Meet All-American Ironman triathlete, professional health and fitness writer, and host of the “Hit Play, Not Pause” podcast, Selene Yeager. As an athlete, Selene is no stranger to building a relationship with pain, yet menopause made her reassess her connection with her body.
In this episode, she talks with Robin and Christine about finding out she was in perimenopause after experiencing hot flashes, night sweats, reduced muscle composition, and anxiety while in the midst of a semi-pro bike racing career. Selene says these symptoms made her want to disappear and almost give up racing. Selene also shares how educating herself about her body’s changes, slowing down, and “living forward” helped her get excited about the future and encourage other post-menopausal women to do the same.
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Christine Maginnis (00:00):
Hey friends, the views of our guests do not necessarily reflect the views of Let's Talk Menopause. Let's Talk Menopause does not provide medical advice. The content in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions that you may have.
Robin Gelfenbien (00:23):
Are women happiest before or after menopause?
Speaker 3 (00:26):
Speaker 4 (00:26):
Speaker 5 (00:27):
Speaker 6 (00:27):
It's pretty circumstantial
Selene Yeager (00:29):
Speaker 8 (00:30):
I think women are happiest when they decide to be happiest.
Speaker 9 (00:33):
I'm sure that they'd be happier when it was over.
Speaker 10 (00:35):
They feel like they almost have a clock on them. Oh, it's like, "I have to have a baby now, otherwise, I can't."
Speaker 11 (00:40):
They feel such liberation after that's gone.
Speaker 12 (00:43):
I am so ready to be done with having my monthly thing and-
Speaker 13 (00:47):
Seems like there's more problems after it is before, that's what I'm hearing.
Speaker 14 (00:51):
It's like I literally used to faint from my cramps, and to not have to go through that, I feel like that'd be amazing. But also, then you're old.
Speaker 15 (00:58):
It just kind of is a sign of aging and who doesn't get a little bummed out.
Speaker 16 (01:01):
And then, when you don't feel good, when you're not sleeping at night, and you're sweating, you're like, "I want my period back."
Christine Maginnis (01:12):
This is Hello Menopause Podcast where you'll hear real menopause stories from real people.
Robin Gelfenbien (01:18):
Whispering behind closed doors? Not here.
Christine Maginnis (01:20):
And we promise it is not just in your head.
Robin Gelfenbien (01:23):
And you are not alone.
Christine Maginnis (01:24):
I'm your host, Christine Maginnis.
Robin Gelfenbien (01:26):
And I'm your other host, Robin Gelfenbien. Let's Talk Menopause.
At the top of the episode, we heard our Menopause on the Street segment. Now, for those of you who don't know, this is a segment where I go out on the streets of New York and ask total strangers about menopause.
Christine Maginnis (01:52):
Robin, what'd you think?
Robin Gelfenbien (01:54):
It's so fun to listen to these because I can always picture the people who I talk to, which I know is a little bit of a benefit to this. But after those interviews, there was one line that really stood out to me when I did all of them, and that was when the girl said, "I used to faint from cramps, be amazing not to have to go through that." But the line that stood out was like, "but then you're old." And I was like, "Oh, kick her in the gut." I was like, "Damn girl, you're just encapsulating what society thinks? I was like, "Oh."
Christine Maginnis (02:24):
Yeah. Yeah. That one made me laugh out loud when I heard it.
Robin Gelfenbien (02:27):
Oh yeah. Oh God.
Christine Maginnis (02:29):
It plays to that whole notion of anti-aging, right, and it made me chuckle. But having gone through it, I actually do think there's a gift in being old, there's a wisdom that comes with it that I never anticipated. I don't think I would've known it until I've crossed over to the other side. You don't sweat the small things in the same way you used to. It's just you've lived enough a life to worry less and to choose your battles. And so, it did make me chuckle to think that like, oh, and then you're old, would be this terrible sentence. So far, I'm doing okay.
Robin Gelfenbien (03:00):
You're doing great, Christine.
Christine Maginnis (03:02):
Robin Gelfenbien (03:02):
You're doing great. The other thing that stood out to me, and I've just found it so empowering was the woman, and again, I can picture every single one of these people, but she said women are happiest when they decide to be happiest. And I was like, boom. I totally was with her. But I found it really interesting. I was like, this woman is so confident and strong.
Christine Maginnis (03:24):
Yes. And I really had a reaction to that too. And I think I felt, I'm so glad that she spoke to you, but part of me was like, that's not fair.
Robin Gelfenbien (03:32):
Christine Maginnis (03:32):
Part of me felt like, well, it is harder to be happier when your hormones are all over the place. I do think I'm slow to say to someone like, "You could be happy if you wanted to," but when you're not sleeping, feeling depressed and anxious, you have brain fog, you're not the same person you once were. I don't think I could magically think myself out of that. So I do think that hormones play a role in our happiness outside of our intention to be happy.
Robin Gelfenbien (03:57):
Sure. Sure. I was surprised to learn that women are happiest after they've been through it.
