The Mother & Teenager C25K Challenge

One thing I never thought I would be taking up again at 50 is running!  I did all that and got the t-shirt way back in my 20's and 30's. Keeping fit and healthy is of course a priority, but over the last decade it has been of a more conservative nature than returning to pounding the streets and parks of South London.  So what happened?

Well with a a staycation planned for our summer and lazy days stretching ahead with just the youngest teen for company, it struck me that we could both benefit from something to focus on and as I wrote only a short while ago having a shared interest with your child or teens is so valuable.  It gives us a common purpose, keeps us talking and keeps our relationship alive and as any parent with teenagers will realise that is not a bad thing.

There are some seriously accomplished running mumbloggers out there, Sarah at Mum of Three World for one and some like the fabulous Prabs at Absolutely Prabulous who like me is pushing back against midlife in style.  There have also been many wonderful and inspirational pieces written by other bloggers about their own Couch to 5K (C25K) journey including Charlie over at Mess & Merlot, who not content with reaching the 5K milestone, pushed herself onto 10K.  Aspirational indeed but for now we like all newcomers are just focusing on the first steps to 5K.

The C25K programme is not new, it has actually been around since 1996 and ironically was actually devised by a young man called Josh Clark with his 50 year old mother in mind, to encourage her to address her health.

When I hit 50 earlier this year I reviewed my midlife exercise regime with its focus heavily towards Pilates and Barre work outs and booked sessions with personal trainer Clare at Live In Fitness Retreat.  A 56 year old whose mantra is that "50 doesn't define us anymore", Clare took me outside of my comfort zone and introduced me to HIIT, a way of exercising that can be done in just 12 minutes a day.  It was a real eye opener for me in terms of my cardio-vascular health, I managed the sessions and still do some at home, but it was evident that it was something I had neglected in recent years.

Following in the footsteps of Josh Clark's mother and all the other 50 year olds like her I hope that apart from binding me in a shared agony with my daughter, running again will address that area of weakness for me.  But this experience is not just about me, the other half of the "us" is my daughter who is keen to return to school in September fit and ready for the hockey season ahead, with its gruelling training schedule of early mornings and late afternoons.  For her it is all about improving her stamina and of course hanging out with me!

So how has it been so far?  Well we are almost at the end of the third week of the nine week programme and I think I can safely say we both feel quite smug.  Firstly, because we have proved to the doubting boys in the house that the girls in the house can do "sweaty, heart pumping" exercise if we put our minds to it and secondly because quite frankly not every day has been easy!

There have been days when we have been too hot, too cold or soaked to the skin by archetypal English downpours.  Some mornings we have just been dog tired.  We have also been embarrassed as we pass people we know with the dulcet tones of Michael Jordan booming from our phones encouraging us to start, to stop, to run, to walk but most importantly to keep a steady pace and just keep going.

This aside, however, we have enjoyed the warm up walk and the chance to chat about "stuff"; the way we feel at the end of each session; the fact we keep on doing it not because we have to but because we want to and that as each run passes we have ticked another box, plus we are getting close to noticing a real difference.  Of course we have exchanged a few cross words along the way but we don't pant now, we breathe and not just in time with our own footsteps but with each other. We are in sync on our runs, supporting and coaxing each other along the way.

Josh Clark said that he wanted the programme to be easy and rewarding, recognising that we are creatures of inertia and need carrots to get moving and to continue.  In that regard, it is working for us thus far.  As beginners the schedule is sustainable.  I don't know how far we will go with it and whether once we reach the end and tick off our first 5K we will then join the masses running several times a week.  I do, however, hope that we will both reap the rewards of improved fitness and at the very least we will get together once a week for some more "us" time.  Watch this space!

 

Have you embarked on the C25K challenge or something like it?  If so I would love to hear how you coped.

 

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Sleepless Nights – Tackling Insomnia in Menopause

"How did you sleep darling?" is the habitual morning question from my husband. How "well" and particularly how "badly" we sleep is not only a subject of marital discussion but is also a national and international obsession.

Obviously, sleep requirements vary by individual but most healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours per night.  Sleeping well is vital for looking and feeling good, regardless of our age. It doesn't matter if we lead a healthy lifestyle or are as fit as a fiddle, we are only as good as the amount of sleep we get and a bad night's sleep will almost certainly leave us feeling lethargic, unable to concentrate, bad-tempered and in some cases depressed.

