Perimenopause represents a significant chunk of a woman’s life; yet it’s rarely discussed, and women are often at a loss when it comes to managing symptoms.
Tracy Minnoch-Nuku wants to change all that.
Minnoch-Nuku (B.Ph.Ed – Otago, NZ and MBA, Vic, Melb.) is an educated and experienced advocate for women’s health and fitness. She’s the author of My Menopause Memoir and the creator and host of the acclaimed podcast, Sexy Ageing. Through her platform, she’s begun a frank and open conversation to help women navigate this change—and thrive.
In this episode, we get into her own experience with perimenopause, what fitness pros need to keep in mind when working with 40+ women, and how to shift your mindset to see the benefits that come with age.
Tiffy Thompson: 0:05
Hi, and welcome to Women in Fitness Business. Today, I’m talking with Tracy Minnoch-Nuku. She is a group-class trainer, a personal trainer, mentor, and fitness business consultant. She was one of the original master trainers for Les Mills, New Zealand, and went on to develop her own brand of boutique fitness clubs with Fire Fitness. She’s the author of “My Menopause Memoir” and the creator and host of the acclaimed podcast “Sexy Ageing.” Today, we get into her own experience with perimenopause, what fitness pros need to keep in mind when working with 40-plus women, and how to shift your mindset and find the benefits to growing older. If you like the show, please hit subscribe wherever you get your podcast. Tracy , welcome to the show.Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 0:58
Hey, thanks for having me. It’s so nice to talk to someone from the other side of the world. I really do love catching up with people from all over the world. So thanks again for having me.Tiffy Thompson: 1:08
You’ve been a long-time fitness professional. Was there a part of you that thought, “Well, I’m fit and I’m healthy and I take care of myself—menopause won’t affect me”? Like, did you ever have that sort of idea that it wouldn’t be that impactful on your life?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 1:28
OK, so you put a couple of words together: fitness, professional and menopause. And this is the part where I need to let all the fitness professionals out there know that I had never heard of the word while I was actually going through it. Wow . Menopause comes in multiple stages. I did not know that <laugh> And the toughest stage is probably what we know is perimenopause, where you start to have lots of different things happen to your body and your mind—they impact one another. So it’s a flip-flop between different symptoms. And so I was working with my husband on our new business in Malaysia, and I would consider that a stressful moment because we were starting a new company. It was called Fire Fitness in Malaysia, the high-end boutique fitness studios. And so I was sort of smack in the middle of that, what I would consider high stress, not sleeping very well, but at the, when I look back on it, it was just straight-up perimenopause. So when I kind of put together the fitness professional menopause thing, I think that to be honest, not a lot of fitness professionals understand the impact of the perimenopause phase to your career, your personal fitness training, your recovery, your stress levels, your nutrition, like it just is a domino effect towards , um, not a good time unless you know how to manage it. So does that answer your question? <laugh>Tiffy Thompson: 3:03
Yeah, so for those of us kind of chugging along, keeping everything going, managing your career, managing your home life, your kids , trying to stay fit and keep all the balls in the air, so to speak, the loss of control over what’s happening in your body seems to be the most unsettling aspect of this. Was it that way for you?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 3:28
Yeah, for sure. And I think when you are in the fitness industry , up until probably a couple of years ago, it was physically focused, you know, like health and fitness—not so much the mental wellness aspect of it. Although I think that has radically changed in the last couple of years. And there’s lots of studies that prove that people are now participating in fitness for their mental wellness as one of the number one reasons. But when , prior to the pandemic, I think, you know, we were still really promoting fitness as a way to change the way you look physically. And so if you’re in the fitness industry, that is an important part of, you know, representing and role modeling, it’s not like I put on a significant amount of weight. I’m actually an ectomorph. So putting on weight is a challenge, but I was definitely losing muscle. I couldn’t really, I couldn’t really see that visually. And to be honest, I don’t really nitpick on myself. I haven’t given up on that because I’ve got way too many other things to worry about. As long as I can move, as long as I can get up and participate, as long as I feel good doing it, but those things shifted. So there were days I couldn’t participate. There were days I didn’t recover. There were days that I just did not want to exercise. And that was a real shift in mind. And it was based on what was happening to the body physically. So sarcopenia, the loss of muscle, Is quite a big one for women going through perimenopause—and the reason why we need to shift the way we train women through this phase of life.Tiffy Thompson: 5:05
So when you kind of look over your experience with perimenopause and menopause and now postmenopause what was the most difficult thing to deal with?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 5:19
