Menopause and lifting.
Why it's so important.
An interview with Tam Kerr from Tam's Tribe
Hello Tam. We have been watching you and what you do for a while now. Can you introduce yourself for any of our followers who don't yet know you.
My name is Tam Kerr, and I am a women’s strength coach. I started my business Tams Tribe to create a community of like minded women, whose number one priority was to take care of their bodies, their health and feel supported and educated whilst doing so. I want to share my passion for safe strength training with as many women as possible along my journey. I work closely with many health professionals to educate & support women through their exercise journeys especially those going through the stages of menopause and injury rehabilitation (especially pelvic related injuries).
At our clinic we see a lot of post-menopausal women for all sorts of pelvic floor and bladder related problems, as well as musculoskeletal problems such as hip pain. We want them to move, and in particular would love them to strength train. Can you run through some of the benefits of strength training in this particular population?
During these years of peri-menopause & post menopause women can lose a significant amount of bone and muscle each year putting them at higher risk of an array of injuries as you mentioned. Strength training can slow down and even reverse some of these symptoms. Post menopausal women need to be strength training; I have seen the effects strength training can have on them and it is remarkable. My mum reversed her osteopenia (bone loss), I have trained women suffering menopausal depression & anxiety, watching strength training lift their mood, self esteem & gain their confidence back. I have seen women with pelvic floor & bladder related problems be able to return to the exercise they love post a strength training program. I have been able to help women with musculoskeletal problems become pain free & improve their everyday living. There are just too many benefits to list for this population. If you’re over 35 and not lifting weights I really encourage you to start now & if you’re 50 or above it is also never too late to start. You can slow down bone loss and regain muscle loss at any age. I have women in their 70’s & 80’s training with me right now.
There are lots of barriers to people exercising and this also rings true for our post-menopausal women. Do you have any tips to help them overcome this barrier and start lifting?
Fear is the biggest barrier I see when it comes to strength training, especially for post-menopausal women. It can be incredibly scary to take the first step. They often haven’t exercised for years, have no experience with strength training, no longer trust their bodies (due to pain, injury, or just feeling weak) or have had a bad coaching experience. My biggest tip is to grow a support team around you who know their stuff, do your research & find a coach who has experience with menopausal women, I have the most amazing network around me to support my ladies, from sports doctors, physiotherapist, massage therapists, menopause specialists etc and we all work together to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. I always say to my ladies, if you started a new job it would take you months or years to know the entire role with the guidance of others, so don't think of strength training any differently, don't try it alone, it is really complex, you will need help & support. And don’t forget you don’t have to go to the gym to strength train, you can do it in your own lounge room with the right program & coach.
What should someone expect if they are to come to a session with yourself? Would it be straight into lifting? How heavy would they start? Do they work the whole body or just certain muscle groups?
My clients reading this question right now will be laughing. Laughing because a lot of the first phase of training with me is learning how to breathe, yes lying on your back learning to breathe again. I see a lot of dysfunctional breathing and as you know as physiotherapists this can have a whole effect on the body. We always start with learning to breathe efficiently, then we learn (if they haven’t done this with their women's health physio already) how to connect that breath to their deep core & pelvic floor. Then we apply breathing & core training to the basic movement patterns like, squat, hinge, push, pull. This is usually just body weight to begin with before adding any external load. We will always work the whole body (unless injury prevents) & depending on the individual we may focus more on certain areas depending on their strengths and weaknesses. It will also always be paired with plenty of mobility & flexibility too.
I know you work closely with a few brilliant local women's health physiotherapists. This would obviously be helpful in managing any pelvic floor-related symptoms that may be of concern when strength training. Are there any other practitioners that you work with to help get the best out of women's bodies?
Yes yes yes, I am a huge believer in collaborating with other practitioners so our beautiful women can really feel supported & extremely well educated throughout their journey especially their post-menopause years. Depending on each individual client's needs I might refer them to some of the amazing women below
Here are some of the practitioners I work with closely
Dr Brandi Cole @ Shire Sports Medicine - Sports Doctor
Belinda Ashworth @ Me First Health & Wellness - Massage, Menopausal Nutrition & Health
Bronte Williamson @ Nourished Not Deprived - Dietician
Sheryl Carroll @ YTV Health Coaching - Holistic Health Coach & Integrative Health Practitioner
Sophie Carroll @ Enlighten Collective - Women’s Health Physiotherapist + more in the collective including as you mentioned many local women’s health physiotherapists.
We saw a recent post of yours and couldn't resist asking this question - you were talking about the most misunderstood "core muscle". What muscle is that and what do we need to know about it?
Yes “The Lats” (latissimus dorsi). When most people think core, they just think of muscles like rectus abdominis or obliques which are core muscles but aren’t the only ones, what isn’t always understood is the core is composed of as many as 35 different muscle groups connecting into the pelvis from the spine and hip area, one of those being “The Lats”.
Why are strong lats so important? Because they are massive muscles & the ONLY connection we have from the upper body to our pelvis. Therefore they play a huge role in stabilising the neck, the shoulder, the back, the pelvis & the hips. Think of them as a stability powerhouse throughout your entire system. If the lats aren't strong, we tend to see compensation in movement that leads to pain or injury in any of the above mentioned areas. My ladies strength programs will always involve upper body training & specifically “lat” strengthening with exercises like rows, deadlifts, lat pull downs & much more.