‘THE KEY TO MANAG­ING SYMP­TOMS HAS BEEN LIS­TEN­ING TO MY BODY’

Sally Leech, 42, is a per­sonal trainer from Lan­cashire (the­menopause­club.com)

Women's Health (UK) - - JOIN THE DOTS -

‘I was ap­proach­ing my 40th birth­day when I started to feel dif­fer­ent. I felt ex­hausted all the time – not just from lack of sleep, but a deeper kind of lethargy. I’d never re­ally suf­fered from PMS be­fore, but around the time of my pe­riod, I’d get teary and feel anx­ious, never know­ing why. And de­spite run­ning three or four times a week as usual and fol­low­ing my nor­mal, fairly bal­anced diet, I’d put on half a stone around my mid­dle in a few months.

I felt self-con­scious about how my body shape was chang­ing, and I felt like I was fail­ing as a fit­ness trainer. I’d be teach­ing classes or one-to-one ses­sions and find I couldn’t even re­mem­ber the word for a squat. For months, I felt mis­er­able and stressed, both at home and at work; it wasn’t un­til my hus­band asked what was up that I re­ally took a step back and con­sid­ered all the symp­toms col­lec­tively.

I was train­ing clients who were go­ing through the per­i­menopause, but most of them were in their late for­ties, so I was sur­prised to learn that it could af­fect women my age. It probably took five or six months for me to recog­nise I was go­ing through it too, then my GP con­firmed that the symp­toms matched up. Fol­low­ing advice from Jenny Bur­rell, Jes­sica Drum­mond and Michelle Lyons at Bur­rell Ed­u­ca­tion, I be­gan to see that I wasn’t go­ing crazy. They sup­ported me with nutri­tion and ex­er­cise tips that worked for my chang­ing body.

For me, the key to manag­ing my symp­toms has been lis­ten­ing to my body and plan­ning work­outs around how I’m feel­ing week to week. I used to do half-marathons, but while I still run as reg­u­larly, I tend to stick to 5k. In ad­di­tion to car­dio ex­er­cises, I also do re­sis­tance work to build mus­cle mass and sup­port my bone health. As your oe­stro­gen lev­els drop, your risk of os­teo­poro­sis in­creases, so it’s re­ally im­por­tant to me that I use the per­i­menopausal pe­riod to equip my body as well as pos­si­ble to deal with the changes ahead. Com­bin­ing all that with more restora­tive ex­er­cise, like yoga and Pi­lates, gives me the time and space I need to lis­ten to my body. Ex­er­cise can be a chal­lenge when you’re feel­ing low and ex­hausted, but it has an in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive im­pact on the way I feel, and it helps me to think clearer, too.’

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