

The big reason why we gain weight after the age of 40 is because we are losing a percentage of our lean muscle mass, each and every year.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than any other tissue in the body, both at rest and at work. So, when our lean muscle mass decreases our metabolism takes a nosedive.

Click here to learn how to become a better fat-burning machine.

After the age of 30, women can expect to lose as much as 3% to 5% of their lean muscle mass per decade. Once we reach 75 years this loss accelerates (however for some women this can happen as early as 65 years).

How do you offset this? Not by walking and not by performing cardio. The only way to build your lean muscle mass is with a properly devised strength training program.

Click here to view all of my YouTube Workouts.

Our organs, as we age

As our cells age they don’t function as well as they used to and eventually old cells must die as a normal part of the bodies functioning.

While this is a normal process of age, it does become a concern when the number of old cells in the ovaries, liver, and kidneys decrease.

When these cells become too low, an organ cannot function normally and this is why most organs function less than stellar as people age.

Great news, though, not all organs lose a large number of cells. The brain is one good example. Science has proven that women who are healthy do not lose as many brain cells as unhealthy women do.

It's hard to be a woman funny quote

Our bones, as we age

Bone mass and bone density decrease as we age and will begin to decline by approximately 1% (or so) with each passing year from 30 years old until menopause is reached – at which point we will then see a 2-3% loss each year.

Click here to do a bone-building beginner’s strength workout.

Our connective tissue, as we age

Our tendons (that great stuff that keeps our muscles connected to our bone) are also being affected.

As we age we lose some of the water in our tendons and this, in turn, makes our tissue stiffer and less able to handle stress and more susceptible to injury.

Click here to do a 15-minute morning wake up stretch routine.

Our speed and reaction time, as we age

The number of our muscle fibers are also decrease as we age. This means that our muscles can’t contract as easily as they used to, making us slower in general as well as slowing down our reaction time.

Our heart, as we age

Our heart muscle also slows down as we age. It becomes less able to propel large quantities of blood quickly which means that we are going to tire more easily and take longer to recover as we get older.

Click here to do a heart-pumping, low impact cardio workout.

Our insides get fatter

Body fat increases as we age and the distribution of body fat shifts from subcutaneous (under the skin, evenly over the body) to visceral (around the internal organs).

Visceral fat is deep within the body surrounding our internal organs and is also known to increase our chances of developing: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep apnea, various forms of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

The best part of being over 40 is we did most of our stupid stuff before the internet. - Mastering Menopause blog

Estrogen, how we miss thee

Most of the symptoms related to perismenopause and menopause are happening because we are producing less estrogen.

This production will continue to decrease until the ovaries eventually stop making it.

WTF is going on with my belly fat?

When estrogen declines cortisol and insulin production increase.

And guess what? Both of these hormones contribute to fat gain, especially around the midsection, and in particular as that dangerous visceral fat we learned about just above.

In addition, perimenopausal women may see more accumulation of fat around the belly – even if they are eating better and exercising correctly.

You see our bodies are pretty amazing machines and during times of hormone imbalances our body favours belly fat because its programmed to preserve fertility as long as possible. Thanks body.

Belly fat also produces estrogen! So, it’s of no surprise that when estrogen production from the ovaries slows, the body compensates by adding a spare tire around our mid-section.

 Click here to be rid of the belly fat.

A good night’s sleep. What’s that?

Sleep patterns will also change as we age.

This can either cause difficulty falling asleep, constant waking or full on insomnia – all of which will lead to lower energy levels and fatigue.

Chronic sleep deprivation is also linked to elevated cortisol levels and cortisol is that visceral belly fat loving hormone, in addition it is responsible to increasing our risk for a whole host of diseases, including cancer.

Click here to sleep better.

How to master menopause

Mastering perimenopause and menopause starts with your lifestyle.

For some it might mean dietary changes, for others it might mean adding strength training to their weekly workouts.

While for other women it could be improving their sleep, or adding stress relieving activities to their day.

However, for a lot of women it will mean making more than one change to their lifestyle. This can pose a problem, though.

