Tag Archives: menopause

2017 Prep Update: Day 254 out of 275

About three weeks left until my competition.  So far, everything is still happening in a predictable fashion.  My nerves are coming up just as I knew they would.  My scale weight continues to drop.  Currently three pounds UNDER my previous stage weight.  I’m about 1.5 pounds away from my coach’s goal for my new stage weight.  I think I can beat that, too, because there are some things I’d like to see that I don’t see yet.  I think the glutes will lean out more because I tend to loose weight once food comes up a bit during the week.  Coach remembers that I lost weight during peak week last time, too.  Since we are this close, I’d like to find out where I need to be for the lower abs to be visible.  Not there yet.  It’s hard for me to talk about this stuff because I know the general population has a misconception about what “health” looks like.  Visible abs are not a measure of “health”.  Please read the disclaimer below.  This is part of my sport.  I really don’t give a shit if my abs are visible as a human walking around.  Doesn’t make me a better wife or teacher.   Doesn’t make me smarter or kinder.  It’s important only in context – there is a mandatory pose that I will be judged on called “abdominal-thigh”.  I would like to confidently have that one in my repertoire at some point.

DISCLAIMER: I share my story because I was able to transform my health after menopause using nutrition and exercise.  And the science is the same for general fitness as it is for bodybuilding – most of the time.  But remember – I’m now in prep for a competition.  My division, bodybuilding, requires a body fat percentage that is lower than what is considered “healthy” for the general population.  I’m post-menopausal, so I don’t have any issues with that to consider.  My thyroid function has been checked and everything is working optimally because that is a priority.  And for almost four years,  I’ve been working with a scary-smart and patient coach who I trust to prioritize my health over a placement.

Took progress pictures last week and realized that the suit I have that I wanted to wear is now, officially, too big.  The bottoms needed to be pulled up so far that it reminded me of that stereotypical “grandpa pants” look.  I’ve ordered my suits from the same place all this time and I know they can turn around an order pretty quickly, even a custom suit.  Sent them measurements and had the suit in a week.  I asked my coach to pick the color.  I really don’t care about my suit this time.  I just want it to fit and I want to feel comfortable.These are my pictures from this morning compared with my pictures from last August shortly after a mini-cut in my off-season.  Prep didn’t officially start until October.



I started a scheduled deload this week in the gym.  I haven’t noticed much of a loss of strength, but I’m a little paranoid about injuries right now.  Pulling back a little is just fine.  I can push a little on cardio and fat loss for about another week, after that, two weeks out, cardio is going to be cut back a bit.  I’ve been going to the gym twice a day for about a month now.  Things need to be lifted.  Posing needs to be practiced.  If I didn’t get enough activity during the day, I will do another cardio.  They also have a water-massage table that I need to use every couple of days.

Nothing has changed with food. I’m still running 4 days a bit lower in carbs (around 130 g)  and then 3 days a little higher (around 200 g) to recover.  Protein was dropped once early in the prep and I hated it.   Since then, we brought protein up to 160 grams a day and never changed it.  I do well without a lot of fat – less than 25 grams usually.  My food preferences are lean and veggies all the time anyway.  Prep isn’t really much of a change for me – just a couple of food swaps here and there.  Regular peanut butter got swapped for PB2.  Used to use a whole egg with whites in the mornings, now I use just the whites.  Traded my favorite Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches for sugar-free popsicles.  (I’m not a ‘clean eater’.  I eat what I like.  I just actually like real food with a few exceptions.  I don’t feel like I’m deprived.)   Got a little more food-focused in the last couple of weeks, but I know that’s because I’m pushing myself to be leaner than I’ve ever been in my life.  I’m pretty sure I’m working on some fat now that I’ve had since high school!  That makes my fat older than my coach!!  LOL!!!  And getting this lean is a new, sometimes scary, experience. I see things I’ve never seen before and don’t always recognize. “What is THAT?” “Is that a TUMOR?” No.  It was a vein. Cut me some slack on that one – at 55, we start looking for things that 20-somethings would never imagine, right?

Most days, I feel really good – or at least “normal”.  That surprises me a bit.  Grateful for it.  One of my goals for this prep was to do it as gracefully as possible.  I think that the mindset of “this is voluntary – I’m doing it for fun” helps.  I also know that I’m working with a coach who puts my health before results.  Results are long-term side effects of science-based protocols.  I’m patient.  I trust the process most days.  On the bad days, I just have faith in the consistency of it.