There are a multitude of reasons why people don't sleep, worry and stress of course being the most common.   Personally, I have suffered a range of sleep issues in my lifetime each with their own set of challenges, including being married to a prolific snorer .

According to the Great British Bedtime Report, however, I am not alone and "partner disturbance" as it is aptly called is the UK's second most common cause of disrupted sleep with women more likely to be affected than men (31% compared to 19%).

Partner disturbances like child disturbances are similar in that over time your body and mind develop their own coping mechanisms. The same cannot be said, however, of the shift in sleeping patterns that accompanies the transition to menopause - which is when women start to commonly experience really significant changes in the quality of their sleep and I am no exception.

Going to sleep is not a problem for me, the issue is that I wake up during the night often at 3am and then have difficulty returning to sleep again, if at all.  This inability to stay asleep is known as "maintenance insomnia".

A Fitbit devotee for some time now, I became obsessed with checking my sleep stats and was horrified to see that on average I was clocking up just 5 hours sleep a night and that I was restless or fully awake anywhere between 16 and 20 times a night.

According to the Sleep Council  "A ‘very poor’ night’s sleep can be defined as less than five hours: and a third of those who suffer from insomnia routinely sleep for less than five hours".  To deepen my misery I completed the Council's Great British Sleep Survey and was not surprised to learn that my sleep score was 3.75/Low.

For women like me on the journey from peri-menopause through menopause, the hormonal fluctuations occurring in our bodies at this time throw our body's chemistry completely out of kilter.  This can wreak havoc with our emotional and physical state and disrupt sleep enough to induce insomnia and because the shift to menopause can last a number of years insomnia symptoms can go from transient and temporary to chronic and severe during this time.  It is also a vicious circle because the more sleep you lose the worse everything else is.  Fun it most certainly isn't and it can have a significant impact upon your family.  This was my husband's white flag email:

"Darling, been reading a lot of websites and articles. This one seemed to make the most sense to me.  Let's talk when you want to.  Supporting Your Partner During Menopause  https://www.verywell.com/supporting-your-partner-during-menopause-2322673"

I have written previously about my quest to attempt to address various lifestyle issues arising from my menopause and this email was probably an incentive to get on with it.  Along with increased irritability, insomnia was one of the primary reasons I sought expert advice earlier this year.  Yes as a parent I have known debilitating tiredness, but the exhaustion from insomnia in menopause is totally unforgiving.

Image result for menopausal insomnia

During my consultation, the results of my hormone tests,  showed I was lacking in progesterone, the happy hormone, whose primary function is to relax us and keep us calm, all of those qualities we need to not only keep us balanced, but also to ensure restful sleep.

Declining estrogen at this time also has a role to play and whilst my tests showed my decline in estrogen wasn't as marked as my progesterone, estrogen does help to deepen our sleep and therefore could be the reason I couldn't stay asleep.

It is now 3 months since I was first prescribed a course of bio-identical hormone therapy and during this time I have returned for a follow-up consultation.  The initial prescription went some way to addressing my symptoms, with my husband in particular noting an improvement in my moodiness or as he fondly calls it a reduction in my flash to bang and I was also managing to stay asleep at night more than I had previously.

Everything that happens on the course to menopause is down to your hormones and you quite simply can 't control your hormones without medication, but equally hormone therapy is not for everyone, so hormones aside, what are the best ways of combating insomnia in menopause and getting a good night's sleep?

  • Invest in a decent bed.  Given that we spend a third of our lives in bed, a comfortable bed is vital regardless of whether you are menopausal or not.  Obviously the quality of the mattress has a big part to play in this and the Sleep Council recommends that we replace our mattress at least once every seven years.  The choice is extensive now and is no longer just about soft or hard either, new to the market foam mattresses adapt to all body shapes, sizes and sleeping styles.
  • Use natural bedding.  Avoid synthetic fabrics to ensure you keep cool whilst you sleep, which if you suffer from night time sweats during the menopause is a great help.  Good ventilation in the bedroom is also advised.
  • Sleep schedule. Make sure to only go to bed when you feel sleepy, and get up if you find yourself awake for longer than quarter of an hour. By reducing the time in bed you spend awake you can improve your ‘sleep efficiency’, and as a result your sleep quality.
  • Sleep hygiene.  Keep all electronic devices from the bedroom.  It is really tempting to just check your "instagram" or your "twitter" before nodding off but it all acts as unnecessary stimulation. The best advice for a restful night's sleep is universally to go to bed at a set time, avoid caffeine before bed and opt instead for a calming drink (my personal favourite is Pukka night-time tea) and do something to help you relax whether that be relaxation techniques or simply reading.
  • Keep moving.  Whatever your life-stage, exercise is important full stop to combat a range of physical and mental health issues but a sedentary lifestyle in menopausal women is strongly associated with insomnia.  Regular exercise will improve it.  Find something you enjoy, try new things and keep it varied.
  • Mindfulness.  A bad night’s sleep often makes you feel irritable the next day, but it also works the other way around - feeling low can increase your risk of future sleep problems. Being aware of what is going on inside us and around us can help to lift our spirits when we are feeling low.  Mindfulness can help as can meditation with developing awareness of your breathing.
  • Supplements.  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also contribute to a poor night's sleep.  It is known that magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia and a lack of potassium can lead to difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.  In addition Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to excessive daytime sleepiness, so if menopausal insomnia is an issue it is worth investigating including these supplements in your diet.  The other fail safe one I would add to this is Evening Primrose Oil.