Christine Maginnis (04:05):
Yeah, they are. Research shows. Yes.
Robin Gelfenbien (04:08):
Yeah. And I feel like the people I talked to sort of were like 50/50 on that because there were those 20-somethings who I spoke to who were absolutely lovely, the one who said, "but then you're old," but I was like that is their association because they're talking about their moms, their aunts, that was their only connection to it. And they're just like, "You're done, girl. You're out." And I'm like, "No, no, no, no, apparently not. Apparently things look better, so hang tight."
Christine Maginnis (04:36):
She cracked me up because I think I thought the same thing.
Robin Gelfenbien (04:39):
Mm-hmm. Oh, sure.
Christine Maginnis (04:40):
I thought, oh yeah, I thought that too.
Robin Gelfenbien (04:43):
Christine Maginnis (04:43):
Well, I just wanted to, and I don't know if we need to use this, and I actually thought, Robin, you would talk about it, so I'm bringing in my own age bias, I guess, was the whole notion of the ticking clock because I know I felt that, for sure. I got married a little bit after other people, I became a mother a little after other people, and I definitely lived with the sense of a ticking clock that has stopped for me. I thought that was an interesting response from a person on the street.
Robin Gelfenbien (05:09):
Totally. I think that it didn't jump out at me as much because I feel like I hear it so often. So it just seemed like it's part of our normal conversation. It didn't strike me as unusual. But I can totally see it from that perspective. But then the other part of it is there are people who don't want to have children, and so then, it's like it doesn't even enter their conscience. I mean, it enters their consciousness, of course. But I don't think that that overwhelming feeling maybe quite as loud for some of them.
Christine Maginnis (05:41):
Right. I don't think I noticed the absence of the ticking clock until I heard her say it.
Robin Gelfenbien (05:47):
Interesting. Mm-hmm. Yeah, I see that.
Christine Maginnis (05:50):
I think menopause took up my battery.
Robin Gelfenbien (05:53):
You recharge like a champ. Don't worry about it.
Christine Maginnis (05:57):
Without further ado, let's get into our conversation with our guest for today.
Robin Gelfenbien (06:05):
We are thrilled to have today's guest who is known as The Fit Chick. She is a professional health and fitness writer who's been featured in several publications like Bicycling Magazine. She's a pro off-road racer and all-American Ironman triathlete. She's also the host of her own podcast called Hit Play Not Pause, a feisty menopause podcast for active performance-minded women who aren't willing to put their best years behind them. Please welcome the one, the only, Selene Yeager. Thank you for joining us on the podcast today, Selene. Could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?
Selene Yeager (06:55):
I am Selene Yeager and I'm the host of Hit Play Not Pause, which is a podcast for active performance-minded women in the menopause transition. But I'm also a longtime athlete myself. I've done everything from Ironman Kona, the mountain bike stage racing, these days, I'm into gravel racing, longtime writer for Bicycling Magazine and a bunch of other titles, the Men's Health, the Women's Health, all of that. So happy to be here.
Robin Gelfenbien (07:21):
Oh, we are psyched to have you. We are so thrilled to talk to you. You clearly just shared all of your, well, not even all, just a sliver of all of your athletic accomplishments, which are many. So I heard you describe yourself as an accidental athlete, and I was wondering, how did you get into sports? And what kept you engaged and interested throughout your whole career?
Selene Yeager (07:46):
I think the answer to that is I just have sort of an activity gene that I didn't know was going to be an athletic gene. Right. When I was a kid, I say this story all the time, but it's true, I was just sort of that kid that rode their bike everywhere even after everyone else got a driver's license and I had a driver's license. Be like, "Oh, I wonder if I could ride my bike to the lake," and it's 20 miles and I've got cherry cloth shorts and flip flops and no water and no helmet. And I made it, I made it to the lake and it was cool. And I just did stuff like that.
And it wasn't until I got the job at Rodeo Press, honestly, when I was like 20, mid-twenties, that anyone ever said to me, "You should try racing that thing," that bike that I always just rode for fun. I mean, I played field hockey in school and did the stuff that everybody else did, but I never, outside of being a pretty good field hockey player, I got a little scholar athlete thing for that, but I wasn't playing any Olympic level sports or anything at that time. I was just a pretty good athlete. But it wasn't until much later that somebody said, "You should try this thing." And I was like, "Oh." And then, it went pretty well and I was like, "Oh, okay, maybe there's something there."
Robin Gelfenbien (08:56):
So given that, what was your training like when you were perimenopausal?
Selene Yeager (09:02):
My training and racing were very, very intense. I started much later in this activity, so I was in my late twenties by the time I discovered that athletic part. And then, I met my husband and we had a baby. And after that, I was just like, "I still want to pursue this." Literally, I think it was 16 weeks after she was born, I did another triathlon and I won my age group. So I mean, it's definitely in there.
