Personal trainer Julia Collins changes her own approach to wellness

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Julia Collins laments that the fitness industry is full of youth-obsessed before-and-after photos. She said adjusting her own fitness strategy as she approached menopause meant admitting she was getting older. (Of course, she’s got some of the most beautiful long gray hair this side of Emmylou Harris.)

Our friend Julia Collins has long lived a life focused on health and fitness — she runs a boutique gym in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and serves clients as a personal trainer.

But heading into menopause prompted Julia to revamp her approach to her wellness. She found she was gaining weight, not sleeping well and suffering hot flashes, so she began looking for ways to manage her symptoms.

Julia shared her experience in an email Q&A:

Have you changed the way you exercise?

I had to change the way I exercise and eat as I aged. I started realizing that what I was doing for years and years no longer worked as I headed toward menopause.
As far as exercise goes, I employ loads of plyometric work — when you leave the ground, like jumping squats or lunges — for bone density.
I lift much heavier weight than I used to. Where I would mostly use dumbbells that weighed between eight and 20 pounds, I’m lifting large amounts of weight, more like powerlifting or dead lifting, using weights in the 75 — 100 lb range on occasion.
Balance exercises are also a huge part of my workouts. For instance, lifting weights or squatting on unstable surfaces like a BOSU ball.

Have you improved your eating habits?

Yes! I have discovered that if I am going to eat carbohydrates (bread, pasta) that I need to do it strategically. I can eat them earlier in the day but, they must be paired with fat and protein. I can eat them before a race or very heavy workout and it continues to fuel me. This strategy has been remarkable in helping me keep my weight in check.
I figured this out when I did an elimination diet for 30 days. After that I slowly reintroduced those things I had eliminated. I almost immediately had an increase in symptoms adding sugar, alcohol and pasta. Without them, I lost 13 pounds and slept like a rock.

Given up a bad habit?

About six years ago, I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee … again, perimenopause was the culprit. If I drank so much as a single cup of coffee, early in the day I was unable to fall asleep at night and would wake up with tremendous hot flashes.
Stopping was tough for two days — headaches and nausea — but then, my symptoms of sleeplessness and hot flashes lessened. I found I also missed the ritual, the smell, the warmth … ALL of it. I drink decaf or any number of herbal teas now and get the best of those worlds.

Did you realize something you loved wasn’t good for you?

Sugar and booze both contributed to weight gain and horrendous menopausal symptoms. Wine in particular makes me drunk within an ounce or two and hungover like crazy.
Sugar creates massive hot flashes unless I have good healthy food in my stomach already.
No more wine for me and only a beer or two on the weekends now. No more ice cream for a snack — only as a rare dessert.
It’s all very sad. LOL

Have these changes in your own life changed how you coach people in your business? 

Absolutely! I mean, at first I was very self-conscious about it because, no one talked to me about it. And this career is so filled with “before & after” pictures and youth-focused beauty that it was admitting I was getting old.
Then I realized it seemed mysterious and vain to not talk about — plus! I was glowing red and sweating for no reason and it was weird not to acknowledge it.
I started with humor, sharing my strategies and pretty soon it was a comfortable conversation.

Julia Collins working out at her gym, Ypsi Studio.

Julia Collins working out at her gym, Ypsi Studio.

I’m not a doctor and this post is not intended as medical advice or to suggest what Julia did will work for everyone. I’ll be running a series of posts showcasing what friends have done to improve their health, and the overall theme is that each of them listened to their own body.

That much I absolutely do recommend: Pay attention to how you feel, physically and emotionally, and to what seems to make your issues better or worse.  In fact, here’s a post from 2009 about learning to fend off migraines by watching for my triggers.

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Categories: food and drink, health and well being, lifestyle

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