Honestly, I’m not a diplomatic, sugar-coating, sort of person anyway.  I’m pretty blunt and straight-forward when I’m not stressed.  Physically, I’m stressed right now.  Keeping the mental game positive (if you’ve been following along you know why that’s a challenge for me going back to this show) is also a little stressful some days.  My tongue is sharper now.  And I’m faster to use it.  All I can do is promise that I’m doing my best to be a nice human – which is a challenge for me even when I can have comfort food.  😉

Started thinking about doing a second show this fall.  It’s local, so there won’t be transportation and hotel costs.  Let’s see how this first one goes.  I’ve been working hard for a couple of years now.  If I think there is a little more that can be accomplished with this version of my physique, I’d like to keep pushing.  It hasn’t felt like too much of a grind – teaching is harder, actually.   Isn’t that an interesting observation?

In other news, summer school started last week.  I have 26 kids working in the mornings until noon.  I set up everything so they could work at their own pace and get help from me as needed.  They jumped in and are doing great!  There were some stressful issues over the first couple of days since I didn’t have access to the district’s online attendance and gradebook program, but once that was fixed, I got things caught up.  And then the AC broke.  But again, our building’s maintenance staff got on it, had the district out to fix it by the end of the week.  I wanted to teach summer school to help keep my mind off the show.  Nerves are going to be an issue this time around.  I also knew I wanted to run bleachers in the morning – but even that’s not working out.  The track is being replaced and the field is locked up.  Plan B – walk around the school a few times in the morning before going in.  It’s a big building, so that’s not trivial.  Definitely safer.  Need to just trust that things are working out exactly how they should, right?

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep

Menopause, Weight Loss, and Training

This is a useful, informative post.  Please share it and save it for reference later.

My friend, Colin DeWaay, loves to read research more than I do, so I asked him to look for the science being done on how menopause changes how our bodies respond to weight training.  We also know there is something different about how we store fat and how long it takes to lose it.  Too often, menopause is discussed as if it were a disease -as if aging were a disease – which neither are because continuing to be alive is actually NOT a disease… (Oops – off my soapbox now.)  One thing that did not come up in the research, but that I strongly believe is an issue for us, is cortisol.   I believe there is a link between increased cortisol and menopause.  And I also believe cortisol may be increased by life stress that comes with being a female of a certain age with all sorts of adult responsibilities to juggle – and then add sleep-deprivation to that mix.   I suggest you look around online for more information about cortisol.  There is research out there about it, but maybe it’s not been specifically studied in combination with menopause very often?  I have seen it studied as a result of sleep disturbances… Hello?  Night sweats? ~ Tammy

 

I have to be honest. I’ve been dragging my feet writing this article for a long time. After my last blog about getting the most out of an online coach I actually planned on writing about weight loss for women in their 50’s. Then Tammy reached out to me wondering if I’d write about weight loss, muscle growth, etc. in menopausal women. So it only made sense, only one problem. As a 37-year-old male without an extensive background in this subject, who am I to tell you what to do?

Well I guess because it’s my job (my certification and the text books I’ve read cover this but it’s SO small) and I do have a large number of clients who fit this demographic. But at the end of the day all I can do is empathize and teach what I’ve discovered. I can’t know what it’s like or how it feels on a personal level, however, I want to help people the best I can, so let’s do this. (Side note even if you’re a women not even close to menopause, you could likely get a lot out of this article.)

So with that I set out to scour through PubMed to gather as much relevant information I could. After searching and searching, reading and reading, putting together as much data as I could, wanna know what I found? Well for one I think there’s a severe lack of data on this demographic, which is actually something I’ve noticed on my own. Whenever I get a unique problem with a client the first thing I do is try to find data to help give me answers. Rarely is there much out there in the way of menopausal women, which even researchers seem to agree with. (1)

The other thing I’ve found? If you’re a menopausal/postmenopausal woman, this stuff’s probably going to be tough…. Really tough. Probably not what you wanted to hear I’m sure, but don’t stop reading now. Even though it’s likely going to be more difficult for you than many others, it’s also more important than ever you get a handle on things. Even if the odds are stacked against you. Let’s discuss.