But then, it wasn't until I was 39 that I did Ironman and that was kind of on a fluke, I was just like, "Oh, I might as well try this thing." I was just going to do 16 weeks to Ironman. It was in an article I saw, like something I would've written, like, "16 Weeks to Ironman." I'm like, "I can do that."
And he saw my results from bike races, he's like, "You could totally qualify for Kona." And I was just like, "Dah, dah, dah, I don't want to hear that," because I just knew that once somebody said that to me, I was going to be all in, and I was all in. So it went from 16 weeks to 12 months and that is the one that I won my age group and went to World Championships in Kona six weeks later.
But that transformed my whole life. I got picked up by the semi-professional mountain biking team here on the East Coast. And I raced with Rebecca Rusch, she's a multi-time world champion. You have duo races for some of these events. So we did the Brazil ride, which was an eight-day mountain bike stage race through Brazil. We raced in Israel, which is a four-day mountain bike stage race there. And we swept some of them, we swept Brazil. We won every stage. We won the whole thing. I raced in South Africa.
And this is all from, say, 40 to 47 that I was just doing all of this races. And I started to get some stuff in there. My sleep would get disrupted, but when you're racing and training that way, your sleep gets disrupted, so I wasn't really thinking about it. And I started to get hot flashes somewhere mid to late. And then, I was like, "Oh, okay, this thing is happening."
But still at that point I'm like, that's all I knew about menopause was that maybe your periods get funky, and that hadn't really started happening yet, and hot flashes. Those are the only two things that I really thought about. And I had written about weight gain when I was writing for Prevention Magazine, but I'm like, "Ah, I'm so athletic, maybe that won't happen to me," kind of thing. I really didn't think about it and it didn't enter my consciousness in a big way until about 48 and I was like, "Oh yeah, this is happening. This is actually a real thing." But even, I had anxiety, wicked anxiety attacks sometimes. I didn't know those were related. I had no idea, no idea. So much women don't know, it's criminal.
Christine Maginnis (11:44):
Exactly. And we at Let's Talk Menopause crossed you when you wrote the article in Oprah Magazine that no one I know talks about menopause, which is part of the problem, no one's out there forewarning you what's to come. And I read in that article that at 47 you started having trouble sleeping,
Selene Yeager (12:03):
Yeah. That it was noticeable, that I'd be waking up soaked and in a panic.
Christine Maginnis (12:09):
Yeah, night sweats.
Selene Yeager (12:10):
Yeah, just literally felt like impending doom, and I'd be laying there counting backwards from 50, just trying to take myself back down. And yeah.
Christine Maginnis (12:20):
I think I tell this story every time we record, but I had the same thing happen and when it first started happening, my husband woke me up and he said, "Christine, I think you wet the bed," that's how much water-
Selene Yeager (12:31):
You're like, "Yes, I did, just not in the way you think that I did."
Christine Maginnis (12:34):
Well, for a minute, I had to check, "Did I? Everything is so wet and warm here."
Selene Yeager (12:38):
It's crazy how much you can sweat.
Christine Maginnis (12:41):
Selene Yeager (12:42):
Christine Maginnis (12:43):
And I think of the anxiety, I don't know that people link that so much to perimenopause, but I had this experience where I couldn't get my key in my front door, and just one try and I couldn't get it in, and I started sobbing.
Selene Yeager (12:56):
When estrogen declines, I've done so much research on this now with Dr. Lisa Mosconi, our brains physically change. As estrogen declines, it affects our neurotransmitters, it affects cortisol wildly, cortisol, which is a stress hormone, goes up a lot. I've talked to rock climbers, they've gone up ever since, they've been everywhere, and all of a sudden, they're terrified on a pitch that they've done a million times. I had that happen on a mountain bike. I mean, things have gone down, I could do a blindfold, I'd be like, "I got to walk today. What is up?"
And that's what sort of got me to start this show that I started is that I'd start seeing, it was almost like a video game, women just sort of disappearing off the starting lines and of my age, I'm like, "Okay, I get it. Sometimes you're done, but this is not." And just knowing that I was experiencing all this, I'm sure that all these other women are experiencing this. And especially in an athletics space, no one's going to talk about it. And once I started talking about it, boy, it was shocking how many people were like, "Yes, me too. And thank you."
Robin Gelfenbien (14:00):
Mm-hmm. I remember just from the few endurance events that I've done, I remember when I was learning and training, mind over matter is so huge. So I feel like your mental fortitude was probably just so messed up with that. How did you overcome that, knowing you believe in all your heart that you can do this, but then your brain is telling you something else? How did you overcome that?
Selene Yeager (14:29):
I mean, I'll be a hundred percent transparent, there was a pretty tough year where I was just like, "I'm done and I think I just want to disappear." And I'd never been that way. I was just always like, I'd be the one in the Carmen Miranda suit racing at some single speed race. I never felt that way. And I was just like, "What is happening?"
