Catherine (left) with her mum, who’s helped her on her fitness journey
Exercise is fundamental to my life. I threw discus for the East of Scotland as a teenager, rowed my way through university, and ran my way through my thirties.
I started the most amazing group gym classes just after my 40th birthday, and by 44 I was the fittest I’ve ever been. I realised how much I love heavy weights, and how amazing they make you feel.
However, unbeknown to me, my hormones fell off a cliff in lockdown. I was up and down for 18 months and ended up bed bound for four months. I had horrible mental health issues, digestive issues, dry skin, hair and mouth and insomnia. I couldn’t contemplate exercise and the thought of my friends at my gym classes broke my heart.
I finally realised what the issue was – menopause – and began HRT, which has been life-changing. But because my symptoms were picked up far too late, it took me a year to feel like myself again.
Thankfully things have improved and I’m now back at four gym classes a week. I’ve also organised a social jogscotland group once a month for people in my gym classes. When I couldn’t contemplate running, I still managed to lead Couch to 5K (twice!). I used a 500m loop on the Meadows in Edinburgh and stood in the middle calling out to them, to tell them when to run/walk etc!
It was fantastic for me to be out and the group all said they’d never have done it without me organising it and encouraging them.
My group gym classes have been the best thing I’ve ever done – it’s seven years now since I started them. The media now is heavily into ‘mid-life women must lift weights’ – for once I’m on trend! I feel so supported, and no one cares if I turn up and do a little bit or modify exercises. I have been quite open about my awful menopause experience and as a result there have been lots of positives. Everyone is talking about menopause, coaches have been super kind and helpful, and we’ve had an expert in to talk to those interested in menopause, HRT, exercise etc.
My mum’s also been a great help – she goes to a seniors class gym class with the same personal trainer as I have, and has often supported me through my training.
I love the jogscotland Menopause Friendly campaign. When it launched, there was a Zoom webinar for jog leaders that I took part in, but I so felt awful I couldn’t imagine running again. Now I’m back, I know that one of the key things is that people feel comfortable turning up to a jogging group and doing what they can – a 10 minute walk and a chat with the jog leader and going home can make all the difference.
I’m a passionate exerciser and jogscotland jog leader – it really is my happiness. Because my own experience was so awful, I really want others to experience better – that was my main motivation. If your symptoms are bad, please hang in there and know it will get better. Movement is so important – if you feel awful try and get out for a 10 minute walk and if you bump into someone you know for a quick chat or a smile, even better. This can make the biggest difference to your day.
Menopause symptoms left me bed-bound, but exercise got me through…Back