As you start to approach your mid-30s, you’ll start to notice some changes in your body: from menstrual irregularity to trouble sleeping, and not to mention, the dreaded hot flashes. Oh, the struggle. Life bestows you unforeseen circumstances when you least expect it and if you’ve been going through a tough time understanding why these things are happening to you, then you might be going through perimenopause.

In a recent interview with UFIT Trainer, Terri Forward, she shares more about perimenopause, the changes your body will undergo, and the things you need to know as you transition to this phase.

What is perimenopause?

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For the unacquainted, perimenopause stands for “around menopause” and refers to the time during which your body makes the transition to menopause. This phase is also an important phase in your cycle as it marks the end of the reproductive years.

When do you get perimenopause?

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Whatever your relationship is with your period, it’s important to note that perimenopause is something most of us go through at the ages of 36 to 45, and the average length is around four years but for some women it can last for up to 10 years. Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without your period, then it’ll be safe to say that you’ve officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over.

Symptoms of perimenopause

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Symptoms can show up differently for all women, so it’s important to know that what you’re experiencing might be different than what your girlfriends are experiencing. Terri says, “The most common symptoms include mood changes, reduced libido, brain fog, night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, trouble with sleep, joint and muscle aches, weight gain, headaches and heavy periods.”

She adds, “For a lot of women, the biggest concern is unwanted changes to their body composition (reduced muscle mass, increased body fat). The biggest body composition changes happen in the 3 to 4 years leading up to menopause (the day our periods have stopped for one year). It is during this time we can experience weight gain and an increase in unwanted belly fat.”

What do you need to do as you transition to perimenopause?

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1. Educate yourself

Education is key, if women understand the what, when and why behind perimenopause they will be better able to correctly identify the symptoms of perimenopause and take back control. Our best years are ahead of us no matter how old we are and it’s only once we understand our physiology that we can start to work with it and not against it.

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2. Choose the right workout routine

As they say, forewarned is forearmed, and research shows that the perimenopausal period is the best time to adapt your training to prevent unwanted changes to metabolism and body composition. Heavy lifting, high-intensity intervals, sprint training and plyometrics are essential for menopausal health and performance. This enables us to maintain muscle mass and bone density, and mitigate unwanted body fat. We want to turn down the training volume and turn up the intensity. Despite what a lot of women believe, eating less and exercising more no longer works during this stage of life.

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3. Prioritise your recovery

Prioritise your recovery. Training only works if you let your body absorb it and bounce back. With age and the hormonal changes during menopause, the recovery process becomes even more important. Make sure you warm up and cool down, prioritize nutrient timing and adequately fuel for your workouts. Avoid training fasted and refuel within 30 minutes of a hard training session. Make time for movement and mobility and go for a regular massage. Make sure you respect your regeneration days, easy days and hard days are essential so polarise your training and balance out your hard days with truly easy recovery days.

3. Manage your stress

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During perimenopause, we already have elevated cortisol, (the stress hormone) due to fluctuating hormones, so stress management is a priority. Many of us need to re-balance the competing nervous systems and make time in our day to dampen down the dominant sympathetic system and allow our calming parasympathetic nervous system to dominate. How we achieve this is to find time alone to practice some mindfulness strategies and try to ‘find flow’ in the activities we are engaged in.

Pay attention to how you think and talk about menopause. Researchers found that women who viewed menopause from a negative perspective reported more frequent and severe physical symptoms than women who viewed menopause from a more positive perspective.

Don’t be afraid to talk about it or seek professional support, all too often women suffer in silence feeling lost and alone. It’s important that we break the silence and challenge the stigma surrounding menopause so we feel more empowered in the skin we’re in to avoid this negative cycle.

Text: Shazrina Shamsudin/HerWorld