Discover more from Athletic Aging
When Training and Nutrition Isn't Enough
Remembering to train the mind
Practicing What I Preach
As a reproductive endocrinologist specializing in women’s performance, I encounter women on a regular basis struggling to thrive within their changing hormonal life stages, the demands of their careers, family life, and athletic pursuits.
This is especially true of my midlife clients transitioning into and beyond menopause. This is the time of life when parents are aging, kids are driving and going off to college, they hold the highest positions in their careers, and are still competitive in sport. With age, experience, and wisdom, we have become master multi-taskers!
But it’s a double-edged sword. This level of “life management mastery” is not always welcomed by this new hormonal paradigm where the protections afforded by our menstrual cycles against a constantly taxed stress response system have taken a permanent vacation. What we are left with are mood swings we don’t understand, anxieties we never had before, and in many cases waking up in a body and mind that is unrecognizable on so many levels.
A major focus of helping women thrive at this time of life is optimizing muscle, bone, cardiovascular, and metabolic health because these areas are significantly impacted by the menopausal transition. But this is just one part of the equation. There is another dimension that often gets lost and that is headspace.
It’s so easy to get “caught up in the weeds” of our everyday lives. We strive to be the best in our careers, and our sports, to be the best moms, wives, and partners. We support the world on our shoulders because we can and that is what we do best. Until it’s not.
Just like we can overtrain our bodies, we can also overtrain our minds. This can be very insidious. There are no “lab tests” that can tell us that we are hitting the mental “red zone”. But yet, the mind-body connection is so powerful - and can drive so many of our physiologic processes without us even realizing it. Not only does our mental headspace dramatically impact our physical being, but it also impacts our quality of life - and isn’t that what it’s all about in the end?
I am guilty of all that defines mental overtraining despite the fact that I am an expert in menopausal health and fitness and spend my days guiding my clients on the path to thriving. What I quickly learned is that just because I’m an expert in this area doesn’t mean that I have my own sh*t together.
I learned this the hard way this summer. I am guilty of all that defines mental overtraining despite the fact that I am an expert in menopausal health and fitness and spend my days guiding my clients on the path to thriving. What I quickly learned is that just because I’m an expert in this area doesn’t mean that I have my own sh*t together.
My realization came after spending 2 weeks in my Narragansett, Rhode Island home and leaving this paradise exhausted, cranky, and frankly, a bit angry, but not sure at what or with whom. This was a wake-up call because I wait all year for these 2 weeks in July and I left it feeling miserable. So, I kept swimming against this riptide until I arrived at August for our family vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. I was at the point where I said “Enough is enough. I’m not making the same mistake during this vacation”. For the first time in my post-graduate career, I unplugged - really unplugged - and it hit home when my husband said to me “I don’t remember the last time you took a vacation day”. Truth is, I didn’t either. When I think back, the last vacation when I truly unplugged was on our honeymoon in 2002.
Everything was put on hold this week. Instead of training, I went out hiking, biking, and kayaking. I did not post any new content for Athletic Aging other than my vacation pic at the Lake - and you all were so understanding and my blog lived to see another day! I put my work for the STRONG course by Feisty Media on hold - and it still got out on time! It was the most amazing vacation! I was there for my family and myself. I started a morning meditation routine and this has been a game-changer that I continue to do to start my day. My WHOOP! strap thought I died and went to Heaven! It truly was an enlightening experience and it was so impactful, I made a vow to myself to take this lesson forward, be true to it, and share what I learned with others!
Tips for achieving your “mental reset”
RED FLAG ALERT: If you leave your vacation feeling, exhausted and cranky, you need to do something different.
Communicate with friends, family, and coaches. Others can often see things in you that you are not aware of.
Plan a time to unplug and commit to it. Set expectations for those people and entities with whom you have obligations.
Take a step back and prioritize what will “live to see another day” if you set it aside, and be honest! If you are a control freak like me, you think that the world will implode if you set ANYTHING aside. Check your ego at the door, take a big exhale, and now make that priority list. When I did this, I realized that I could put EVERYTHING aside for just one week - and the Earth is still managing to orbit around the sun!
Committing to a regular meditation practice was pivotal in achieving my mental reset. I signed up for Headspace. This app is great because it caters to newbies to meditation like myself, has a variety of areas of focus, and the guided meditations are short and manageable even during my busiest days or while traveling.
Full disclosure: I used to be one of those people in my younger years who made fun of (secretly) the yogis and the meditators. I always thought this stuff was very woo woo and I can still hear my Father’s mantra of diminishing emotion and pushing through at all costs. Well, Dad (may he rest in peace) never went through menopause. So, my friends, if I can put my ego aside, so can you! Take your time to reset. You deserve it and you will come out stronger and happier than ever!