 

Sleep and physical health have a two-way relationship. Ill-health can make it hard to sleep but equally poor sleep can also increase our risk of future illness.   As well as employing all the recommended ways of ensuring I get a good night's sleep, my hormone dosage has been adjusted according to my last meeting.   A month in and in terms of my sleeplessness it has been limited to maybe a handful of nights which whilst they have made me feel totally miserable, when I think back to where I was at the beginning of this  year is a big step forward.

I am as my consultant has told me still "work in progress", after all the peri-menopause can last for a number of years.  For now at least though the quality of my life is improving because fundamentally I am sleeping better and as my family can vouch the well-being of the household is dependent upon my sleep!

Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia?  If so I would love you to share them.  

 

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Guest Post – Why Does Style Change At 50?

You would think that the woman pioneering a change in attitudes towards the way women dress in midlife has herself passed that milestone.  The reality, however, is that Jacynth Bassett, is a 24 year old Cambridge law graduate, who inspired by her mother's style frustrations has made it her mission to tackle ageist attitudes in the UK fashion industry.

The first step was a blog offering women top style tips and inspiration, as well as a forum for discussion on age-prejudice in fashion. Overwhelmed by the response from women all echoing the same frustrations at the typically dowdy designs targeting the older woman, the-Bias-Cut.com was born in March 2016. It is a multi-label online boutique of limited collections, featuring modern and stylish items from a range of contemporary labels and designers for the 40+woman. Jacynth has a discerning eye and all pieces are chosen for the quality of their craftsmanship and attention to detail.

At the heart of Jacynth's business is the ethos that "Ageism is Never in Style". It is her belief that there should not be any hard and fast rules on what women can wear over a certain age.  A passion for style and a desire to wear beautiful clothes and look good in them, transcends generations and is just as important in your midlife years as your teens.  The secret in Jacynth's opinon lies in reflecting the best version of yourself today and personally speaking I couldn't agree more.

I am far from being a fashionista, but I have always loved clothes.  As I have aged my attitude to buying clothes hasn't changed extensively, I know what I like and still get a thrill from finding that must have item, but it is less about being on trend and more about evolving my style. If I see something I love I will buy it based on whether it makes me look and feel good irrespective of my age, after all who doesn't want to continue to look fabulous? But it is natural for everyone to step back and question their style choices at some stage and as I passed that all important Fabulous Fifty marker earlier this year I asked Jacynth if she would share her thoughts on style at 50.

Jacynth Bassett, the-Bias-Cut.com

“How To Look Good At 50.”  “What Women Shouldn’t Wear Over 50.”  “Ageless Style At 50.”  We’ve all seen variations of these titles – which usually end up being click bate leading to some patronising, insulting or, at best, hilarious article dictating how to dress correctly (whatever that means) at 50.

Of course the underlying message of those articles is that there is a right and a wrong way to dress at 50. Now if you are dedicated to following the latest trends, granted there are looks that are in and looks that are out. If, however, you just want to look your stylishly best, then there is no strict formula to adhere to. Ultimately you can wear whatever  you want - the key is to make sure you feel good and are comfortable in it.

So why do all these articles exist? Well, if they are to be believed, when the clock strikes midnight on your 50th birthday, suddenly your fairy tale princess life ends and you’re left with – or even looking like - a pumpkin and with that it means you suddenly need to re-evaluate your style and fashion decisions.