Due to many hormonal changes that occur during menopause, the risk of raising body fat increases significantly. Sitting around being inactive and eating whatever you want is a recipe for things to get worse in a hurry. With that comes the increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, at least partially due to increases of fat within the abdominal cavity (AKA visceral adipose tissue or VAT.)(2)  In a nutshell, research shows that post-menopausal women are at increased risk of cardiovascular diseases since VAT is considered a correlation and they are more prone to store fat in that area, even if total fat loss is the same during a weight reduction program. (3)

Another major player that hardly anyone ever talks about is the importance of minimizing loss of bone mineral density (BMD.) Likely due to significant drops in estrogen women in perimenopause might experience up to a 3% loss of BMD a year if they aren’t active or on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and can even carry on post menopause. This is why osteoporosis is such a problem in older females. Since the loss of BMD can be slowed with heavy resistance training, this is just one more reason to lift weights. For those who haven’t reached their upper 30’s yet (around the time women start experiencing a loss in BMD) it’s all the more reason to start heavy strength training NOW.

The good news? Aging does not appear to reduce the ability of our bodies to adapt to strength training. Improvements in BMD as well as strength, power, muscle mass and functional capabilities have been observed in older people participating in strength training programs. (4, 5, 6) Basically no matter where your starting point is or how old you are, you can make improvements. Just proof that it really never is too late to start.

Before I go on I’d like to say one quick thing about HRT, this gets thrown around a lot. This is NOT something I can suggest nor should anyone tell you whether you shouldn’t or shouldn’t go down that path. That is something for you and your doctor to discuss if it’s the right thing for you or not. I’ve heard of other trainers telling their clients they need to get HRT and that is NOT okay. I’m not, nor is any other trainer qualified to make that assessment.

Anyway, what do most experts recommend as an effective method to prevent obesity or reduce body fat during menopause? Well, diet and exercise of course. (7) One study took 439 overweight-obese postmenopausal sedentary women and assigned them into one of 4 groups. Basically there was a group that dieted only, exercised only, dieted and exercised and a control group. After 1 year not surprisingly the diet and exercise group did the best losing 10.8% of their body weight, followed by 8.5% for the diet group, and 2.4% for the exercise only group. (1)

As you can see fat loss is most definitely possible for postmenopausal women, it’s just likely results are going to be slower than you’d like. You MUST be okay with this, and focus on a plan you find to be sustainable. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, the time is going to pass anyway. The unfortunate truth is if you’re unhealthy now, it’s only going to get worse if you don’t do anything about it. This is why I said it’s more important than ever to get serious because the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle will pile up a lot faster when you become menopausal.

Again don’t get me wrong, I definitely empathize with you ladies. I really do. You were dealt a tough hand and I can’t pretend to know what it’s like. Set aside for a moment all the physiological reasons obtaining and maintaining a healthy body is likely more difficult, you have to add on all the factors that make training and staying mentally in the game tough. Things like hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, menstrual irregularity, lowered sex drive, mood swings/irritability, etc. Also dealing with the emotions that come with no longer being able to conceive and everything else that comes when your body changes on you. ALL of life’s stressors, mental and physical, add up and need to be factored in.

This stuff goes WAY beyond just physical change. You have every reason in the world to feel like it’s impossible. You have every right to feel like you should give up. But I’m telling you right now, DON’T.  You don’t have to be perfect, hell you shouldn’t even TRY to be perfect. I’d actually argue it’s more important to be more flexible at this stage. You have a lot of things to deal with and work around, so factor that all in. The worst thing you can do is go down the all or nothing path. Because all or nothing ALWAYS ends in nothing.

That said, now more than ever is it important to take care of yourself. Your body is fighting against you and you basically have two choices. Lay down and let it take you out, or fight back. Go ahead, feel your feelings, you can’t control how you feel and there is NOTHING wrong with the way you feel. But you CAN do something about what you do about it. I wouldn’t be doing you any good if I said “It’s okay, it’s going to be hard so go ahead and give up” and more importantly you don’t want to tell yourself that.

Time and time again people (much like Tammy herself) have shown that it absolutely can be done. Results may come slow, it may be difficult, but it’s literally life and death stuff here. Don’t take it lightly. Start slow, allow for sufficient recovery, make small changes, keep learning and getting better and if you need help by all means get help. Regardless, like Tammy always says, “Just keep showing up.” Remember, it may suck that it’s more difficult for you than others, but reality is reality and you can’t change it. The best thing you can do is deal with it from a place of acceptance. Otherwise you’ll just end up fighting yourself the whole way.

