Updated: Dec 4, 2022
Do you feel unmotivated or stuck when it comes to your fitness and wellness?
Do you want to make some changes but feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to workout for your 40+ year old body and mind?
Do you like a variety of workouts? Would you like all the workout options to be in one place?
Would you like to learn more about health and wellness for women 40+?
Are you looking for a like-minded and supportive community?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you certainly are not alone.
Mid-life starts to bring all kinds of changes and challenges. Breakaway Women’s Club was created to help. It’s a mix of Workouts, Wellness, and Community.
Why Women 40+?
For most women, as they enter their 40s, we start our journey through peri-menopause. This is when we begin to experience a fall in our hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone. This decline is responsible for some of the big changes we experience, such as:
- Mood shifts,
- Irregular periods,
- Hot flashes and night sweats,
- Increased anxiety and racing mind,
- Changing body composition (increased body fat and decreased lean muscle mass),
- Sleep issues,
- Increased stress (we don’t clear out cortisol as efficiently),
- Joint aches and pains,
- Fatigue and low energy levels, and
- Longer recovery times.
The transition through peri-menopause lasts on average 4-5 years. We reach Menopause on the one year anniversary of having no period. We are then considered post-menopause. The average age of menopause is 51. When we are post-menopause, our estrogen and progesterone production from our ovaries flatlines (our adrenals can still make some hormones, but not much). This journey through peri-menopause to post-menopause can be quite turbulent and leave us feeling very disconnected to our body. We can feel overwhelmed, undermotivated and frustrated. Our body (and mind) start to have very different needs than our younger self.
What can we do?
One way we can ease symptoms and balance hormones is by doubling down on positive lifestyle behaviors, especially around:
- Sleep hygiene,
- Stress management,
- Clean eating and hydration, and
- How we exercise and recover.
Breakaway Women’s Club: Provides a number of resources for sleep, stress management, exercise, nutrition and hydration including:
- Health & Wellness Webinars
- Health & Wellness Workshops
- Reminders, Tips, Resources, Monthly Challenges, etc.
- Q&A sessions with experts
- Support through a private Facebook Group
Let’s look at the different ways we can exercise:
1. Low Intensity versus High Intensity
LISS or Low Intensity Steady State. It has many names: cardio, endurance, long steady distance, or zone 2 training. These are our longer duration and lower intensity workouts.
- Social workouts
- Improves cardiovascular fitness and health
- Helps with gut health
- Helps with blood sugar control
- Positive impact on emotional health
- Wear and tear on the joints
- Too much cardio can put a bigger stress on the female body. It increases the stress hormone, cortisol. Increased cortisol levels become harder for us to clear out at this age. Our body interprets this increased cortisol as danger ahead. It responds by trying to prepare our body for that danger: by storing fat. Our body doesn’t know if the stress is due to an upcoming deadline at work, workout stress, or if a famine is about to hit us! Stress is stress.
(Note: all exercise is a stress on the body – it’s important to figure out what the right balance of workouts versus recovery look like for you.)
Breakaway Women’s Club: Provides weekly LISS workouts for cycling, swimming and running.
High Intensity Training There are several versions of High Intensity Training: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), SIT (Sprint Interval Training) and METCON (Metabolic Conditioning). These workouts are shorter and sharper! They are alternating hard efforts followed by a recovery period. Typically, they are 10 to 60 seconds of work followed by 10 to 120 seconds rest.
- Improves blood sugar control / insulin sensitivity (helps with body composition)
- Triggers anti-inflammatory response (decreases total body inflammation and helps with recovery)
- Increases BDNF to help with cognition and working memory
- Provides a metabolic stimulus: increasing lean mass (increases HGH, Testosterone which are anabolic), and decreasing fat storage (helps with body composition).
- Improves cardio vascular markers
- Decreases stress (increases free testosterone which helps counter cortisol).