Now I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure when you turn 50 you don’t instantly end up with 20 more wrinkles, grey hairs, hot flushes and a bigger middle. You might become more aware of the signs of aging, but they haven’t just appeared overnight. The only real potential sudden shift is psychological: hitting the 50 mile stone might make you feel different, but you won’t look any different . Yes, with time your hormones are going to change, as is your body, your appearance and your lifestyle, but that will happen gradually.

So what these “Style At 50” articles all seem to be missing is that the reason a woman’s style may change at 50 is because of the emotional differences to a woman in her 40's. It’s all very well saying ‘you should now wear this and avoid that’, but it means nothing if there’s no sensitive rationale and understanding behind it. Ultimately clothes and style are just a reflection of who you are inside.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with my own guidelines (not rules) on style over 50.

1. If you feel now is the time to broaden your style horizons – do it!

A year ago a lady said to me “when I was in my late 30's, I lost my confidence; I had kids and started taking less care in my appearance. Now in my 50's I feel I need to get back to my real self.”

Even if you haven’t felt like this, it’s quite likely you know someone who has. Whatever path your life has taken, there has probably been a point where you started to feel less confident in your appearance, but on turning 50, it’s a great point to evaluate your life so far, think about where you want it to go next, and take control. The same applies to your style. If you’re ready to change and prove that you aren’t invisible and can look gorgeous – go for it. If you want to try a particular style, do! Because it’s time to forget all that mutton dressed as lamb rubbish and remember that confidence is the true essence of style. So whatever you’re wearing, if you’re doing it with pride, then that’s the true beauty that will shine through.

2.Only give your wardrobe a total overhaul if your body is currently changing

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to buy a garment that’s too big or small and say you will eventually fit into it. It never works because we all put on and lose weight differently, so your body is unlikely to change in a way you expect. One of the most common things that happens with menopause is putting on weight around the middle. So you might go from a size 10 to a size 14 – but that doesn’t mean you’re slightly larger all over. Your boobs and middle might get bigger, whilst your hips and thighs stay the same.

This means you’ll need to start shopping for a different shape, not just general size. A new cut might suit you for the first time, whilst ones you used to always wear are no longer flattering. And you may need to find new shops too – because designers’ and high street brands’ lack of understanding and catering to different body shapes is still a huge issue. But don’t let this dampen your spirits: slowly there are more brands taking notice, and at the-Bias-Cut.com we even curate collections specifically with different bodies in mind.

3. Encourage yourself to step out of your safe zone

Having founded an online boutique where the majority of my customers are over 50, there is one comment I hear more than nearly anything else “I only wear navy as it makes me feel safe.”  Now I have nothing against the colour navy, I have a lot of it in my wardrobe and it is very flattering, even more so than black as we age because it doesn’t drain the skin as much. But if you’re wearing navy to feel safe – then there’s a problem. Yes, it’s important to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, but as is feeling beautiful, gorgeous and sexy and dressing to feel safe is not that.

So, if next time you feel yourself drawn to navy (or any other colour that makes you feel safe), honestly consider whether you’re picking it for healthy reasons and if you’re not, then it’s time to give yourself a bit of love and care and tell yourself that you can wear something else.

It might take baby steps at first. For example, I often suggest to my most nervous customer to go for a piece that features a predominantly navy print, but also features other colours. This pushes them outside their comfort zone, without throwing them completely in at the deep end. Then when they start to receive compliments for how great they look and believe it too, they tend to come back ready to be a little more experimental.

4. If she can wear that then why can’t you?!

One of the other most common phrases I hear is “Well X can wear that but I couldn’t!”. Now that person may be a different shape, age, height or colouring to you – but that doesn’t’ mean you can only look one way to pull off an outfit. If you admire what someone else is wearing, give it a go yourself! You might need a slightly different cut or colour, but let it inspire you to try new things. Don’t shut yourself off before even giving it a go. If it doesn’t work – what’s the worst that can happen? You take it off and that’s that.

5. No trend or look is off limits – it’s all in the detail

On doing some research of articles that say ‘what not to wear after 50’ – one of the most common rules is: if you wore a look when it was trendy the first time round, then you shouldn’t wear it again.

Well, given ‘trends’ are being recycled more now than ever, that pretty much rules you out of a lot of styles. Goodbye ripped jeans, farewell pussy blouses and adios punk rock spikes.  So unless you’re willing to spend the rest of your life walking around in a sack (because that’s one look that will never be a trend), it’s time to put that rule firmly in the bin.

