Get in Shape – Even When Your Knees Ache

Annelies Harte
We can all be fabulous and fit at any age, says fitness expert Annelies Harte. She should know. The 48 year old personal trainer specialises in 40+ women’s fitness, and explains how we can all feel strong and motivated.

How can I motivate myself to get to the gym?

Going to the gym will increase your happy hormones for a start. Doing strength sessions will help you to maintain or even increase your bone density (so important as menopause hits) and it will help you sleep better. Of course there are times when you might be one of the oldest in the room, but in the right environment that is celebrated. If your gym only caters for the size zero Instagrammers, then find a gym that is more inclusive, supporting and nourishing. There are plenty of them out there. Shop around and try before you buy!

Why is weight training essential during menopause?

Two words – menopause & osteoporosis. Strength training will improve bone density, and the good news is that it’s never too late to start lifting. Try simple things like carrying your shopping home rather than using the car, weight lifting classes in the gym (not body pump as that’s still conditioning), or hire a personal trainer. One of the most effective ways of investing in your health is to regularly lift some heavy stuff.

If your gym only caters for the size zero Instagrammers, then find a gym that is more inclusive, supporting and nourishing.

How much exercise do you need to do during menopause?

Start with one session a week. It really doesn’t matter what that is – a dance class, yoga, running, Reformer Pilates – anything that increases your physical activity. Ask yourself: Do I feel better and sleep better? Step up to doing two sessions a week within a few weeks: one emotionally beneficial and one physically.

What does an ideal exercise week look like in your menopause years?

It’s a combination of strength and relaxation – the aim is to enjoy it. Twice a week, do some strength training, which can be one session of dynamic yoga or Pilates, and one of weight training. Plus, do a short conditioning workout (around 30 minutes).

For relaxation, do one slower Yoga or matt Pilates class and one Reformer Pilates session. Reformer sessions are all about realigning the body. It will very quickly find muscles that are not working well, and start to strengthen them. Whether you are a novice, a life time gym goer, a runner, a class participant, a lifter or in need rehabilitation, a Reformer session will increase that muscle/mind connection and help you build a better body. I’m a big fan.

Two words – menopause & osteoporosis. Strength training will improve bone density, and the good news is that it’s never too late to start lifting.

Does working out with a buddy or a trainer help you stay motivated?  

Absolutely. If one partner feels a little blah or maybe not in the right frame of mind the other can encourage, plus you can strengthen the friendship by sharing the pain/fun/giggles and triumphs. If you hire a trainer it will cost you money which means you value it more and if you cancel in less than 24 hours it will cost you – for most of us that’s an incentive in itself.

Where do you stand on running? Is it bad for knees in mid age, or are there ways to protect yourself and still get the benefits? 

If you have been running for years and remained injury free please do not stop. If you’re a newbie, do take steps to protect yourself by incorporating strength training. Do squats, single leg squats, sumo squats, front squats, heel risers, short but effective sprint sessions. Mobilisation and relaxation sessions in addition to your running can make all the difference. Any kind of strength training and recovery planning will help support knees.

What about using your own body as your best exercise prop of all?

Any kind of plyometrics (jumps) and squats are very efficient fat burners. High step ups, where you need to step up higher than your hips, are brilliant so use a park bench and aim for 8-16 reps in 30-45 seconds.

Find Annelies on Instagram at @harteandsoulcouch

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