Women over 40. I hear you and let me apologize profusely. I once thought the results you weren’t getting were strictly because you weren’t trying hard enough. Complete a$$hole move. I know. Because I turned 40 a few years back and karma came and kicked me in the butt and dropped about 40 lbs in my lap. Okay. 40 lbs on my abs.

Women entering Menopausal Transition often struggle with elevated cortisol levels. In fact, in both men and women, age brings with it an elevation of this steroid hormone.

Brief biology lesson. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that’s released by the adrenals in rhythm with your body’s sleep cycle. It peaks in early morning to help you get your butt outta bed.

Cortisol is great in times of stress. You’ve probably heard it called the stress hormone, the fight or flight hormone and these would be accurate. Cortisol release shuts down any system not required to face a perceived threat head on. So. Your reproductive system would shut down and your immune system for example. Now… you can face the tiger.

The problem is we don’t run into that many tigers in our day to day life and our stresses are more psychological and constant. When we live in stress everyday, perceived tiger, we can experience the negative effects of prolonged cortisol elevation. Tissue breakdown, musculature decrease and an increase in abdominal fat.

Hold up!

A sneaky appearance of abdominal fat is many post 40 women’s arch enemy. How the heck did that appear on the morning of my 40th birthday? I’ve been doing everything that I’m supposed to do. Working out and eating right. This is complete garbage! Sound familiar?

As we age our natural cortisol levels increase and we need to shift our routines and practices if we want to have the results we want.

Exercise releases cortisol in the body because you’re stressing the body. Yes, it’s good stress but it’s stress nonetheless.

  1. Time and intensity can affect your cortisol levels. Still running 10 K every morning? That practice you’ve been doing for the last ten years could be the very thing that’s causing you to gain weight or to not be able to lose any weight. Training for more than 60 minutes, even at a low intensity, can stimulate more cortisol release.
  2. HIIT training is your friend (with benefits) as long as you take a break. Short intense exercise bursts cause less of an increase of cortisol in the body BUT the levels tend to surge if your rest periods aren’t long enough. If you’re HIIT’ing on a traditional Tabata* of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest you may have to lengthen the rest periods for better results. ** Since I posted a video on IGTV regarding this topic I had a question from a follower, what should my work to rest ratio look like then? I’d like to see you flip it. Try and see what kind of results 45 seconds of work and double that, 1 minute and 30 seconds of rest gets you! Not sure what Tabata is? It’s a style of interval training that has typically been 20 seconds work 10 seconds rest x 8 sets or 4 minutes of work
  3. Where are my early morning movers? The early bird gets the worm. How you start your day. Rise and shine! These quotes may be best reserved for something other than exercise if you’re over 40 and your cortisol levels are rising! Training in the early morning when levels are naturally high can increase the cortisol response. If this is already a problem for you, you’re adding insult to injury. Try working out in the late afternoon or early evening to avoid double dipping where you don’t want to.

Whew! Does that feel better? I’m a bit of an admitted control freak and my lack of control in this area since I made my way over 40 really felt like a burden to me. In the absence of control there’s trust. We want to control what we don’t understand and what we don’t trust. Trusting the body to do what it does is awesome. Taking the initiative to learn about YOUR body and work with it instead of against it will make you feel like you have some control during a time that can feel incredibly out of control.

* Not sure what Tabata is? It’s a style of interval training that has typically been 20 seconds work 10 seconds rest x 8 sets or 4 minutes of work

** Since I posted a video on IGTV regarding this topic I had a question from a follower, what should my work to rest ratio look like then? I’d like to see you flip it. Try and see what kind of results 45 seconds of work and double that, 1 minute and 30 seconds of rest gets you!