Zumba while hot-flashing? Exercise was hard enough before menopause – The Guardian

It’s like I fell asleep in the tropics and woke in the Sahara. With constant overheating, swimming is my main exercise joy
Navigating menopause is challenging enough without having to add exercise to the mess. With the constant threat of overheating looming over my fuzzy head, I have to choose my activities wisely. Power-walking before sundown is a pointless venture – I need a cold shower before I’m even out the door – and the very thought of SoulCycle (admittedly, I’m still a bit unclear on the concept) induces enough hot-flashing to burn off my lunch without getting on a bike.
I’ve managed to vehemently deny getting stiffer with age, challenging friends who suggest “It’s just part of menopause” until suddenly – what on earth? – I can’t touch my toes and I’m hobbling to the loo in the wee hours, hunched and grumbling to myself about why the hell at 53, I’m hobbling.
More disconcerting is that I’m using “hunched”, “grumbling” and “hobbling” in the same sentence – three words I hadn’t hoped to use for another few decades.
As if being stalked by AARP isn’t bad enough, now all this? I’ve always fancied myself in pretty decent shape – “mildly athletic”, even. Have I been delusional all along?
It’s like I fell asleep in the tropics and woke up in the Sahara without an ounce of lubrication left in my body (except for the copious amount of tears that dispense themselves freely at the sign of anything remotely cute or cuddly on Instagram).
Help! I’m stranded in the menopausal desert and heaven help me if I see a baby camel – it’s game over.
So, basically, cardio on land is out (at least in summer), along with alcohol and caffeine (theoretically), although those “menopausal bans” have yet to be put in effect. Baby steps.
Upon hearing me lament about my rapidly expanding midriff sizing me out of yet another pair of overpriced jeans, the guy scanning my gym card suggested I take a cardio class.
‘You should try Zumba; it’s good for your core,” he says.
Is he nuts? I’m menopausal, I think. As if I don’t sweat enough 24-freakin’-7 with my hormonal flushing.
“Zumba? I’d rather leap out of an airplane,” I say. “At least there’d be a cool breeze.”
He’s confused and rightfully so; he looks about 16 and probably wouldn’t know a hot flash from a rotary phone.
“Or you can do Bikram,” he goes on. “You’ll work up a good sweat.”
Hot yoga? No way in hell I’d sign up to overheat (and most likely pass out) with a bunch of strangers who are paying money to sweat. If only I could donate a few liters to their cause. Not to mention that the ability to touch my toes has gone out the window with all the collagen I’m apparently losing, so the thought of doing yoga feels like climbing Everest.
“No thanks,” I say. “I’ll stick to swimming.”
My mom taught me how to swim before I could even walk, and in the throes of menopause I couldn’t be more grateful. Until she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she swam a mile a day – before coffee, or tea, or toast, and sometimes, before sunrise.
Believe me, I’d love nothing more than to jumpstart my day with a cold plunge (the colder the better), but between the hot-flashing and the cold-sweating keeping me wired all night like a caffeinated squirrel, I tend to wake up too exhausted to boil water, let alone exercise.
It took long enough, but it finally hit me – apart from teaching me to be water-safe (to float and to tread), my mom taught me to appreciate how swimming makes me feel. Like my grandmother dishing up chicken soup at the slightest hint of a sniffle, my mom touted swimming as a mental cure-all, adopting the mantra “Just go swimming, Shanti, it’ll make you feel better” as the opener for a plethora of maternal pep talks meant to nudge me out of my own way.
God bless her patience: I was an anxious child – prone to nail-biting, stomachaches and the occasional panic attack. I was apprehensive about almost everything in life except – thanks to my mom – water. I still am.
For the longest time after she passed away, I didn’t swim. We spent so much time in the pool together that I couldn’t bear the thought of going in without her, and for the first time in my life, I was afraid of the water. While grief commandeered my existence, I avoided the one thing that I knew she would have told me to do: “Just go swimming, Shanti, it’ll make you feel better.”
Her maternal instinct was right and eventually, I returned to the water.
Although I’ve never shared my mom’s enthusiasm for a pre-caffeinated workout (I’m working on it), she succeeded in planting the swimming seed deep in my psyche. It took menopause and enough tears to fill an Olympic-sized pool (another perk of swimming is that you can cry in your goggles and nobody is the wiser), but after a rather lengthy germination period, it’s finally taken root.
Hallelujah. When it comes to menopause, swimming is a godsend. At the rate I overheat these days, water has proven to be the most effective “hormonal surge protector”, apart from sticking my head in the freezer, which results in unnecessary snacking.
I wouldn’t put it past a hot flash to weasel its way into the water, but so far, the pool has been the only place those sneaky bastards don’t find me.
Shanti L Nelson is a writer and photographer

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Originally posted 2023-11-18 04:30:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter