Are you working with Peri to Post Menopausal women? Have you ever considered the merits of Crossfit for the Peri to Post Menopausal woman? If you have, I think you'll find this interesting.....
Well, what a strange few months its been.....do you remember when I posted a blog with my Pregnant friend Pentony O'Hagan? The one where I modified her 2nd Trimester Crossfit workout? Well.....that was the first time I had actually been into a Crossfit Box and I was intrigued. Now, historically, I'm no stranger to lifting heavy-assed things, boxing, kicking, swinging kettle bells, running Marathons, Spinning.....you name it, if it was eye-balls out hard, I've probably done it at some point....then I had a period of ill-health and a few surgeries that resulted in my having a hysterectomy I really revised my workout habits and toned down the 'go hard' headspace.....anyway 5 years on I think I'm practically through the other side of the menopause at 45!!! And although the issues that forced it have gone, along with the hot sweats and brain fog, I now have another set of immediate concerns that come with a drop of Oestrogen etc., like the loss of my muscle mass and consequently falling metabolic rate, maintaining my bone density, keeping my heart healthy, keeping a I AM STRONG mindset and most definitely going into old frail lady mode, positively representing my profession and looking after my newly adopted toddler son! So, regardless of what's going on in my body, guess what? I've got a busy business to run, a small child to grow and the wheels of both don't show any sign of not turning just because I've managed to do my 'life stuff' in an unconventional order LOL.
So I found my local Crossfit Box and went along for a trial session and BOOM! I'm hooked! So as I'm in the business I'm in and work/education regarding the populations I do.....I've got to tell it like it is.....why I adore it....who I think it's great for and not so great for and how it might just help you if you are Peri to Post Menopausal.....
Firstly, I'll just list the BIG ROCKS! of the bonuses (to my mind)
1. Crossfit is of course 'weight bearing' an involves plenty of impact = good for bone health and maintaining bone mass at this critical life phase.
A few Osteoporosis/Bone Health Facts and Figures (taken from the 3rd Age Woman Certification Module on Bone Health by Michelle Lyons)
- Bone remodeling is a lifelong process, but unfortunately bone loss starts to outpace bone gain as we age. This starts to happen around aged 34 when peak bone mass is achieved for most people....this is no an 'old person's issue'! If ever there was a poster child for PREVENTION being better than cure....bone health is it!
- The decline in Oestrogen production also has a negative impact on bone remodelling activity for both sexes.
- The first 3-5 years following the onset of menopause are associated with an accelerated period of bone mass loss before the decline settling to a more linear decline as menopause progresses. Most women are hitting Peri-Menopause in their late 40's and Menopause in their early 50's.
- As bone mass declines and the threshold for osteoporosis is approached and exceeded the risk of fractures to the hip, spine and other fall fractures is also greatly increased.
- In the UK and the US 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over 50 will experience a fracture.
- Research by the National Osteoporosis Society estimate that the daily cost of caring for those who experience disability due to hip fractures is somewhere in the region of £6 Million PER DAY!!
- The mortality rate for those who experience hip fracture increases by 20% in the 12 months post fracture.
- Bone is reactive not proactive....to induce remodelling bones must experience stress, the less stress applied, the less remodelling.
- There are actually more 'fragility fractures' - (300,00) in the UK than strokes (275,000) and heart attacks (110,000)
2. Weight-bearing is also good for increasing muscle mass and consequently improving a dipping 3rd Age metabolism and management of issues such as Metabolic Syndrome.
3. You work at an intensity that promotes EPOC (the after burn effect) and increases the 'youth promoting' Human Growth Hormone which potentially has a positive effect on many areas of wellness from your sex drive to regulating your blood sugar levels. Therefore Crossfit provides extreme bang for buck and higher calorific burn in the post exercise period. You quite literally will feel that you have had a rocket put under the *ss of your metabolism in a way that isn't really happening in most exercise prescription for women within this continuum.....and by God we need it!
Some of the functions of Human Growth Hormone.....
- Involved in cell genesis, growth, proliferation and regeneration.
- Active in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. In the case of protein metabolism, HGH increases amino acid uptake required for protein synthesis which in the 3rd Age is important for maintaining muscle mass and hypertrophy.
- HGH enhances fat utilisation and the ability to break down fat cells more efficiently.
- HGH is one of the hormones that play a huge role in maintaining blood sugar levels and the management of insulin resistance which unfortunately increases during the Peri to Post Menopause years.
4. If you have a great coach, you will be learning new cool skills, for me this a bonus, to watch myself getting better at something over time through great technical coaching is a real bonus.
5. You have to have great mobility to do this well so it will force you to focus on this equally which many 3rd Agers kind of neglect.
6. It is impossible for you to not get fitter, faster, more competent, more skilled, more flexible and more confident in your body's ability to do stuff that probably was never even on your radar.
7. Your coach and classmates are SUPER FRIENDLY and engaged! WHAT THE?.....I've never in 16 years of being in gyms and fitness environments EVER witnessed people being so nice, kind and as high a level of attention to detail and coaching and the client's well-being and progression. I swear, I actually could NEVER return to purchasing a conventional gym membership unless these levels of communication, coaching and camaraderie were equalled.