OK. So let’s also talk about the stages of menopause. So premenopause could be anything from 35 plus . OK . And so for a lot of women , they , these days women are having children later in life . And so your hormones will start shifting anytime from 35 plus . What that means is generally your progesterone estrogen hormones will start to waiver . And that’s why you often hear a doctor say, “Oh, you know, you should probably have a baby before the age 35 .” And now I realize <laugh> why that is . So for anyone who’s out there in their 30s, then 35 and above is probably about the time you need to pay attention to any of these conversations on menopause generally. Um, so perimenopause is anything from four to 10 years long , and that’s where we have a record of symptoms. And the average number right now is 35 symptoms. And that is actually growing. I had 29 symptoms. And so I’m a fitness person that understands my body. And I can say I had 29 out of 35. So that was a bit of a rock concert right there. And I’m still in perimenopause. So that means I haven’t yet had one whole year without a period. Right . So I will get a period maybe every three or four months. And I actually , I found out that when my daughter comes back from school, cuz she’s in boarding school, when she comes back from school and we’re hanging out, I might get a period <laugh>. That’s interesting. So we in the house , we have a teenager at the start of the reproductive cycle . We have a mom at the end of the reproductive cycle, and we kind of sync up even then. So I’m thinking by the time she goes away for longer, I might get closer to that “official” one day . So menopause is just one day where you haven’t had a period for 12 months and then everything after that is postmenopause . So I’m still in perimenopause. Although I can honestly say that symptomatic wise , I’m doing really, really well. I’m also on HRT. So that has helped me significantly. Yeah .Tiffy Thompson: 7:43
I wanna talk a little bit about your journey towards HRT because I know there’s been a lot of bad publicity surrounding it and it’s—not only is menopause and perimenopause not really talked about but how to deal with these symptoms as they come isn’t really discussed at all. So women are kind of in a black hole trying to figure out themselves. Can you talk about how you got there ?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 8:10
Yeah , Tiffy, I was in the black hole. So <laugh> for all the woman out there that, you know, you wake up or you, or wake up is just like a dream because you’ve actually been awake all night, that’s one of the first symptoms: you know, poor sleep , like horrendous sleep , and everything that goes with that. So the reason why I started my podcast , Sexy Ageing, was because I couldn’t find anyone to talk to. So here I am living in Malaysia, been there for 20 years. And during that time and working in the fitness industry, most of my colleagues were a lot younger than me. They’re young, you know, vibrant fitness people, some of them just getting into the fitness industry for the first time. So they’re all kind of gung ho and quite a bit younger than me, anything from say 10 to 20 years younger. So there isn’t anyone in my cohort that I would be able to share these symptoms with. And then there were older friends, but nobody mentioned the word and nobody ever mentioned any symptoms. There was no discussion. So I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. When I went to my gynecologist, and I went there for , you know, your regular checkups and stuff, she recommended because I had a late pregnancy that my next stage of contraception would be the Mirena IUS that would support me through this next phase of life. And that’s all I remember her saying, not the word “menopause.” And so for a couple of years, even after that appointment , I was going through perimenopause and still didn’t know what it was. And so I being an open person and, you know, loving the science of the body and how that relates to performance, rest-recovery, muscular atrophy , all of those things that we’ve, you know, we’ve lived a life in the physical world of fitness. I was like, “Well, this is happening to me. And so what’s actually happening to everyone else. Is everyone else. OK?” And because I had no one to speak to, I thought, “Well, I am just gonna ring people up , record this conversation and start a podcast.” And that’s literally where it started from. It’s like I had no idea. So if you listen through my podcast episodes, one up to 18 , I am in a very exploratory phase . I am not the person who knows anything. I have done a little bit of research by that stage, but the people I get to talk to really do help me wrap my head around what’s going on. When I get to Episode 18, I interview one of the top women’s health experts in the world. And she works with a lady called Dr. Louise Newson, who’s quite well known, who has an app called the Balance app, which is like number one woman’s health and fitness, health app, not fitness, to help women understand their cycles and menopause. And so she works directly with her . I spoke to Dr . Rebecca Little and she gave me my first education on HRT . And that got me thinking. So here I am, managed to deal with quite a few symptoms naturally, and look, hand on heart as a fitness professional, say, whatever you can do as naturally as possible, your foundations are sleep movement, nutrition, rest-recovery, stress relief, like those are the foundations of a healthy life. You do those, those are really important. If anything, double down, cause it’s gonna get tougher at this time of life. So I think I probably had 80 percent of my symptoms under control naturally, but there was the 20 percent, and the 20 percent as a fitness professional is the thing that affected me. So I couldn’t train every day . My muscles didn’t recover. My joints felt like I was 80 and I had the most horrendous brain fog. I couldn’t remember things. I didn’t know where I was supposed to be. I’d walk into a room and go, “I have no idea why I’m here.” I would forget friends names when I went to introduce them . I mean, how freaking embarrassing is that? Like, you’re thinking, “OK I’m gonna , this person I’m gonna introduce to this person , oh , what’s their name?” And that was