Fiona Outdoors logo My independent guide to the best of Scotland outdoors

Training for an ultra: The menopause pains

Written by Fiona

August 29 2018

Yesterday I felt like I was running through treacle. Both my body and mind felt heavy and nothing seemed to be good with my training session.

The session, planned by John Hampshire Coaching, was intervals: 8 x 2 minutes of hard running followed by two minutes of recovery.

I had already completed a couple of 4 x 4 mins sessions in previous weeks as I build up to my first ultra distance challenge and although tough, they were manageable.

Yesterday I thought I would fail to finish even one of the reps.

Things started badly

I felt out of sorts and lethargic all day and I had to force myself to get out the door and up to our local reservoirs for the reps session.

It was 7.30pm before I arrived and I was not looking forward to running.

I warmed up with a walk, then a brisk walk and then a jog. I decided I’d better just get on with the session.

I set my watch and started with the first rep. 45 seconds later I gave up. It felt too bloody hard.

I rested a bit and tried again. Perhaps, I thought, I had set off too fast? I managed 35 seconds. But again it felt like too much and I stopped.

I was frustrated with my inability to keep going. The next rep attempt reached 1 min 45 seconds but still not the full two minutes.

I thought about giving up and going home. I was clearly feeling under-par and I blamed the long run on Saturday and the weights circuits class the night before.

I forced out this smile because I had hoped it would make me feel better. It did not.

But I hate to give in

I reminded myself that I needed all the training I could get because I’d left it all a bit late. I’d asked John to help me with only eight weeks to go to the Ochil Ultra 50k.

Admittedly, I was already running fairly well and had managed some longer runs by that point but the idea of training for a 50k race in two months now seemed ludicrous.

I told myself, out loud, to woman the fuck up.

I decided I would try to run four reps and then call it a day.

Those first full two-minute reps were vile. It didn’t matter how I paced them they just seemed to go on and on and my body and breathing didn’t want to assist.

I was panting loudly throughout each rep and when I finally made it to the two-minute mark I felt utterly done in.

I walked through the recovery and cursed the bloody effort of training.

Eventually I ticked off the four reps and I decided to try for six reps.

Two more reps of agony

Every part of me screamed to stop. My legs felt weak and my hips were tight. I felt so heavy and hopeless.

I wanted to cry.

I made this video after rep 6. (Excuse my voice fading in and out and my darting eyes but I was walk around for recovery and the wind must have been coming and going as I turned around.)

The final two reps

I would normally be feeling relief by the last couple of reps of any session. I pushed on through the seventh interval and it felt so bloody hard.

By now it was getting dark and I could hardly see my watch. I ended up doing six seconds too many. I felt irrationally angry.

My eyes are failing and I need new specs. The varifocal lenses need to be updated to cope with poor near-sighted vision.

I tried to find a backlight for the watch but I failed. This made me more exasperated.

I did do the final rep but I felt no joy in it. I had nothing more to give and I felt pathetic as I tried to make it through the final 30 seconds.

If it hadn’t have been for a young runner coming past me at this point I think I would have sobbed loudly.

She said how lovely Wispa looked. My faithful whippet (well, mostly she is faithful) had done all those reps with me. I have no idea what she must think of my ridiculous training pattern.

Reflections on this session

As I jogged and walked back to my campervan I felt only a slight sense of happiness. I had completed the session but I doubt it will show any improvement in my running-at-speed capability.

Above all I felt annoyed that at a time where I should be making gains I am falling backwards.

Back home, I had a grumble to my sympathetic husband who agreed that it must be very frustrating.

A bad night and morning

Then came the explanation. Despite being mid-way through a pack of HRT tablets, I began to feel the low and growling pain of a bleed.

The morning revealed a monster of a period and this will explain why I felt so heavy and tired yesterday. It could also explain my “dead body” run on Saturday.

The menopause has a lot to answer for, including random and heavy periods, extreme tiredness and bloating. I had not had a period for a couple of months and I was wondering if they had stopped forever.

Over the past few years, my ability to run, cycle and swim has also been affected by natural hormonal changes. I have suffered severe cramps all over my body and resulting muscles tears. My joints regularly ache and I am far less flexible than I once was.

I have been flattened by horrible migraines and frustrated by an inability to rely on my previously excellent memory.

However, I am now feeling slightly better about the fact that my last two training sessions have been so testing.

What normally happens now is that I feel a bit sore and tired for a few days and then I’ll return to my normal energetic self. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I hope you don’t mind me being honest about my body functions/malfunctions. I want other women to know that the menopause can adversely affect physical and mental health.

More Like This


Six beaver families for River Spey

Active menopause

New book: Toes in the Water


Top tips for choosing the perfect static caravan: Devon’s best options for sale


2 Munros & 2 Munro Tops: Chno Dearg and Stob Coire Sgriodain


Six exciting outdoor activities to experience while teaching abroad


5 fantastic reasons to vIsit Guatemala – and 4 things to do there