How to rē•optimize your Workouts During Menopause

With tips from Equinox.

By: Jessica Ourisman
How to rē•optimize your Workouts During Menopause

Strengthening the body through fitness is a hallmark of health and a rē•spin pillar. Whether you prefer to seek out cortisol-conscious exercise to unwind or rē-invigorate with cardio comes down to personal preference. But as OB-GYN Jessica Shepherd rē-veals, muscle workouts are particularly important along womanhood’s hormonal trajectory as they can help to regulate blood sugar

But any time you add exercise into your wellness regimen, showing up is half the battle. Many reluctant gym-goers even dread going to the gym, while motivation and consistency can be hard to muster on your own. Finding the right environment, modality, and format will make a huge difference in turning your workouts into a regular practice. Some prefer to stream their workouts at home or require the convenience of an all-hours gym. But if you are more of a spa-enthusiast than a fitness-junkie, the luxury amenities offered at gym-spa hybrids help to sweeten the deal. 

One of the best-known luxury gyms and spas, Equinox, offers gym equipment, training, and group classes to help with bodily strengthening, while their on-site spas, steam rooms and saunas, and other amenities (like Kiehl’s toiletries and chilled eucalyptus-scented towels) promote physical pampering and rē-covery. Below, learn how Equinox helps members rē-envision their fitness regimens to suit the bodies’ needs during perimenopause and menopause. 

Changing Hormones, Changing Workouts

“Clients approaching perimenopause and menopause express concerns around changes in body composition, joint pain, fatigue, and trouble focusing and concentrating,” says Kristy DiScipio, Director of Group Athletic Training and Group Fitness Training at Equinox. “As the hormonal balance begins to shift, clients can experience challenges maintaining or losing weight, a loss of muscle mass, decreased range of motion, and even a lack of motivation and trouble focusing.”

The main area of bodily concern tends to be in the midsection, where “muscle is often replaced by fatty tissue deposits,” colloquially referred to as “menopause belly.” Coupled with fatigue and a lack of motivation, women are impacted emotionally and physically by the effects of midsection weight gain that is challenging to understand and overcome alone. This makes it helpful to work with a personal trainer or to engage in the contagious enthusiasm of a group fitness class such as strength training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga, spin, or light resistance training like barre or pilates.

Why target the muscles?

The fact is that any physical activity can be helpful for women to include in their weekly routines. But Dr. Shepherd taught us that strengthening the muscles and supplementing with an inositol, like DaVinci Inositol + Vitex Plus, $49.60, can help to address the root cause of some of the changes: insulin resistance-like states. Because the muscles take in glucose when activated, they aid with blood sugar stability. This helps to lessen chronically elevated blood sugar levels that can occur during the hormonal shifts of perio and menopause, lessening certain side-effects such as sugar cravings and weight gain.

But just because you might see weight gain in the belly area does not mean you should limit your muscle workouts to the abs. DiScipio reveals that there is no true way to “spot train” a specific target area of the body. This is because our musculature is interconnected, and every movement impacts the entire system. You can, however, emphasize specific muscle groups during each session — i.e., focusing on legs and back/biceps one day or triceps and core the next — for results that are still holistically beneficial.

Just because you are targeting muscle strength does not mean you need to stop cardio altogether. DiScipio recommends mixing up your cardio by alternating between “steady” and “high intensity” states. “Steady-state activity keeps the heart rate elevated and can be done for an extended period, like jogging, walking, or swimming. High-intensity intervals incorporate shorter [time periods] packed with power and require subsequent recovery,” she says. This might mean ellipticalling at a high resistance for thirty seconds to a minute and then taking a few minutes at lower settings before repeating the cycle.

Motivation through group fitness

Staying motivated to show up consistently and push yourself during workouts is a challenge for everyone and imperative for long-term results. In this regard, a personal trainer is probably the best way to keep you motivated, as they plan your workouts, keep them interesting, and factor in your specific goals without you having to think about it. It also helps that you often become friends with your trainer and workout-buddy. 

But personal training is expensive, which is why group fitness classes are another fantastic way to stay engaged and keep your workouts fun. At Equinox, the classes typically range from 45 minutes to an hour and allow you to benefit from instructor-guided exercise while joining in on the community of a group of potential friends. DiScipio recommends taking group classes two to three times per week and alternating workouts like cycling, running, pilates/barre, HIIT, or yoga.

At Equinox, a class called Stronger is particularly beneficial for women looking to add muscle workouts into their regimens. It is especially helpful for those who hate pure cardio, as the full-body workout will still raise your heart rate but keep you distracted with the weight load and changing repetitions. “If performed properly, it will leave you asking, ‘Wait, what? There was no cardio? But don’t be fooled.” DiScipio says. “It was designed to give clients the ability to focus on building strength and muscle (using weight load and low repetitions) without muddying the waters with high-intensity intervals that require long recovery between efforts.”

The technique

One of women’s top concerns about bringing weights into their workouts is a fear of “bulking up.” But DiScipio adds that it is hard to do so in a group setting, largely because the weights are not heavy enough to result in that type of bulky gain. That would require working with a personal trainer in the weights area of the fitness floor — think along the lines of bench presses, barbells, deadlifts, etc.

Women do often ask about gaining long, lean muscle along the lines of what yoga, pilates, and barre provide. “The key is balance,” DiScipio says. “You can still lift heavier weights of over twenty pounds two-to-three times per week and balance that out with HIIT workouts or endurance-based workouts using lighter resistance, like True Barre, Bala Bangle Barre Burn, Pilates, or Cardio Sculpt.”

Tips for tracking and maintaining your progress

As much as we love an immediate before-and-after, longevity holds the key to wellness. Rather than going all-in, focus on doing manageable workouts that allow you to incorporate them regularly. As you begin to see results, tracking them can help you stay motivated. DiScipio likes wearable fitness trackers like the Apple Watch, OURA Ring, and Whoop band. “There are also many downloadable apps that can get you moving,” she points out. “A few of my favorites are the EQX+ App and Couch to 5k.”

As you fall into the rhythm of your preferred workouts, you will also begin to notice what apparel and accessories truly enhance your experience. Swiss-made On Running sneakers have garnered a bit of a cult-following among those frequently on their feet, from celebrity plastic surgeons to athletes, to dads that take brisk walks. We also love the idea of a workout one-piece like the REFORMER Onesie with the Keyhole Back, $149. The wrap-style waistband of Hello Day Day Dream Crossover Waistband Leggings, $73, is ideal for days when you feel conscious of your tummy.

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