I think just knowing, once I started educating myself a little more, because I'm a writer on this stuff, so I just started digging in what's happening. And once I understood the mechanism, it was easier because I was like, "Okay, I can talk back to this." I could put it in another part of my brain and be like, "Okay, I know what's going on so I can talk back to it." Sort of the same relationship that an athlete will have with pain, you know where it's coming from, so then you can kind of start talking back to it and maybe negotiating with it or whatever you do. And it's the same mental gymnastics with this, it's just like, "All right, I hear you. I hear you, Sheila. I know it's happening. Let's just calm down up there." It just helps. I think just knowledge is power, especially when you're going through stuff that otherwise you just don't understand and you think that this is maybe just the way you are now.
Christine Maginnis (15:41):
Can I just back that up a minute and say, I know you're a writer and I know you've wrote about menopause before reaching it, did you know much about perimenopause?
Selene Yeager (15:49):
Not anywhere to the extent. I had co-authored a book with Dr. Stacey Sims, the book was called ROAR, and that came out in 2016. And she is a pioneer in the space of women's training, physiology, nutrition, she has devoted her life to exploring scientifically how women respond to training and nutrition differently than men do because of their sex hormones and their cycles. So we had written a whole book and it included a chapter on menopause. So I was pretty well versed in how the hormonal cycle did impact some of this and when it started to get disruptive and those hormones declined, what that meant, but we didn't spend as much time in perimenopause itself when those hormones go crazy, when they go haywire.
And that's when it's really most disruptive because the brain, so I was saying before, it physically changes. Like Lisa Mosconi's work, I encourage anyone to look at it, she did a study that came out last year that our brains physically change as estrogen goes down. The gray matter and the white matter decrease, the glucose metabolism declines. Things get a little whacked out. But then they also rebound, as the brain weans off of it, it compensates and it comes back from it. But it's that middle part that's the most disruptive for most women, and that I didn't know.
And I also didn't know that estrogen was anabolic. I didn't know all this stuff. I didn't know that that's why your power and your muscle can start to disappear, and your bone can start to disappear so precipitously, is because estrogen also influences all of these mechanisms. I didn't know that either. I've always been a super muscular woman, and one day I looked in the mirror and was like, "Oh my God. What has happened?"
And as a trainer, when I was in my twenties and through my thirties, women would tell me this when they were in menopause, and I did not believe them, and every platform I have, I apologize to them, and I'm going to say I'm sorry again, "I'm sorry everyone I didn't believe because you were right, and no one listened to you, but you were correct. That is true." It can happen really fast because our sex hormones go off a cliff.
Men's testosterone is a nice gradual decline, so sure they have the same sort of effect over time, but it's literally over decades. But you'll see, if you look at women's hormones, they go just like you're throwing paint at a wall and then all of a sudden, they just go, boom. Of course, it affects everything. When you look at it that way, you're like, "Well, of course, this is how I feel." So no, to answer your question shortly, no, I did not know as much about perimenopause.
Christine Maginnis (18:15):
So I read the piece you wrote, I think it was in 2006, the letter you wrote to your younger self. So I'm going to challenge you a bit and say, what would you want your 45-year-old self to know about what's to come?
Selene Yeager (18:28):
I would want that person to know that even things that you don't think will affect you are going to affect you, like those body composition changes, that anxiety, that fearfulness. But it's not the end of the line, it's going to feel that way, but it's just a tunnel, it's a transition, and there's light at the end of that. So just keep going and educate yourself.
Christine Maginnis (18:51):
Why do you think there is such stigma on this topic? Why do you think we don't know more about it?
Selene Yeager (18:57):
Because there's stigma with everything with women and anything that is remotely uncomfortable, whatever. Like the menstrual cycle was a stigma for how long? And we're finally coming out of that and just talking openly like, "Yeah, we don't talk about that time of the month where women bleed and stuff," like, oh my Lord.
Christine Maginnis (19:14):
Remember hiding your tampon in your sleeve?
Selene Yeager (19:16):
Right. All this stuff. So we're finally through that. But menopause, it takes it one step further because we also have a very age-fearful society, right, and those two things kind of dovetail and go hand in hand in people's minds. But even though menopause can start in your early-forties and you're by no means going into the sunset at that point, I think people still have this very tight association with menopause as an old thing, so my God, I cannot say I'm menopausal because that means I'm old. And then, I have this whole other kettle fish that I need to deal with, and who wants to deal with that? Right. I think it's that simple. And we have all these values assigned to us that are linked, indirectly at least, to a reproductive viability, it's all of this. And we're starting to finally get past that, but it's really entrenched. So I am, I'm super hopeful for my daughter's generation and for even people not that far behind us because we are plowing a path through this stuff as we start talking about it more broadly like this.
Christine Maginnis (20:19):
Yeah, I agree. And I think I definitely relate to what you said about that feeling of being invisible. And I don't know if you know, I went into menopause at 34.
Selene Yeager (20:28):
Christine Maginnis (20:29):
I was one of them. I had premature ovarian, back then it was called failure, now it's called premature ovarian insufficiency.
