“To Everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn). A time to gain, a time to lose.”

The Byrds were first to remind us, and then the migrating geese, and finally the Fall trees shedding their leaves are one final reminder that “letting go” is part of the natural order of things.  We humans don’t embrace change nearly as easily.

And from my experience, the same applies to women and their exercise regimens. It can be hard to let go of the familiar, the comfortable, the predictable.  But just as the seasons of our lives change, so must we adapt our exercise programs to reflect our ever-changing hormonal landscape. The exercise programs that served you well in your twenties may need to be tweaked in your thirties, and sometimes completely overhauled in your forties and fifties.  Here are three categories of exercises I think you need to “let go” of:

Any exercise that makes you pee your pants.

Exercise-induced urine loss is often a sign that the intra-abdominal pressure you are introducing is too great for the ability of the pelvic floor muscles down below.  It’s a tiny whisper from your body, “Pssst, please ease up…..we can’t handle the pressure down here.” Leaking urine during exercise is not a badge of honor or a reflection of the intensity you are bringing to your event.  It shouldn’t be celebrated or revered or ignored or covered up with a pad in your underwear. It also shouldn’t be a reason to ostracize women or make anyone feel ashamed or embarrassed. While these symptoms are common, they are not normal and exercise regimens should be modified to eliminate urine loss.

Any exercise program that has you muttering: I hate this, when will this be over, I am miserable.

Your internal conversation can be a reflection of whether your body is registering your exercise program as a stressful event, worthy of activating the flight or fight response system, and a subsequent over abundance of the stress hormone cortisol.  Cortisol has been known to lead to belly fat storing when present in copious amounts. Perhaps you may need to swap high intensity or long duration endurance exercise for lower intensity methods at least occasionally. Your ideal internal conversation should be: “I am strong, this is difficult but watch me get it, this brings me JOY!”

The motto No Pain, No Gain.

This is a myth.  Just as urinary leakage can be a whisper that your body is exceeding your capabilities, pain is more of a scream and shouldn’t be ignored.  As we age, we can be more prone to muscle imbalances and inflexibilities that may lead to injuries. And these injuries can take longer to recover from.  Nothing wrecks an exercise routine like a nagging injury, so the key is not to push your body beyond your pain threshold. More isn’t more anymore, less is sometimes more!

While these tips can be applied to any age group, never is this more important than in the post-menopausal woman who has lost her main estrogen, estradiol.  Estrogen is a plumping hormone that is also protective to the cardiovascular and skeletal systems. In addition, the decline of this hormone makes women more pre-disposed to atrophy and changes in the urogenital region.  As a result, certain exercise programs that your body tolerated in your younger years may need to be modified to make sure you aren’t creating more problems as you age.

Keep all this in mind as you determine what parts of your exercise program can stay and which to let go of.  As the Byrds remind us, there’s “a time to build up and a time to break down.” Let’s may a pact to keep each other from breaking down by letting go of exercises that fall into the three categories above!