The trick to looking modern and current is through detail and styling. If you’re keen to wear a style that’s very ‘on-trend’, try to find a variation that includes subtle modern aspects, rather than one that could have come directly from the past. Or keep it subtle with a piece that nods to a trend, but isn’t a full out extreme version of it.

Alternatively, if you want to go full retro with one piece, make sure to pair it with accessories or clothes that are clean, crisp and clearly from a different era. In other words, don’t pair it with the same pieces that you did in the past. That way, rather than looking like you’ve just stepped out of a time machine, you look fresh, cool and effortless.

So remember: if you start to listen to your feelings and your body, rather than those stupid articles, then you will find the right style for you and continue to be the best version of yourself today. Your style will change over the next 10 years, but it should only do so when the time is right for you.

Jacynth's approach to fashion and championing style at every age is inspirational and refreshing and she truly does practice what she preaches, featuring real life "non-models" of various shapes, ages and sizes (including her mum) to show off her carefully curated clothing ranges which can all be seen at https://the-bias-cut.com/.

But it's not just about curating beautiful collections, it is fundamentally about changing attitudes and Jacynth has many strings to her bow. She regularly speaks on panels and podcasts, is a contributor to the Huffington Post and most recently she has been appointed as Fashion Advisor for one of the UK's largest women's forums, the Menopause Room https://www.facebook.com/themenopauseroom/.

Blazing a trail through the heart of the UK fashion industry, Jacynth is unquestionably a young woman on a mission and something tells me that we will be hearing a lot more about her in the future.

Did you find Jacynth's guidelines useful? What is your approach to fashion?  I would love to hear your views.

 

 

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Fitness At Fifty & Beyond

A "fair weather" exerciser is the term used by a friend recently to describe my attitude to my fitness regime.  In my defence I have to say she was recalling my university years more than three decades ago when a hangover or a piece of chocolate cake would normally be sufficient excuse not to join her for a game of female rugby or a wet and windy run around campus.

Exercise like everything else you develop a passion for in life is generally something that is nurtured.  As children my parents always took my sister and I on long walks and encouraged us to pursue a variety of sports, which we did, some with more success than others.  To be honest though I am not sure that I actually really "enjoyed" them in the sense that I would wake with a burning passion to go and exercise. I loathed hockey and netball in equal measure, however, I did excel at swimming and as a teenager competed at county level.  I do however, think I fell into it by accident rather than intent.

Then on starting work I decided I needed a stress release and took up running with my flat mate at the time and that was my first proper foray into something I loved.  I enjoyed the escapism, the euphoria of pushing my body to the limit and ultimately the way it made me feel and look.  It became an addiction.   Every day, morning or night.

After children I fell out of love with exercise again, simply because time was more pressured.  Also I noticed my needs had changed.  My knees were really suffering from pounding the streets and I wanted something calmer that focused more on toning and strengthening. After an unsuccessful encounter with Yoga I fell in with Pilates and more recently Barrecore.   But what about my heart and my aerobic fitness?  I consider myself relatively active.  I walk a lot and can run for a bus in an emergency but I don't push myself aerobically beyond those boundaries.

  • Live In Fitness Boutique Retreat

As I approached my 50th birthday I took stock of my exercise regime as part of my Fabulous Fifty resolutions and decided to revisit it.  A newcomer to Instagram over Christmas I searched #fitnessat50 and came across the feed for Clare La Terriere aka @liveinfitnessretreat.  Six weeks away from my 50th I was determined to hit the ground running to be the best 50 year old I could be so there was no time like the present, I contacted Clare and we booked in some sessions at her London flat.

Clare is a woman in her fifties and a mother of three grown up children, but looking at her posts she puts the majority of the younger fitness instagrammers to shame with her energy and her incredible abs and I can confirm having since met her that she is just as awe-inspiring in real life!

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Clare started her fitness journey aged 28, tired, depressed, plump and pregnant and apart from a period due to injury has never looked back, "I did it for my head, not my heart and I still do, everything else is a bonus" says Clare.

A fully qualified Personal Trainer and Pilates teacher, the turning point for Clare was discovering HIIT, a way of exercising that doesn't take a lot of time and requires minimal space and equipment.  HIIT involves short bursts of hard intense exercise followed by rest which forces your body to work anaerobically and thus burn fat and not muscle.  Clare's fitness levels went through the roof after taking it up and she now boasts a resting heart rate of 52, which for the uneducated is on a par to most Olympic athletes. Not bad for a woman in her fifties!