The last thing I’d like to say is if you are a woman who has yet to get to this stage of your life. Do yourself a favor and get started! As you can tell it’s only going to get more difficult and the sooner you can get ahead of things the easier and healthier you’ll be in the long-run. Nothing is more effective than prevention.

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If you ARE looking for a coach to help take the guess work out and hold you accountable I am accepting clients for training and/or nutrition help. Just head here and select the option you’d like.

If you’re looking for more information you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance and a kick in the rear from time to time. WARNING – I tell you what you NEED to hear and not what you WANT to hear. So if you’re sensitive and like to place blame instead of take action, you’ll definitely want to pass. But if you’re serious about taking responsibility and changing your life, you should love it.

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Filed under Cortisol, Guest Blog, Weight Loss

How to be Mentally Tough

The last couple of weeks have been – challenging.

Starting a school year is always like pushing a VERY big rock up a hill.  While teachers are trying to handle the “chores” – setting up gradebooks, learning new names, checking out books, training kids procedures, setting up the room, getting technology to work, etc. – administrations everywhere are rolling out the new “big thing that will fix the public education system this year” and adding duties upon duties.  It’s normal.  After a while, you learn shortcuts to help you deal.  For instance, a heck of a lot of learning can happen before you have a working online gradebook set up.

First week of school was actually about to go into the books as the best first week of my career – until a week ago today. The reason I have some time this morning to write is that I’m waiting for an appointment to get a triple root canal – no, that is not the challenging part.  I was supposed to get this procedure last Thursday.  Took that day off, too.   While in the waiting room, I got an email about an emergency staff meeting after school.  When I replied that I was off campus and asked about that was going on, I was told that a teacher from our feeder middle school had died that morning.  Many of our staff knew her, and many of our students also knew and loved her.  And her child attended our high school.  A huge loss for our community.

But what the secretary didn’t know, was that she was also my friend.  Or more accurately, we used to be friends.  We had not been close outside of work, but I liked her a lot.  When I got busy making my new life, we lost touch.  She was almost 10 years my junior, so this was very unexpected news.

I broke down right there in the waiting room.  I tried to suck it up and follow through, but when the endodontist explained the procedure, I couldn’t do it.  I just wanted to get back to school.

This entire week has been difficult for me.  I’m in a full blown grief cycle.  This was the second coworker/friend who had conversations with me about getting healthy and died before she got a chance to take care of herself.  The sadness and anger I felt were expected, but there was something else that was nagging at me.  Took a few days for me to remember – she asked me for help a couple years ago.  I wanted to, but I was not certified yet and she had some knee and back issues that I didn’t know how to work around at the time.  Even though I know it may not be a rational thought, I’m also angry with myself that I didn’t do more.  Hindsight right?  But I feel like an impostor.  So many people think I’ve got it all together, but I don’t.  I say I want to help people, but I didn’t help my friend.  I know intellectually that my decision back then did not cause her death last week, but I’m going to have to deal with that guilt and shame none the less.  I can already anticipate the comments trying to make me feel better, but only time will help quiet the “what if” noises in my head.

What does this have to do with being mentally tough?  You probably expect me to talk about how I worked through all of these challenges, yada-yada-yada.  Yeah, I did.  But that’s not the direction I’m headed.

To be mentally tough, you learn to say “no”.  “No I won’t do that extra duty at school.”  “No I can’t do that meeting because I have to be at the gym.”  “No thanks, I don’t want a cookie.”  “No, the laundry is not more important than my workout.”  I’ve gotten pretty tough to fend off breaks in discipline.  I’ve learned to draw a line and stand my ground.  But I also wasn’t available to help a friend and now I’m mourning her and wondering “what if”.

However, I’ve worked through a lot my own grief, which is nothing compared to what her loved ones are bearing.  Nothing.  I feel shallow for even mentioning it in comparison.  Writing about it just now means I’m coming to terms with it.  I’m starting to feel just sad again – which means I’m moving forward.

