Today we are going to talk about a subject most would prefer to ignore (and any dudes in the audience may want to skip this post) – running after 40 and more specifically the pros and cons of running as you hit that peri- or post-menopausal age. As a runner in this age group (I’m 45 for those counting), this is a topic that is becoming near and dear to my heart. I have some of my own ideas on the subject but I’m just one chick, so I took to the interwebs to poll a few of my like-aged friends on the subject of running after 40.
PROS of Running After 40
- Running can help with insomnia – the hormonal changes associated with menopause cause decreases in the production of melatonin. Several of my friends (and myself included) feel we sleep better when we exercise. Researchers suggest keeping runs to the morning though since night time runs can also ramp up your already wacked out temperature system and make hot flashes worse.
- Speaking of hot flashes – a few of the girls indicated their hot flashes weren’t as bad with running in their arsenal. Plus, look on the bright side, you’re already used to sweating and getting hot when you run. Once the seasons change, you’ll already be acclimated!
- Weight gain – I wasn’t sure where to put this one but my friend Duffy said running (along with cleaning up her diet) helped her maintain her weight. (For me, I’m finding running doesn’t have the same effect and I feel slower with the extra 10-15 pounds I can’t seem to get rid of.)
- Running helps regulate your emotions. The hormonal changes are quite literally a roller coaster. Being able to get out for a run when stressed or emotional can help you better deal with your family and boost some endorphins to combat the sadness you may feel.
- Pinky reported it has literally given her years back. She had some tests done recently that showed she, at the age of 47, has the lung capacity of a 40 year old and general health of a 37 year old. That’s pretty freaking impressive.
- You don’t have to stash tampons in your fuel belt anymore. Plus, fewer bathroom stops!
- Running makes you feel strong and capable. It keeps you fit so you can chase after your grandkids.
- For those of us who started later in life, running has given us friendships across many age ranges.
- You are guaranteed Aunt Flo will NOT show up on race day. BONUS!
CONS of Running After 40
- Running can be harder on your joints post menopause. Estrogen plays a role in bone density and I can tell I’m definitely achier after runs than I was 5 years ago. For my friend, Nancy, this change in her joints wasn’t worth the pain to keep running and she is much happier as a walker. Adding strength training 2 to 3 days a week can help combat this effect for those who want to keep running.
- Fatigue. I am tired ALL THE TIME. Between the craptastic sleep and overall fatigue, it’s much harder for me now to get up for early morning runs. I’m in bed by about 9:30 every night so evening workouts don’t usually happen either. For me, I’ve found 4:00 to be the “sweet spot” to get in my workouts. Running really takes a lot out of you and sometimes combined with everything else, it feels like too much.
- You’re slower. Those super speedy days may be a thing of the past. The effects of menopause also impact your fast-twitch muscle fibers; however, if you were a runner who came late to the game (like me), you may still have room for improvement if you haven’t already maxed your speed potential (one can always hope). As with strength training helping with the achy joints, it can also increase overall strength and improve running efficiency, which may transfer to faster paces. I have some friends in their 50s who are running faster now than they ever have before.
- You’re higher-maintenance. Wendy noted the warm-up and cool-down/stretching requirements are much more of a requirement now. I feel the same way. It’s much harder to just head out and run without some warm-up time first.
Interestingly, I had a few of my male runner friends respond as well (I wasn’t clear when I posted that I’d be writing about menopause – oops). They reported very similar pros and cons as the women. Improved strength, friendships that last, a great community of people were among the plusses. As for the cons, the guys also indicated longer recovery time, difficulty getting started, a higher propensity toward nagging injuries, and needing to keep “easy” days easy. Maybe this is a topic for another day by someone with much more time for research :)
There you have it, folks, a few of the highlights and lowlights of running after 40 – for women AND men. Do you agree with my friends and I? What would you add to this list?