Selene Yeager (20:35):
How was that?
Christine Maginnis (20:37):
It was really rough. Thank you for asking. So in 2002, the Women's Health Initiative study came out, which basically put the fear of God into women and doctors for prescribing HRT, so I was diagnosed the next year and no doctor would give me HRT. So I just gotten married and we were really athletically, this is where I get to be an athlete, trying to have a baby. And of course, I was missing periods and so, I was going through Costco-size quantities of at-home pregnancy tests because every time I missed a period, I thought I was pregnant, but I wasn't, it turns out I was menopausal. And so, you get this diagnosis at the same time you're trying to start a family and you're dealing with infertility and saying to your husband, "I don't know what happened to my libido, it was here yesterday, I don't know where it went." I relate to that feeling of being invisible.
Selene Yeager (21:26):
So you felt it way back then?
Christine Maginnis (21:28):
I did. And because I was going through this when my friends were all conceiving and having their families, and while I was very happy for them, I was stuck in this world where, I was teaching middle school, and I would hot flash all over the classroom. I mean, I'd just be dripping in sweat and the kids would say, "Mrs. Maginnis, are you all right? It's not that hot in here."
And then, I would go to the lunchroom and I couldn't talk to my peers about being in menopause, people my age, because they couldn't relate. And then, there were older women and when I brought it up with them, they were kind of like, "Sister, please." I wasn't quite fitting in there either, so I felt very alone in it. And I did feel invisible, and I had this sense of, "Oh, I miss the old me. I missed the old me. Will she ever come back?" And I went through that for a number of years as I went through this transition, and then I finally came to terms with, that isn't happening, there's a new you. And that might be common for a lot of women who go through menopause that there's a little bit of freedom that comes with it once you get through the worst of it.
Selene Yeager (22:27):
100%. And I think about this a lot because like I said, men don't have that abruptness of it. There's something about the abruptness of it that can be a gift if you let it be one because it stops you in your tracks and makes you think it was nice, because I would otherwise never stop. That's just not in my nature. So it did, it stopped me in my tracks and it made me assess a lot of things like, okay, what do I want out of sport? What do I want out of life? What do I want in this next chapter? Okay, things are going to change, change is not synonymous with bad, so let's think about this. And it, in some ways, lit fires that I don't think I would've lit otherwise. I don't know that I would have this podcast or this new initiative or just the excitement that I have around seeing what lies around the corner now. I don't know that that happened in the same way. So in that way, it's kind of really cool.
Robin Gelfenbien (23:26):
I think it's so encouraging for younger generations, like you're talking about your daughter and even people who are twenties, thirties who are coming up and it's just like, oh, there is hope because everything has been so negatively associated with menopause.
Selene Yeager (23:42):
That was my main, main, main initiative because when I did start doing research, wanting to start a podcast or wanting to start some stuff in this space, there wasn't a whole lot out there, nothing for my demographic, like for athletic women at all, especially women who are doing CrossFit and Ironman and all that kind of stuff. But what I was finding was the kind of stuff that the women's magazines were doing in the '90s and early 2000s, just so negative, talking about the Menopod and it was all weight-focused and it was negative and negative, and I was just like, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no." It's just like when you start down that negative place, it's hard to get positivity out of that dark hole. So then, it just becomes a dark hole that people are just sucked into and it feeds on itself. And so, that's one of the happiest things about the community, and it makes me happy every damn day is they're so positive.
Christine Maginnis (24:41):
Yeah. I mean, women live, on average now, 30 years after reaching menopause, that's a pretty big chapter of your life.
Selene Yeager (24:48):
Robin Gelfenbien (24:50):
Just going back when you were talking about how there's just hope for the younger generations, I was talking to my niece who's 13, and she showed me her little period bag and I was like, "Oh my God." We were talking about before, just hiding this, just having so much shame around it when I was 13. And I'm just wondering if you have any thoughts on, how do we normalize menopause? It's not that they're completely normalizing periods at this point, but what are the things you think we can do to get to that point?
Selene Yeager (25:20):
We're doing it. You're doing it. All this talk is very, very big. And it's funny, I had... Before I leave that thought, I mean, you have Michelle Obama and Oprah talking about it, so I think that pushes a giant door open. But in having all of these conversations and the more people just talk about it like a normal thing, I have men and women coming up to me at races these days, I'll be riding, I'll be like, "Can we talk about this not on this hill right now that we're all trying to do?" But dudes will come up and they'll just be like, "Oh, we listen. My wife and I, we both listen. And thank you. She feels so much better. And now she's talking to her doctor about, maybe, hormone therapy or whatever, to get through some of this depression, otherwise she wouldn't have heard about."
I firmly believe in the power of one, I devote my life to believing in that. I believe that if I talk on my podcast and I can reach 50,000 people in a month or whatever, then those 50,000 people can reach however, and you guys can reach, and that makes a cultural shift. It's all going to change because women in their fifties are coming into positions of power. Before us, you didn't have women in the workforce even, we're here and we're not going back, and there's only more women. So these conversations are a hundred percent going to be normalized, and there's only going to be progress from here.