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Even without the horrible news, learning to be mentally tough and living that way rubs some people the wrong way.   It challenges the expectations people have of how women are supposed to be.  No one has a problem with me being tough, as long as I’m being ‘nice’ or ‘compliant’.  Yeah, well, about that – nice, compliant, and tough don’t always mix well.   I’ve been told countless times how I’m supposed to behave, think and feel – usually by strangers making comments on the page or by someone who is frustrated that I’m not handling a situation the way they think I should. I know I am difficult, stubborn, inflexible, and opinionated.  But all of that helps me say “NO – I will NOT do that” in a profession that will suck you dry.  Because I’m difficult, stubborn, inflexible, and opinionated, I can easily manage a room packed with teenagers.  There is no question who is in control in that situation.

But because I’m difficult, stubborn, inflexible, and opinionated, I also need to remind myself to let my guard down sometimes and listen.  If a person has a good point, I’ll accept it and adapt.  But to be honest, my personality was formed a long time ago.  When I was younger, I used to care what people thought.  Now, after all this training and menopause, it’s time for the world to accept me and learn how to deal with ME.  (No news to hubby here.)  I am flawed – yes.  I am open to continued personal growth – yes.  But damn it – I’ve accomplished a lot with what I’ve got to work with and in many ways, I really don’t give a flying turd about what most people think I should do/be because they are speaking from a place that has nothing to do with me.  I think we tend to react to things from the “how does this affect ME” place.

I have tapped into an inner power that works for me most of the time and I plan to continue to use it.

This is my journey.  My path.  I’m walking it. 

The training I’m doing now doesn’t help.  I’m becoming more aggressive.  I believe the really heavy lifting that feels impossible until that moment it happens – well it’s changing my body chemistry and world view.  I’m bruised.  I’m scraped.  I’m stressed.  I’m tired.  I have to eat a ton to recover so I’m running out of prepped food during the week – when I don’t have time to prep food.  Ugh.

So I should amend it…

This is my journey.  My path.  I’m walking it.  Bite me.

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Just took the happy pill I need for the procedure that is commencing in 40 min.  Hubby has to drive me there. Breathe…relax…enjoy the triple root canal…

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Filed under Life, Motivation, Strong Woman Training, Teaching

Progress Pics

It’s bedtime.  About 30 minutes ago, I wrote a short and kind of entertaining post about posing practice.  Java crashed and it evaporated.  I’m exhausted and used up all my words.  So how about some progress pics?  (I’ll document another time about posing practice – it’s fun, but tiring.)

July 22, 2012.  33 days out.

And just a frame of reference.  This is me 161 weeks ago…

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal

Cortisol, Cardio, Menopause, and Facebook

More new insights this week just because I put a couple “likes” on a few Facebook pages out there  that post health and fitness research-based articles.

EastWest Healing & Performance posted something about a link between cortisol and progesterone.  So I researched a little after seeing that post.  Another reason my coritisol is elevated may be due to a progesterone deficiency.  That was a big “duh-smh” moment.  I stopped using the progesterone cream months ago because the hot flashes weren’t so severe anymore and I’m cheap.  Why pay for something I don’t really need?  It NEVER occurred to me that I needed to correct that hormonal imbalance anyway.  It never occurred to me to ask the question..if it’s true that menopausal women gain weight in the abdominal area, and that’s true because they have increased cortisol, WHAT increased the cortisol??  (I’m an idiot sometimes.)

Just about every resource I’ve found about cardio says to avoid steady-state, low-intensity cardio.  A new blog post by Charles Poliquin, a very smart trainer, referenced a study done with subjects over 40.  That study actually confirmed what I see in my own training – strength training alone will have a better result for changing body composition than strength training with steady-state cardio.

http://www.charlespoliquin.com/Blog/tabid/130/EntryId/1107/Tip-321-Strength-Train-and-Avoid-Steady-State-Cardio-to-Gain-Muscle.aspx

I believe this is true, but I’m not going to give up my cardio altogether.  I’m going to do HIIT three-four times a week for a few weeks to see what happens.  I did those HIIT sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week.  I lifted on Thursday morning, but did not workout in the afternoon that day.  My total calorie burn for Thursday was only 100 calories less than a day when I did two workouts.  It should have been 300-400 calories less.

I’ve written so much about cortisol, that I’ve decided it should have it’s own category on my blog.  Over time, I’ll move the other posts into that category.  Until then, you should be able to find my other blogs on the subject by using the tag.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Cortisol