Adding too many goals, and too many lifestyle changes, all at once is a recipe for disaster.

My suggestion for success

Where ever you are with your symptoms, and whatever your reasons WHY are (because remember, you HAVE to want to want these lifestyle changes), I want you to start with only one change first.

The reasons are both physiological and psychological.

On a physiological standpoint our brains are actually only programmed to operate on 10% willpower, the other 90% runs on muscle memory, or habits.

We need to make these changes to our lifestyle become habits so that the 10% is not battling it out with the 90%.

Psychologically speaking, small changes and manageable goals help us from not freaking out and throwing our arms up in the air two weeks in.

BUT, this does not mean I do not want you to challenge yourself, or that these changes will be easy.
 

Start with one, the rest will follow

Start by picking one symptom that is bothering you the most and then begin making the necessary changes to your lifestyle to help you master that one symptom.

 

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Meditation for Beginners

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation, it’s the new kale. It’s something everyone is telling us to do for better health and piece of mind.

But, where do we start? How do we begin, when most of us already stretched for time throughout the day ? And, what if we have one of those busy monkey brains and feel we just can’t meditate?

On today’s Blab Eileen Cruz dispelled the many myths surrounding meditation (like you DON’T  have to be a monk to successfully meditate), while also providing a TON of amazing tips and techniques to fit meditation in your in-between moments through the day.

This was such a special Blab!

Eileen-Cruz -Meditation-For-Beginners-Fitness with PJ

Eileen Cruz

Eileen Cruz is a BodyMind Coach. BodyMind Coaching is a process-oriented approach for those who want to “disrupt the status quo” in their personal and professional lives.

Her mission is teach and coach her clients to discover and sustain a BodyMind connection within as the foundation for designing their lives. There’s a certain context and environment that encourages this BodyMind connection to happen. Eileen creates this context and environment for her clients. It is a quieter form of coaching, almost meditative.

Eileen’s unique approach integrates her experiences and exploration in coaching, leadership, business, yoga, meditation and acting training.  She received her coaching certification and leadership training through the Coaches Training Institute. Eileen has been meditating for over 10 years since her first 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in 2004.

Her objectives for today’s BLAB is to inspire people to take baby steps to meditate daily by making it fun and accessible to everyone no matter how busy they are and to give them an experience of the BodyMind connection within.

Questions Asked On Today’s Blab – Meditation for Beginners

What draws us to meditation?

What is Eileen’s perspective on meditation?

Why Eileen doesn’t even like the word “meditation” or “meditation practice”?

Why should I bother meditating? What’s the point?

Why Eileen believes we are all master meditators already…we’ve just forgotten?

Why does expecting certain outcomes from meditation create a roadblock to meditating from the start? 

How do I prepare myself to commit to a meditation practice? 

What’s the mindset needed to meditate? 

How can I meditate when my life is too busy?

When should I meditate?

How long should I meditate for?

What’s the best posture for meditating?

What should I focus on when I meditate?

What will happen when I close my eyes to meditate?

Why is it so hard to meditate? What are the obstacles to meditating?

How do I choose from all the meditation techniques out there? 

How will meditating impact my life?

How do I know if my meditation practice is working for me?

What is the ultimate goal to meditating?

Why Eileen believes meditation is something we need to embrace as a way of life and not just a practice?

Meditation for Beginners

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The Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training

The Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training

The Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training

There are many different goals that people tell me they want their fitness programs to achieve. However, the one goal that is most often cited is increased muscle tone and strength.

And, as a strength training coach and trainer I love to hear that, especially from my over-40 crowd.

After the age of 40 our strength begins to decline (they call this atrophy), and continues on that downward spiral to hell 8 to 10 percent, per decade, thereafter (Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging).

Now, this decline in strength not only affects our ability to move and our strength in general, it also has serious consequences on our metabolism.

Our metabolisms are what dictates how many calories we burn throughout the day. A higher metabolism, the more calories we will burn. The more calories burned, the better our chances are for a slimmer, trimmer body.