Age is not a barrier for fitness in Clare's opinion,  she says the biggest challenge facing women in their 50's is actually starting if you have never done it before.  Most of the women she sees want to shed a few pounds but haven't a clue how to start and quite simply don't want to go to the gym and be intimidated, so she teaches them how to exercise and reach their goals at home.  This provided the inspiration for Live in Fitness, a boutique residential fitness retreat, Clare runs from her home in North Norfolk providing clients with a bespoke exercise regime and advice on a healthy eating programme.

  • Working Out With Clare

The morning of my first meeting with Clare I was nervous.  I am guilty of using my age as an excuse for those things which are outside of my comfort zone and HIIT is definitely in that category.  I shouldn't have worried, Clare is a bundle of energy and was quick to put me at my ease as we chatted about all things fitness and 50 related.

Clare firmly believes that "Being 50 doesn't define us anymore, 50 is the new 40"  and her mantra is that nothing is impossible as long as you have the confidence and that is why she is there to say "Yes, you can actually do this, go for it!" 

After the warm-up, Clare took me through a sequence of 4 different exercises repeated 3 times so that the total routine only took 12 minutes.  I say "only".  It is hard, there are no two ways about it, but with Clare's natural exuberance and passion for exercise and gentle words of support  I made it to the end with maybe just a few co-ordination and balance issues.  This routine was then followed by some Pilates exercises and some stretching.

Despite having practised Pilates for more than 10 years, Clare also gave me some top tips for ensuring my core is always fully engaged (ribs down) and introduced me to a truly effective plank hold that knocks socks off the fully extended version.IMG_7795_web

The day after my first session I am not exaggerating when I say couldn't walk, bend or sit.  Barrecore involves a lot of focus on strengthening and toning the legs so I was genuinely surprised to wake the next day feeling like I had run the London marathon without any training.  Clare texted me to see how I was feeling, literally as unbeknown to her I was trying with great difficulty to pour myself into a David Bowie style jumpsuit for a party.  Needless to say I didn't manage much dancing that night!

The next week Clare was less forgiving and pushed me harder with another set of exercises, reminding me that it was me not her that was supposed to be out of breath and sweating but all in her naturally good-humoured way of course.

Clare's devotion to fitness and client satisfaction is unquestionable.  She was careful to make sure that I knew how to correctly carry out all the exercises she had shown me over the two sessions, making sure I recorded her on my phone at the end for my future reference.  Clare has kept in touch since and encourages her clients to contact her if they ever need further advice and support.

Since seeing Clare the biggest battle for me has been motivation which as my dear friend would say is evidence of my fair weather approach.  I also thrive on having people around me experiencing the same pain I am,  BUT to keep me focused at home I switch on Clare's recordings either from our session or on instagram and immediately am transported back to her flat and her warm words of encouragement to get my heart rate up.  Clare is full of wise words but on discussing tackling fitness as a 50 year old the words that ring truer than most are "Being 50 is not an issue.  It's the not taking responsibility for your own body that is the problem."   

Details of Clare's courses can be found on her website www.liveinfitnessretreat.co.uk.  You can also follow her on youtube and Instagram @liveinfitnessretreat.

 

NB: This is NOT a sponsored post.  The article was instigated by me and all views are my own, if you do contact Clare please let her know you read about her here.  Thanks. 

 

 

 

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It Must Be My Hormones – The HRT Debate

One of my Fabulous Fifty resolutions for 2017 is to address my hormones once and for all.  This may seem an overly dramatic statement but it is something I have been battling with for a while.  I have written previously about my menopausal madness which manifests itself largely with me feeling irritable, impatient, forgetful, tired and fuzzy headed. Everyone's experience is different and I am sure as my mid-life journey continues my symptoms will vary but this period of transition for me currently is all about my mood and general feeling of well-being.

Hormones regulate every function in our bodies and when in balance they make us feel healthy, energetic and more in control of our lives.  As we age and some of these hormones decline then the balance is upset and a range of symptoms like mine may manifest themselves.

I have always suffered from severe PMS but this is on a different scale.  For a couple of years now I have dipped in and out of various consultations with my GP and been referred to a gynaecologist regarding the best way forward and HRT is always presented as my saviour.  My mother started taking HRT in her mid-40's and to this day absolutely swears that it saved her sanity.  But we live in a different world now.  Is it the be all and end all?

Some friends have sailed through the menopause without any problems at all apart from a steely determination to not let it beat them!  Others have battled with hot flushes and horrific insomnia and come out the other end with a bigger waist.  Very few, however, have actually turned to HRT.

