A few months ago I mentioned my new commitment to strength training, which has since taken shape with the help of my fantastic coach, Celeste St. Pierre. Celeste knows a lot about triathlons and about swimming, and, like me, she is a disciple of the excellent Stacy Sims. Sims’ work on perimenopausal and menopausal athletes emphasizes the importance of building muscle and bone at an age in which we start losing both very quickly, and offers no-nonsense advice on diet, supplements, and training, which focuses on shorter and more explosive workouts, including sprints, plyometrics, and lifting heavy. Celeste and I have been working on a weekly schedule that combines my love for endurance/cardio things with my newfound passion for lifting, so this is what my week looks like, fitness-wise:
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: I lift, swim, and roll/stretch. On Mondays and Wednesdays I typically use the Berkeley facilities – their weight room is terrific and the Spieker Pool brings back grad school memories. If I really want a treat, I swim at the Golden Bear pool. On Fridays I lift at home and swim at Balboa Pool or at Garfield Pool and, if I have time, I take a yoga class at Yoga Flow.
Tuesdays and Thursdays: I do some form of strength (typically abs and a leg series that includes plyometrics and jump-rope) at home, followed by a sprint/interval run/walk.
On Saturday, which is my official recovery day, I take a pilates class at Synced Pilates with the fantastic Sue Free.
On Sunday I do something long – either a long run followed by boot camp in my neighborhood or a brick workout (swim followed by run.)
On all these days I also commute on my cargo e-bike, which adds some cardio to my day.
For more than half my week, several of my workouts happen at home, and over the years, with Chad’s help, I’ve constructed a fabulous little workout corner that has pretty much everything I need. I have a yoga wall, which I bought used during my days of teaching fitness at Elevate Group Fitness; I can use it with springs or with TRX straps, and I have a belt that allows me to go upside down and remember my Antigravity days (it’s also great for those of us with back afflictions.) I also have quite a collection of dumbbells, some of them adjustable, a little barbell that fits my space with some plates, and a foldable bench for bench pressing. The weighted balls are nice to use, as are a few kettlebells that I swing around when I do high-intensity interval work. I have some resistance bands around, which I also take with me if I’m at a hotel for a few days. Music is always an essential part of this routine.
I may outgrow the weights I have at some point, but I’m coming to realize that gaining muscle is a function of various different types of lifting: powerlifting heavy weights through compound lifts and burnout exercises with more moderate weights. I’m already seeing some success (newbie gains are so encouraging!) and plan to continue gain as much muscle as I can to combat perimenopause and its insidious effects on fitness. Honestly, I’m not sure whether workouts are becoming more ferocious or I’m getting older or both. But this approach of shorter, more intense and more varied workouts, combined with a lot of stretching, rolling, and recovery, is working quite well for me at this point, and it might fit those of you who are entering your forties, fifties, and beyond.