I had a woman at a startup, actually, and I won't mention it because it really irritated me, but she asked me, she wanted to talk about what I was doing and the work they were doing. She wasn't menopausal, she was younger, but she said, "Well, we have some 50-year-old women on the board and blah, blah, blah." I'm like, "Well, that's good, that's important." And she said, "Well, do you think this is all just a fad?"
Christine Maginnis (27:00):
Oh. Oh my God.
Selene Yeager (27:03):
Oh, yeah. You can only imagine, because I don't have a poker face.
Christine Maginnis (27:07):
The more you age, the more you lose that.
Selene Yeager (27:09):
I mean, I kind of know what she was getting at, but still is like, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no."
Robin Gelfenbien (27:14):
Yeah, but what a teachable moment for her though too.
Selene Yeager (27:17):
Robin Gelfenbien (27:18):
Christine Maginnis (27:19):
When we originally started the idea of creating this nonprofit around this topic, we started as the Menopause Project, but then we said, no, Let's Talk Menopause. Let's talk because as soon as you talk, people come out of the woodwork.
Selene Yeager (27:35):
Yeah. And that's the other thing. I mean, I know women who stopped running because they wet themselves, and who wants to talk about that? But when you do talk about that, because that's actually one of the most treatable parts of all of this, there's actually many things you can do. But if you're just so ashamed and you just disappear, then nobody can help you because they don't know when the information's not out there.
Robin Gelfenbien (27:57):
Yeah. You were talking before about anxiety and how you would be up late and just mind kind of racing, but I also heard you say that you're not an overthinker, and so, I was wondering, how do you do it? How do you not overthink?
Christine Maginnis (28:15):
I know. Give us the secret.
Selene Yeager (28:17):
No one's ever asked me that before. So I am a catastrophic thinker, I have my pro card in catastrophic thinking. I'm very, very good at that. When I say I'm not an overthinker, I mean, I do big spontaneous things like buying houses and that kind of thing without thinking. Just wait, sometimes it doesn't go great, but sometimes, thinking a little more is a good idea. But if you ask me, "Do you want to sign up for this event?" And I'm just like, it looks cool to me, I'm very likely to just say yes. That's how I think about those two different things. So yeah, the world is ending always, so I'm always like, "I better just do things," but yeah, when I'm up in the middle of the night, it's all the catastrophic scenarios.
Christine Maginnis (29:04):
Definitely. Talk a little bit more about your podcast and what you've learned from talking to so many. You've had some great guests, and what have you learned?
Selene Yeager (29:12):
I've learned a lot, actually. I mean, like all this stuff I'm spouting at you now, I've learned a lot of it from my podcast. So we started in October of 2020 and we kicked it off with Dr. Stacy Sims because she and I are coming out with another book for this audience called Next Level. And I've had on rock climbers and dragon boat racers and triathletes and ultra runners and doctors of all kinds, which has been really great too, not just OB-GYNs, but podiatrists and cardiologists, and just really learning all the things that are within our control and, like I said, the power of educating yourself.
And really, I think the biggest thing I've learned is how much power and comfort comes from understanding, like I said, the science behind all this stuff. So I had on a sleep specialist, and she described the anxiety as a pride of lions in your brain. You wouldn't be able to sleep back in the... Because what stops you from sleeping, you have sleep pressure and you have all this stuff, the anxiety part wakes you up because it's evolutionary. If there's something to be worried about, you should be waking up. Right? But there's things that we don't need to be worried about, and our brain is artificially stressed because of that cortisol that I was talking about before. So just knowing that.
And then knowing, "Okay, I need to take care of this stress part, this cortisol thing, and then dominoes are going to fall. And I'm going to sleep better. And then when I'm sleep better, I'll be less anxious because that helps. And then, the body composition will be better." Just knowing that there's these bigger pillars that if you had knock on one, it has a knock on effect on all the other ones. And that is super, super empowering. Taking that back to those fundamental pillars has been instrumental in my life. I sleep like a baby now. But again, without having all these conversations with all these different people who bring all this information to the table, you could spend months trying to figure out like why do my joints hurt? Or why am I going to 12 different doctors for symptoms that are generated from basically the same thing?
Christine Maginnis (31:16):
It's so refreshing to, instead of saying, what's wrong with me? This self-blame like, what is the matter with me? Why am I crying about this? Why can't I sleep? When you say there's a medical reason that your body is going through this medical transition and your hormones are fluctuating wildly, you can take the self-blame out of it.
Selene Yeager (31:35):
Christine Maginnis (31:36):
I'm going through a medical transition.
Selene Yeager (31:39):
My body is physically changing right now. How can I work with it? "How can I help you, body?"
Christine Maginnis (31:42):
Selene Yeager (31:43):
Christine Maginnis (31:44):
I like that.