- Improves endurance (aerobic fitness) and ability to use oxygen (VO2Max)
- Improves mitochondria function
- Improves immunity
- Shorter duration workouts
- If you are already stressed out with high cortisol levels, this can add stress on top of a stressed-out system.
- High intensity can feel uncomfortable. It takes some getting used to.
- Requires adequate recovery to reap the benefits.
Breakaway Women’s Club: Provides several options. There will be a weekly HIIT or METCON workouts (whiteboard workout with a short video demonstrating the exercises with an occasional livestream workout). Plus SIT workouts for running and cycling. As well as intervals and hill repeats.
2. Body Weight Strength Versus Lifting Heavier
Body Weight Strength / Functional Strength Workouts.
These workouts tend to use body weight or light weights, and higher reps. And by higher reps, we’re talking of 10 or more. When we resistance train this way, it rips down the muscle fibers. When they repair, they build up, so you can see an increase in the muscle fiber diameter. This makes the muscles look bigger and more defined. Muscle definition is not nesessarily representative of strength.
- Accessible (great for travel)
- Good for those new to strength work
- Helps with stability and function
- Good for recovery weeks
- Doesn’t build strength and increase lean mass as effectively as lifting heavier.
- Doesn’t stimulate bone density as effectively as lifting heavier.
- Doesn’t positively impact body composition as much as lifting heavier.
Breakaway Women’s Club: Provides 1-2 of these workouts a week as either a follow along video or livestream.
Lifting Heavy Workouts.
As we age, we lose strength (lean muscle mass) mainly due to declining Estrogen levels. Estrogen is anabolic in the female body. It helps to build muscle. As we lose Estrogen, we lose this ability. Lifting Heavy helps provide a stimulus for building muscle. How heavy? Lifting weights heavy enough that you can only do 5-8 reps, but having 3-4 minutes recovery between sets. Lifting heavy is important, even for endurance athletes.
- Improves muscle integrity: stronger and faster muscle contractions.
- Increases joint strength and stability. Estrogen and Progesterone both affect the tensile strength of tendons around our joints. As these hormones decline, we can suffer from the loosening of tendons and ligaments, causing joint pain. Lifting Heavy builds up our musculature and provides a stimulus for tension in our tendons, to bring about stability around joints.
- Reduces bone density loss. Lifting heavy helps us hold on to what we have. It’s the multi-directional stress of lifting heavy that creates a strong 'tug' of our muscles on the bone. It's this tug that stimulates the bones. Some argue that lifting heavy can improve bone density in post-menopause. More research is needed. And it’s coming.
- Improves immune system. Lifting Heavy brings about acute inflammation, which leads to a cascade of cytokines. Cytokines help the body’s immune system and overall body inflammation.
- Cardiovascular markers improve: better blood flow and better blood pressure control. Vaso-motor symptoms decrease (Hot flashes).
- Increases lean muscle mass. This helps to improve metabolic markers. And increased metabolism means we use more calories at rest. (Lifting Heavy is considered more effective at changing body composition than cardio.)
- Helps postural muscles and balance.
- Technique is critical and may require working with a certified coach or trainer.
- You can’t just jump into lifting heavy: Building a strong functional body first is important.
- Requires equipment
- If you have osteoporosis or joint issues you should check with your doctor before lifting heavy.
Breakaway Women’s Club: Provides 1 Lifting Heavier workout a week as either a white board workout with a short video demonstrating the exercises or occasional livestream workouts. If you’re not sure if you are ready to perform Lifting Heavier then take our Foundational Self-Assessment which will help determine if you’re ready in terms of mobility and stability.
3. Low Impact Versus Higher Impact
Low impact workouts involve movements that don’t put a lot of stress on the body. They can still have intensity. This style of workout may be best for some folks who suffer from joint pain and instability.
- Appropriate for some
- No or little equipment needed - Good for coming back from an injury or illness.
- Doesn’t provide a strong enough stimulus for our bones and
- Doesn’t provide a strong enough stimulus for our muscles compared to alternative ways of exercising.