How do you keep your metabolism running as quick and agile as a bunny?

You can start by holding onto those muscles that are slowly disintegrating with each passing year.

The more muscle you have, the more calories your body needs to support that muscle (a pound of muscle at rest burns about 6 calories, while a pound of fat burns about 2).

You see, it requires more calories for the body to keep a pound of muscle warm (because the body loves staying in a homeostasis state of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), than it does a pound of fat.

Intense strength training can also increase your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and your EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption). Both of which can lead to some serious calorie burning.

In fact, fat loss studies have proven that high intensity strength training can burn fat faster than traditional aerobic exercise. So, say good bye to running and hello to the bench press if you are looking to lose weight.

Beginner's-Guide-Strength-Training

What else can strength training do for me?

Strength training is the only means of fighting that age-related business of muscles wasting away (atrophying).

In addition, strength training: increases bone strength, decreases resting blood pressure and lowers individuals’ risk for type 2 diabetes.

And, as mentioned above it is also a champion when it comes to burning fat.

As a beginner how often should I lift weights?

Every day and twice on Sundays.

Just joking. If you are just starting to lift weights you are in a fantastic place. Beginner’s ALWAYS see gains, and quickly. It’s because the moves and exercises are a new stimulus to you and your body is going to respond in a positive and happy way!

I recommend, to all new exercisers, a twice a week strength training routine, working all the major muscle groups of the body, with at least a day’s rest in-between lift days.

From there, as you get stronger and more accustomed to strength training, progress to 3-4 times a week.

This change in frequency will usually have to happen by month three, as you start to plateau. However, a simple tweak to your intensity and how often you lift will get you over that hump so that you can continue to see change and growth.

Is it safe to strength train at any age?

You betcha! Strength training will help improve balance, (therefore decreasing the risk of falling), sustain a longer independence in life and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

In a recent study, researchers found that walking by itself was not enough of an overload to stimulate bone-building cells. Weight training and impact-type exercises were found to be more advantageous.

Try this Beginner’s Strength Workout 

Strength-training-older-adults

How many reps should I do?

There are two primary types of muscle fibres: slow twitch and fast twitch.

Slow twitch muscle fibres move more slowly and have more mitochondria (structures located within the muscle cell that contain enzymes needed to metabolize food into energy sources). This means that they have a higher aerobic capacity and are less resistant to fatigue.

On the other hand, fast twitch muscle fibres are characterized by their fast speed of contraction but lower level of aerobic capacity. Since we carry both sets of fibres, I always recommend periodizing a strength program of:

  • 4-8 weeks of high reps (1-3 sets of 13-20 repetitions) at a light load. This should address the slow twitch muscle fibres.
  • Then, for the next 4-8 week period, switch your program to a heavier load of 8-12 reps for 1-4 sets. This type of programming should avoid exercise plateaus and address both types of muscle fibres.

Are machines better than dumbbells?

Machines. Suck. Period. All right, I’ll be a little generous; they are kind of good for beginners and those coming back to the gym after an injury.

This is because they support the individual and help dictate the plane of motion to lift in. However, that’s precisely why I hate them too.

We should be learning to support our own bodies and move through our own range of motion, and not that of a machine. I prefer dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, tubing, TRX, cable machines, pulley systems, stability balls, the BOSU, the Rip Trainer, medicine balls and wobble boards.

Try this TRX & Dumbbell Workout.

Suggested workouts for beginners:

 

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Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

So, you’re in your 40’s or 50’s. Congrats, God willing you have reached the midway point of your life.

But, now that you are here does that mean that you need to start training your age, start training with precautions and restrictions because you might break?

First a Funny Story

My loving husband, who is 10 years older than me, gives me a heads up with every passing decade as to what to expect both physically and mentally for the years ahead.

For example, when he turned 30 he enlightened me that my body was going to start to change shape (in case you are doing the math in your head I meet the love of my life when I was 19 years old. 25 years later he’s still with me.).

Sure enough at 30 years my hips grew wider (a lot wider) and things shifted. I was happy though. Prior to that I was kinda built like a boy. Now I had me some curves.