HRT is and always will be a hot topic and in recent years, many women have stopped taking it because of apparent growing evidence that the risks outweigh the benefits.  I am not adverse to chemicals, if there is a pill to rid me of something I will always be first in the queue.  Also I don't pay much attention to these trials as they are rarely conducted on a sample that matches "me", but I have listened to the arguments over the years and as the time drew closer for me to make a choice and stop dithering, I decided that I didn't want a one size fits all approach.

Our health is our wealth and I want to be better informed about the choices available to help me get through this peri-menopausal hell and looking ahead, to be better prepared for the menopause and all the life changes that has to bring.  The decision I make now is a long-term investment in my health and to that end I decided I would rather have a treatment that was tailor-made for "me" and what was happening specifically in "my" body.

So on this basis, research and recommendations from friends led me to look at bio-identical hormone treatment which uses plant-derived hormones that are identical in chemical structure to those found in the human body.  Basically this means that because they are an exact copy of the hormones we produce they work in our body in the way they are supposed to and prescribed properly do not carry with them any of the side effects or health risks of HRT.

For my birthday present to myself I booked a consultation which included a review of my medical history, a full physical examination and blood tests to review my hormone and thyroid function, blood biochemistry, Vitamin D levels and full blood count.  These tests aside, to me the most important questions I was asked were "Why are you here?  What concerns you the most?  What do you want to achieve from this for yourself?"  Dealing with women and their hormones on a daily basis whether, pre-natal, post-natal or menopausal must be tedious but no medical professional had actually asked me these questions before about "me" and how "I" was actually feeling, just about my symptoms.

So what did I achieve?  Well after a very thorough consultation I returned a week later for the results.  On that morning my husband texted me and said "I hope you get the answers you want."  Ultimately that is what I wanted  more than anything else.  I wanted someone to say you are experiencing this because of X, Y and Z.  Did I get that? Yes I did.  In hindsight I don't know how I would have felt if I hadn't but in short my tests confirmed that I was peri-menopausal (no surprise there really); my oestrogen level was decreasing but most significantly of all my progesterone level was low.

Being presented with a sheet of numbers for my bloods and being shown where my figures sit in the normal range was great but I needed a translation of what this meant and how it related to my situation. Well oestrogens perform a range of vital tasks in our body such as regulating our body temperature, helping us to sleep, supporting the collagen in our skin, maintaining our memory, concentration and bone density as well as helping to keep our moods positive. If that isn't enough they also protect us from cardiovascular disease and assist in the production of serotonin, which is responsible for decreasing depression, irritability and anxiety.

As for progesterone, well it truly is the happy hormone.  Its primary function is to relieve tension in the body; it decreases anxiety and depression and also relaxes us, thus keeping us calm and balanced.  On the whole it is a natural tranquiliser.  It is the first hormone to be depleted on our way to menopause and those who are progesterone deficient commonly complain of excessive irritability and mood swings like me.

As a result I have been prescribed a carefully calibrated dose of bio-identical hormones to apply in a cream via the skin twice a day.  The emphasis is on increasing my progesterone levels but I have also been prescribed an oestrogen cream as it is important that both hormones are at a level where they both balance each other because this is what it is all about, restoring my body's hormonal balance and thus getting everything back on track.  I recognise that this is not a miracle cure, but just one component of managing my mid-life changes, however, at the moment I am in right now, it is a potential antidote for my crazy lady syndrome and for that I and my family will be grateful as long as it works of course!  It is very early days but until my review in 8 weeks I am doing as instructed and applying the cream.

 

If you have taken the time to read this post, then thank you and please do leave a comment. x

 

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Fabulous Fifty..What Does It Really Look Like?

This is the year I turn 50, as will according to Google, such female acting luminaries as Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, plus Carla Bruni and Sam Taylor-Johnson. Of these fellow, "soon-to-be" quinquagenarians I would most like to align myself with Julia or Sam whose approach to ageing seems most akin to my own of wanting to grow old gracefully rather than pursue a quest to look younger. I want to enter this next decade of my life knowing how best to keep healthy and look fantastic without resorting to alternative means of feigning youthfulness.  The taut foreheads of Nicole and Carla are not for me.