Robin Gelfenbien (31:45):
Just thinking about the medical aspect of that, and you said you've had all these doctors on your podcast, do you find now that maybe incrementally doctors are becoming a little bit more educated around the topic of menopause? Because for decades, centuries, eons, that has not been the case.
Selene Yeager (32:04):
Even in OB-GYN, there's a study that came out that only 20% of them had gotten trained in menopause, which is unbelievable.
Christine Maginnis (32:13):
Yeah, their coursework is elective. Like women's health is elective?
Selene Yeager (32:16):
Yes. That makes me insane too. But yes, to answer your question, one of the cardiologists I had on, light bulbs were going off all over her, she's like, "We need to talk about this more. That needs to change."
Robin Gelfenbien (32:28):
That must feel so good, and I know it's not single-handedly, even though you have been called the face of menopause, but knowing that you're having such an impact.
Selene Yeager (32:38):
It's enormously satisfying. When I started at Bicycling, I was one of the few women in this space. And it felt really impactful and important at that time. I was definitely helping getting more women into sport, and that was empowering more people. This feels, right now, to me, if I die tomorrow and this is the legacy I've left behind, I will have lived a good life.
Robin Gelfenbien (33:01):
Yeah. Yeah. I had one other question about doctors. Did your doctor say anything to you about menopause when you were experiencing different potential symptoms?
Selene Yeager (33:10):
I didn't even bring it up because I didn't think to bring it up. I never actually sought any kind of help for that because A, that's just not sort of my nature, but I also just didn't think that it would be something to bring up with a doctor, as silly as that might sound now. But now, I have a menopause-trained practitioner who I talk to, who's also part of CrossFit Health, and somebody that I've had on my show. And I'm like, "This is amazing. I can have a long, detailed, personal conversation with a very smart, trained professional who's one of the top doctors in Boston, and she speaks my language and is going to help me be my best in my capacity as this active woman in menopause, which is amazing."
Robin Gelfenbien (33:54):
That's awesome. And I would think, aside from getting this unbelievable information and advice, but just feeling less alone about the whole-
Selene Yeager (34:04):
Oh, so great.
Robin Gelfenbien (34:05):
... experience. Yeah. I mean, you've done so much and I was surprised to hear that you felt alone when you were going through menopause. And I know you talked about hearing from people at races and stuff, but when you first shared your story, what was the response, and what really surprised you?
Selene Yeager (34:24):
I think I was surprised how willing other people were to talk. Do you know? I wasn't sure that was going to happen. I wasn't sure. It was actually quite anxiety-producing to launch that podcast because I was like, "Okay, here I come world. I'm going to talk about this thing that nobody is talking about." And I wasn't sure how it was going to land. And I wasn't really sure. I mean, I knew I was plugging into an audience, I knew they were there, but I wasn't sure how willing... You know, Rebecca Rusch, who's that athlete who's a seven-time world champion, she's still out there kicking ass. When I asked her to be on the second podcast, I wasn't sure she was going to say yes, because I wasn't sure she was going to want to talk about it. But she's like, "Yeah." She's like, "I've never actually said menopause." She's 53, never said menopause.
But she went to her coach and she's like, "I want to see my power numbers," which is when you ride a bicycle that has a power meter, tells you how powerful you are. She asked her coach, "I want to see my power numbers before and after menopause." He's like, "When did you go through menopause?" She's having this conversation with this very high profile coach about menopause. And I am starting to hear menopause getting brought up on all these other cycling podcasts, and I don't think that's a coincidence. Right. So that is what I'm finding to be fascinating. And maybe what surprised me is, once somebody made it okay and open, how many other people were actually willing to come forth and just talk super openly about it. I'm always delighted and maybe a little surprised when the athletes I have on, who are still active, are like, "Yes, I'll come on your show and I'll talk about this thing."
Christine Maginnis (36:05):
So is life better before menopause or after menopause?
Selene Yeager (36:10):
There's no better or worse, it's different, but it's equally good.
Robin Gelfenbien (36:14):
No, that's great. And I also love your mantra, which I would ask you to just share with our listeners about just around this space. Would you tell us what that is?
Selene Yeager (36:25):
Yeah, live forward, because I think, I don't think, I know, that many people, men and women, but let's stay in the women's space, when they hit this place and it's uncomfortable and things aren't working the same way and they're not liking what they're seeing, they immediately kind of flip and they start looking in the rear view mirror and they start just looking backwards and looking backwards and looking backwards, and it's just too early in your life to be just looking backwards and looking backwards on this life that you had and not the life that is in front of you.
And I just really firmly believe that you should live forward as long as you can. I mean, I understand, maybe when I'm in my eighties, I'll start looking back a little, but even then, just keep looking forward, live forward. When I raced, I would always not want to look over my shoulder because the race is in front of me. Right. There's not much I can do. If something's coming up on me, it's coming up on me, I'm going as fast as I can. So just keep eyes forward, that's where it's happening, that's what's going on. So I carry that on into this space. I think live forward because there's a lot of great things that are out there still.