8. If you were heading for 'slow-old-lady-zone' and starting to groan when you get up off the floor......start doing this and you will have done a complete 180! That mindset just cannot be sustained in this environment.
9. There seems to be a lot of maths involved so you do actually get some brain work LOL!
9. If you do box jumps and skipping and you pee your pants at ANY level......fantastic! It's the 100% ideal signal that your Pelvic Floor/Core Strength isn't up to par and this programme isn't suitable for you until you address your urinary incontinence. Sometime we realise what we need by getting a little of what we don't if you know what I mean. Sort your PF out first by seeking help from a Specialist Women's Health Physiotherapist or get to your GP and insist on seeing a specialist PRONTO!
Now for the potential negatives
1. If you have Pelvic Floor/Incontinence or Prolapse issues as many woman within this continuum do have....the bad news is that the impact and standard heavy lifting is not a good idea for you. I lift a 15kg Olympic bar and for overhead stuff me....that's fine....my baby is now 12kg and so I'm using that weight as truly functional training and lifting very much at a speed where I am in control of my core and always able to exhale on the hardest/concentric part of the movement. I'm very much the boss of what I lift and although I go heavier for squats and deadliest, the actual weight I use is no heavier than lifting the baby in his pram which I do around 6 times a day whilst going up and down the stairs that lead to my front door. Either way, although I lift way lighter than my classmates, because of the number of reps I'm performing - I AM FOR SURE WORKING HARD!
2. If you are coming into your 3rd Age tired, fatigued, with chronically elevated cortisol and possibly on the verge of of Adrenal Fatigue.....working like this 3 times a week will probably work against you and leave you feeling 'rinsed out'.....sorry.....you need the intensity to stimulate the increase in muscle mass and the positive benefits for your endocrine system but if your system is already depleted, the demands of a typical WOD might just work against your fat-loss and energy enhancing goals. If your tank/resilience to stress is already low, it needs replenishing and restoring deeply, Crossfit might just act to further deplete your already depleted stores. Personally, any more than 3 per week starts to work against me, I start to feel drained but that's where I am personally in my health journey.
2. You might have to listen to Rock Music and Hip Hop music with hardcore cussing in it LOL but if you're working hard, you won't really notice that much if that's not your bag.....
3. If you are coming from a sedentary life, have poor mobility, low strength.....jumping into a group session might not be your best way to start....how about getting some 1-1 or smaller group coaching to really work on your strength, mobility and skills before entering a mainstream class?
How did I adapt.....
1. I opened my mouth and was the ultimate advocate for my own health.....told the owner some cringey facts about my 'down there' life and asked if he could deal with that within their programming.
2. I then (briefly) told every coach my history until I had gotten around them all and hence, my reluctance to lift super heavy, run and do big jumps but still want to be part of the team....they all have been totally fine and I've just swapped to rowing instead of running, and swapped the box jumps for high step-ups which are REALLY hard actually and don't participate in the 1 REP max type activities and mostly and lift at a level where I get work over time and am personally challenged but don't try to keep increasing month after month like my classmates.
Ultimately, unless you speak to the coaches about your needs, an excellent coach is always able to adapt and modify....if the coach can't/won't.....this isn't the place for you and that's not good coaching. And just like every profession on this planet there are the good pros and the not-so-good pros. In the some of the areas of Women's Wellness education and practise there has practically been a degree of mania about Crossfit that has led many people who probably have never tried it or stepped inside a Box to rule it out as hugely dangerous activity at worse at best and totally unsuitable for practically all of the child-bearing population. I personally don't agree with this stance simply because you a) change things from within and by gaining experiential knowledge and b) in my over a decade and half in the world of fitness/wellbeing in many roles, I've also seen potentially harmful and unsuitable exercise prescription being doled out by genteel Pilates teachers too! (No offence Pilates people 🙂 ) In the end, practically all physical instruction has the ability to be prescribed poorly and cause harm.
So even if we only take into account the stats and reasoning regarding the benefits for the 3rd Age metabolism and bones health.....Crossfit, taught well gives great bang for buck but just like everything.....it's not for everyone and in my opinion, not for those who have orthopaedic, severely limiting mobility and/or pelvic health issues such as prolapse and stress incontinence that's made worse by impact and big rises in intra-abdominal pressure. Others may disagree but personally, I'm in this for the long run and everything whether it's your nutrition or movement habits must be sustainable, health-positive and for me...SO FUN, I ALWAYS WANT MORE! I'd love to know your thoughts if you've already tried Crossfit or are thinking of trying it or another type of similar workout in your 3rd Age or with your 3rd Age clients.
Last words, check out this AMAZING 91 year old who BEGAN her weight-training journey at aged 90! Nuff said I think.....
Did you know that Burrell Education offer an On-Line Global Certification for fitness/wellness professionals serving the Peri to Post Menopausal woman? Find our more HERE!