Menopause is a natural phase that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, and preparing for it in advance can greatly contribute to a smoother transition. Women in their 30s can take proactive steps to support their bodies during this significant life stage, we like to think of this as “menopause prep” and this is precisely what ex-Olympic athlete, Jessica Ennis-Hill’s is encouraging women to do.
We caught up with her to find how how she’s prepping her body for menopause in her 30s and some exciting new features on her app Jennis that are designed to guide women through this process.
Why do you think it’s important for women to start thinking about perimenopause and menopause BEFORE they actually get there?
It’s so, so important. A lot of women that I’ve spoken to about perimenopause didn’t realise what was happening to their bodies. Their symptoms made them feel completely out of control and they were completely unprepared.
At the extreme end of the scale, this has meant that they have left their jobs (one in 10 women have been forced to leave work because of symptoms), you see relationships change and their confidence and body confidence levels really change…
I’m not in perimenopause yet, but I think that if we know what is happening to our body and hormones, we can feel more in control and take steps to do what’s right for our changing bodies.
What sort of changes can women expect as they age and approach midlife?
“When you go into perimenopause, you’ve essentially gone from having a lovely, natural cycle that’s kind of predictable and inevitable in its four-phase pattern to being slightly more chaotic. That hormone chaos shows up in women in lots of different ways, with hundreds of reported symptoms, from anxiety to night sweats, irritation, low libido, vaginal dryness and difficulty shifting belly fat. It can really take women by surprise, so it’s really important to be prepared and informed.
What’s been your journey with preparing for menopause and how has it altered your wellness habits in your 30s?
The number 1 thing you should do to prepare you for perimenopause is to start tracking your cycle and symptoms, as this gives you a really good gauge of what’s happening to your body, then gives you lots of helpful information to feel informed.
One of the first signs of perimenopause is your cycle length changing, so by tracking my cycle I’m in a really good place to spot the signs.
With fitness being such a big part of your life, have you got a different approach to your workouts now you’re thinking more about menopause-prep?
Because I’m not currently in perimenopause, my regime is focused on workouts that make the most of the different phases of my menstrual cycle (we also have a Jennis app for that!).
But, the one thing I would say to a peri or menopausal woman looking to adapt their fitness is to start upping your strength training.
That means adding load, embracing dumbbells and maybe straying into areas of the gym you wouldn’t usually. My Jennis app has loads of guided strength sessions, so we help you get confidence if you haven’t done strength before.
The reason I really promote strength is that it helps you maintain muscle mass (which naturally declines as we age), it reduces anxiety, it boosts metabolism, it can reduce hot flushes, reduce risk of injury and osteoporosis – so, it’s an absolute game-changer for this lifestage.
With the knowledge you have now, if you could chat with your younger self about hormones, what advice would you give?
It sounds obvious! But it would probably be to listen to your body. When you are training professionally, you don’t have a choice with your training programme. It doesn’t matter how you feel, you just have to do it.
I would often beat myself up when I couldn’t hit the high numbers during training or lifting. But knowing what I know now about my hormones and cycle, it would have definitely taken the psychological pressure off.
There are some new changes coming to the Jennis app… can you share more details?!
The big one is the addition of a perimenopause programme. It’s basically everything you need and has been created with some incredible experts in perimenopausal health.
We’ve got fitness workouts that are designed specifically for your changing hormones; expert-led yoga and breathwork sessions depending on your symptoms and hundreds of expert tips and audio guides that have totally blown my mind.
If you’re not yet in Perimenopause, our CycleMapping programme is another great one – helping women understand the 4 phases of their menstrual cycle, how they feel and what’s best for fitness, work, productivity and food….
Jennis Perimenopause is now available through the Jennis hormone intelligence app, £5.99 per month. www.jennis.com