How to do it: your menopause-friendly long run

It’s that time of year again; that time when training plans are starting to kick in as you start to prepare for events ahead. Increasing the distance of your long runs can feel quite intimidating at the best of times – even if you have done many before, building back up again can feel a bit scary. It can feel like an impossible ask of your body – and that’s without the added challenge of dealing with menopause.

As you move into peri-menopause and beyond, it’s pretty common for fatigue to strike. For some, it’s a fatigue that makes even the thought of a long run feel overwhelming. For others, that deep-seated tiredness makes recovery much slower. And then there’s the increased risk of soft-tissue injuries, as fluctuating and declining oestrogen levels impact muscles and tendons. All in all, putting your body through the stress of a long run can feel, and be, a big ask.

There are, however, ways and means of making your long runs manageable and minimizing stress on your body. Firstly, check that you have the basic conditions for a long run sorted:

  • Have you had enough rest and recovery time since your previous run? You want to be starting off as fresh as you can
  • Did you run at a genuinely easy effort? You should be able to talk pretty normally – or even sing.
  • Did you fuel the run adequately? Check that you’d taken on enough fuel both beforehand and during the run.

If you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to all three and still find a long run too much, it’s time to be creative. The purpose of nearly every long run is to build endurance, conditioning your body so that you can spend more time on your feet. Whilst most training plans follow a very similar pattern in how they get you to do that (increasing distance by around 10% a week, running it all – and even doing it on a Sunday) there’s no reason you have to do it like that. More importantly, if your body can’t do it like that, you shouldn’t try. So how can you approach it instead?

Here are 6 strategies that could work for you:

  • Forget it – that’s the idea that you have to do one long run a week (after all, a week is just an arbitrary block of time). Perhaps a long run every 10 days might work better for you, or even once a fortnight
  • Flex it. If you can, be flexible when you attempt your long run. If you wake up one morning and feel great, go out and get it done then if you can. Likewise, if you set off on your planned long run day and feel dreadful, call it a day. There’s little to be gained from pushing through.
  • Walk it. That might mean walking some of it as part of a planned run/walk strategy, or hiking the whole thing. It’s still time on your feet but without the high impact of running.
  • Cycle part of it. Triathletes often ride and then run to build endurance whilst minimizing impact on the body, and this could be a great strategy for you too. If your planned run is, for example, 2 hours, cycle for an hour (or even 90 mins) and run the rest. It’s all building endurance
  • Split it. Do part of the run in the morning and the rest later in the day, giving yourself some recovery time in the middle. For even more rest, run the first part later in the day and the rest the next morning so that you have a sleep in the middle
  • Miss it. If you are really fatigued despite trying the above, there’s no harm in giving it a miss. If your body needs rest and recovery time, it’s unlikely to take any training you do on board and could likely have a negative effect.

The model that will work for you may take some experimenting to get right. You may also find that what works for you now won’t be so effective in a year’s time and may not be needed in a year or two’s time – menopausal bodies change so much. Try them out and see!

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