Robin Gelfenbien (37:30):
Yeah, it's awesome and I think it's so inspiring. And will you tell us a little bit about the book?
Selene Yeager (37:35):
Sure. It is called Next Level, and that is with Dr. Stacy Sims, who I was alluding to earlier. And it's really just about keep on kicking and performing well as a performance-minded woman going through the menopause transition
Robin Gelfenbien (37:49):
And where can people find out about you, about Hit Play Not Pause, and all of the awesome initiatives you've got going on?
Selene Yeager (37:56):
I would invite everyone to go to feistymenopause.com, that's where they can find everything. It's the company that hosts my podcast as well as the membership that I have affiliated with that and all the good things that we do. It's called Live Feisty Media. They do all things feisty, Feisty Triathlon, feisty this. And so, we are feistymenopause.com. Come check us out.
Christine Maginnis (38:16):
I love it. Stay feisty.
Robin Gelfenbien (38:18):
It is. It's just got such awesome energy behind it, just the podcast name. It's just like you instantly can glean that this is going to be a little bit different from the other conversations that we've heard about menopause for so long. So thanks so much for talking with us today and for everything you're doing. And I hope to see you out there on the road, although you'll fly right by me and just kick my ass.
Christine Maginnis (38:41):
Thank you, Selene. It meant everything.
Selene Yeager (38:43):
Thanks for the work you're doing. Thanks a lot.
Robin Gelfenbien (38:52):
So I love talking to Selene. She is so down to earth, so real, just so completely embraces who she is and is not afraid to share who she is.
Christine Maginnis (39:02):
I feel the same. What I love about her is she's clearly a strong, badass woman, but she has no trouble, especially in her writing, being vulnerable about the time she struggles, and I just feel like that's a gift to present that to other people, that you can be a strong, fierce woman and honest about the vulnerabilities we face.
Robin Gelfenbien (39:21):
Mm-hmm. Yeah. What really stood out to me was, well, two things, one was just the power of one and how by sharing your own story that it can have such a ripple effect, and the fact that she was brave enough to do that and now she's getting the word out, just so many people, including the medical community, which is huge, is awesome. The second part that I really loved was just how her whole angle is giving people hope, and it's all about positivity, and it's not like this is a death sentence.
Christine Maginnis (39:49):
Robin Gelfenbien (39:50):
What did you think?
Christine Maginnis (39:51):
I agree with that. And I was glad you brought up Live Forward because I hadn't heard that before and I thought, what a great way to frame, not just going through menopause, but life, like live forward. And I think going through menopause, you do grieve a bit for what you've lost and the person you used to be, but a whole new set of opportunities present, and it's true, live forward. I love that.
Robin Gelfenbien (40:14):
Yeah. Well, it also kind of goes along with the idea of Hit Play Not Pause. It's like, don't stand still, don't look back, keep it moving.
Christine Maginnis (40:23):
Right. Anybody who bikes up 200 hilly miles of gravel-
Robin Gelfenbien (40:28):
Christine Maginnis (40:29):
... knows what she's talking about.
Robin Gelfenbien (40:30):
Totally. She's such a force. I think she's just so inspiring. I'm really glad that we got a chance to talk to her.
Christine Maginnis (40:37):
Me too. Hey, listeners, if you enjoy this podcast as much as we enjoy recording it, we'd love it If you could help us out.
Robin Gelfenbien (40:48):
All you have to do is rate and review the show, and it will help us reach more listeners. It only takes a minute and it makes a huge difference.
Christine Maginnis (40:57):
It really does. And if you want to follow the show while you're at it, we won't mind.
Robin Gelfenbien (41:01):
No, we won't. And don't forget to tell your friends to check it out too.
Christine Maginnis (41:06):
Our mission at Let's Talk Menopause is to give people the information they need so they can get the healthcare they deserve. Please visit our website at letstalkmenopause.org for a wealth of menopause information, including a symptoms' checklist, information about long-term health risks, how to navigate menopause at work, interviews with health experts, and so much more.
Robin Gelfenbien (41:28):
A big thank you to Always Discreet for sponsoring this episode of Hello Menopause. Always Discreet because we deserve better.
Christine Maginnis (41:36):
Hello Menopause is a production from Let Talk Menopause made in partnership with FRQNCY Media. I'm your host, Christine McGinnis.
Robin Gelfenbien (41:44):
And I'm your host Robin Gelfenbien.
Christine Maginnis (41:46):
Ina Garcousha is our supervising producer, and Alana Hurlins is our producer. Laura Boyman and Catherine Divine are our associate producers.
Robin Gelfenbien (41:55):
Sydney Evans is our dialogue editor. And Claire Bidigare-Curtis is our sound designer. Hello Menopause was concepted by Jessica Olivier, Jill Bisheznik, and Becca Godwin.
Christine Maginnis (42:06):
This podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and wherever podcasts are found.
Robin Gelfenbien (42:13):
So check it out.