At 40 he then warned me that simple tasks, like getting up and off the floor, was going to start getting harder. As well, things that I completely take for granted now, like reading the small print on food labels, or menus in a dark restaurant, would go the way of the dodo.

On top of that he coached me that I will also experience a big decline in my energy levels and I won’t be able to, nor want to be able to, be in a constant state of motion like I was in my 20’s and 30’s.

Sitting at 44 years now, with 45 staring me in the face, he has been, and is right on target.

About-PJ-Fitness-with-PJ

I’m Old So Therefore I’m Frail

Many people, including loving husband, think that as we age we tend to slow down and do less because of aging. For the most part this is complete and utter BS (sorry loving husband).

Much of the physical frailty attributed to aging is actually the result of inactivity, disease or poor nutrition.

The good news, many of these problems can be helped (or even reversed) by improving lifestyle behaviors, such as exercising on a regular basis and eating a whole food diet.

The Effects of Aging

Aging muscles:

  • Shrink and lose mass with age. This is called sacropenia and it is a natural process, but a sedentary lifestyle will also speed this nasty process up.
  • The number of our muscle fibers decrease as we age, which means that it takes longer to respond in our 40’s and 50’s than it did in our 20’s.
  • The water content of the tendons decrease which makes our tissues stiffer and less able to handle stress.
  • The heart muscle becomes less able to propel large quantities of blood quickly which means that we tire more easily and take longer to recover.
  • Our metabolism slows down (this is how quickly our body converts energy) which means we don’t burn fat like we used to.

Aging bones & joints:

  • The mineral content in our bones decrease (for both men and women) making our bones more fragile.
  • The connective tissue that attaches bones to bones (called ligaments) become less elastic which in turn decreases our flexibility.
  • Cartilage, which provides the cushioning between our bones and in our joints, changes. With these changes comes less water content and a joint more susceptible to wear and tear (ie. arthritis)
  • Our joint motion becomes more restricted due to these changes in our tendons and ligaments making us all around less flexible.

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

 

1. Build a fitness base.

If you are just starting a fitness program you need to build a base first. This is extremely important, especially in our later years as it is much easier to get injured and it takes longer to get better when we do injure ourselves.

Why is it easier? You can thank the decreased water in our tendons and ligaments, as well as our restricted range of motion in our joints and our loss of muscles mass and muscle fiber size.

 

My recommendation: perform a strength training workout 3 times a week, 1 set an exercise, and then the next week do 2 sets, the week after add about 10% more weight to what you are lifting and then on the fourth week add another set.

2. Lift heavy.

Once that base is built, or if you are already fit, start lifting heavier but for fewer reps. If your joints and cartilage have already encountered years of wear and tear (which we know that they have by mid-life), and they don’t have the water content that they used to, a weight training program with lots of reps will only inflame the joint further.

Instead, lift a weight that you can maintain good form with, but are starting to crack by the end of your rep range of 12-15.

3. Watch out for long distance, repetitive workouts.

Cross training is your goal in your later years. If you like running, great run but keep the mileage down and perform other activities as well. But, if you run and run and run (or bike and bike and bike, or swim and swim and swim) be prepared to hurt.

Unless you are one of the blessed individuals who can perform repetitive long distance workouts without injury you are going to inflame those joints of yours and send yourself to physio.

In fact, even my younger clients that only ran for their workouts prior to seeing me have a longer history of injuries than those who run as well as lift weights.

And if you are running for weight loss, just stop right now. Cause it ain’t gonna work as well as other forms of exercise will.

4. You ain’t dead yet.

I, personally, know that I could kick my 20-year old’s ass. I am stronger, faster and more focused at 44 than I was at 24.

So, once you have built that fitness base, layered on it for a year I want you to GO FOR IT – cause you ain’t dead yet.

With the advances in nutrition and fitness that we have seen in the last 5 years we can get better and live longer and play just as hard as we did in our 20’s and 30’s.

Keep training everyone.

 

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