Turning back the clock is something we all wish for from time to time, not simply from an aesthetic perspective but in order to be able to relive those fabulous experiences that have shaped who we have become.  In my 20's I was a single, ambitious career girl who worked hard and played hard.  In my 30's I experienced my most significant life changes. I got married, became a first time mother, a divorcee, a single working mum and then a woman embarking on her second marriage.  In my 40's I put the brakes on my PR career and became a full-time parent.  Every decade has been filled to the brim with wonderful life experiences I wouldn't change for the world.

Now on the precipice of my 50's I am older, wiser and certainly more self-assured and with one teenager about to turn 18 and leave home for University, I have the time to take stock, make some amendments to my lifestyle and embrace the next decade with the same enthusiasm as the last four.

So at the juncture of this second half of my life what is changing?  What does facing 50 really look like - warts and all?  Facially most people would say that I have not changed that much.  At a party over the summer I was recognised immediately by an old work colleague I hadn't seen for 30 years.  I have lines on my forehead and around my eyes but these have been with me most of my life and having watched my mother age before me I am pretty sure they go with my genetic territory.  But genes can't account for everything.

Our skin is made up of around 80% collagen when we are young and then as early as the age of 25 it starts to decline as the natural moisture is depleted, so as you would expect, at 50 mine is not as plump and dewy looking as I would like anymore and is inevitably getting drier.   Aside from my skin, my teeth have also suffered the test of time and are thinner and susceptible to chipping.

Physically, I am gaining weight.  My waist has moved through the decades from an enviable 23 inches to a comfortable 27 inches.  This is not big I know that, just annoying in that with a passion for following fashion I have a wardrobe full of clothes that I can't bring myself to throw away because too many wage packets were sunk to buy them, but equally I can't wear for any other reason than my burgeoning peri-menopausal waist.  I am a bit stiffer than I used to be and with creaky knees I worry about osteoporosis.  My eyesight has also declined; where once I could manage to read a menu at least without my glasses, that is no longer the case and my hearing is definitely not as sharp as it once was.

Getting older is fraught with new challenges and is also quite frankly expensive as you do find that you need "retouching" a little bit more than previously.  My hair needs reviving with a colour on a more regular basis, as do my eyebrows which are getting sparser as each year goes by thanks to the "pencil thin" brow being all the rage when I was a teen.  I also spend more than I should on face creams and love a good facial.  This may seem superficial to some, but the consensus amongst my girlfriends at least is that feeling better about ourselves is crucial to our overall well being.  Just because we are getting older does not mean we have to hang up our heels and hide ourselves in dowdy clothes, invite in the wrinkles or relinquish ourselves to the onslaught of sprouting grey hairs.  Far from it.  Some of my favourite newly found blogs Look Fabulous Forever, Fabafterfiftythe-Bias-Cut.com, liveinfitness.co.uk celebrate the older woman and act as a true inspiration to continue looking fantastic irrespective of our age.

So having painted a gorgon like image of myself physically, what is happening mentally?  Well I am becoming more forgetful for sure, particularly my short-term memory.  I have been known to walk into a room to do something and instantly forget why I am there.  I tell my teenagers a piece of information and then repeat it again hours or in some cases just minutes later.  I misplace things regularly and have an annoying habit of putting things in the wrong place or even in a safe place that I then can't recall! Are these early signs of dementia or can I blame this on the dreaded menopause too?  My mood swings are increasingly more godzilla than bambi, but of course "It Must Be My Hormones!"

As I turn 50 and continue further along my life's journey I want to know how best to care for the inevitable changing needs of my skin and body; I want to know how best to nourish myself not only for a long and healthy life but to look and feel great; I absolutely want to continue looking my best whether that involves a new make-up routine or a style revamp; I want to explore supplementing my regular Pilates and Barrecore habit with different exercises as I age; I want to combat my forgetfulness, restore my hormonal imbalance (because there must be one right?) and prevent the onset of disease such as that experienced by my mother.  Ultimately I want to be the healthiest, fittest and best-looking 50 year old I can be.

It is, however, about so much more than wanting to feel and look good.  I want to continue to enjoy being a parent to my gorgeous teenagers and watch them flourish into successful, happy adults.  There is so much more to come with them yet.

What is great about this age is the confidence that comes with knowing who I am.  I don't have to prove myself to anyone anymore - apart from myself.   So I want to continue to pursue the hobbies I love as well as investigate new ones. I am not going to shy away from offers of work, I have the time and the skill and as facing 50 looks like it is going to be more high maintenance than I imagined I can't afford to be fickle.  So there you have it my "Fabulous Fifty Resolutions"....well the theory anyway, now I need to put it all into practice!

 

 

 

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