just horrible . And so for me , I’m like, “Well, if HRT can fix those little things, then why not?” So I did all the research. Obviously there was a horrendous study 20 years ago. I think we’re probably past this conversation now. I feel like I’ve moved quite quickly past that. And I know that HRT is a really fantastic option for so many women. So I’m like, “I’m gonna give it a shot.” And then I came up against my next hurdle , which is a GP that doesn’t know what the product does , a GP who doesn’t understand menopause and all the symptoms. So I’m in my GP’s office , literally giving her an education and showing her the Balance app , which prints out the symptoms that you’re tracking. It’s an amazing thing. And then asking for HRT, and she wouldn’t let me have it until I did a blood test. Now here’s the thing. Blood tests do not show that you’re in perimenopause. So start tracking symptoms. That’s the best way to do it. And just track symptoms for a month. And once you’ve got, you know, you only need to have actually, to be honest, if you tell your GP “hot flashes keeping me awake at night,” you’ll probably get HRT. But it’s horrendous that you have to use that . Cause I didn’t get , I wasn’t getting , you know , serious hot flashes. So yeah. So then I managed to write about my experience trying to get HRT, which is to help every other woman out there. Not because I’m special and have looked at the science or the research and spoken to the experts but because I was a woman on the ground talking to my GP who lives around the corner and also coming up against the hurdles of accessing HRT. So yes.Tiffy Thompson: 14:07
So then you’ve just, you’ve just published your book, “My Menopause Memoir.”Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 14:15
Yes . Thank you .Tiffy Thompson: 14:17
What are you hearing from women who are reading this book?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 14:21
So once I started HRT, I had all this energy <laugh> and I thought, “Hey, you know what? I’m just gonna start writing .” And it was my husband that kind of encouraged me to write because we would go out walking or jogging and I would just be like “blah, blah , blah , blah , blah” about the podcast and the people I was interviewing and the stuff I was learning. And I think he was just like, “Can you just write that down because I wanna talk about something else?” <Laugh>. So I started writing and I based it around the 29 symptoms. I thought that was a good place to start. And what was really cool is I reached out to a lot of other women around the world, many podcast guests, and said, “Would you contribute your story?” So they did. So I ended up not just my experience but experience from women around the world. And of course there were symptoms I didn’t have. And so I was able to tap into their stories. And I also spoke to some of the top experts and women’s menopause experts to get the tips around managing the symptoms. And of course I’d managed quite a few myself already. So I did have a pretty good understanding, but I did definitely want that credibility from the experts because I don’t wanna sell or put something out there that’s false. And so all the tips that are in there for every symptom are in the book, but the, you know, when you put something out there and it’s personal and a lot of it’s personal, the stories , there are stories in there that I never spoke to anybody about and they’re in the book, and then people come back and send you messages around “you literally saved my life. I thought I was alone . I had no idea how this was impacting my relationships.” So stuff that I knew, probably more on the mental wellness aspect, had such a huge outpouring of love for the book. And you know, how it is. People say, “If you just get one person that feels like you’ve made a difference…” I got more than one, but one that I did get that, you know, definitely it was about the level of depression and how she was ready to commit suicide, that she couldn’t imagine herself living like that every day . That for me was just gold. Like, “If I never sell another copy again, I’ve done my purpose .”Tiffy Thompson: 16:44
I think it also kind of falls in line with this whole pandemic world we’ve been living in and being so disconnected from each other and isolated, and that being compounded by going through these symptoms where you really feel like you’re all alone. What effect do you think the pandemic had on this journey that you’ve been through ?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 17:10
Yeah , I mean , taking myself outta the equation—there are going to be some studies that show the effect of the pandemic on women and menopause. So they’ll be coming up pretty soon if they’re not out already. And , I think what we can agree on from a physical perspective as a fitness professional, women in menopause need to be lifting heavy weights for a lot of reasons , increasing the hormones in the body ’cause weight training does that. So that’s good. Strengthening the joints because , you know, osteoporosis is something that kicks in. Keeping the heart healthy—strength training does that. So there’s a whole lot of reasons why we need to change up the way we change in our 40s and become more strength focused. Uh , when you’re in a lockdown situation or a pandemic, you might not be able to get to the gym to do that , those kinda weights . So there’s something right there. So from a health perspective, in a physical health perspective, for someone going through perimenopause, that’s a problem, right? Not accessing the heavy weights that you can normally get. I mean , if you’ve got some dumbbells and stuff at home , you can only do your best , but it’s probably not good enough . And then from the mental wellness perspective for women being able to communicate and talk and catch up with friends in that community aspect, which helps balance your dopamine and your serotonin and your feel-good hormones when you’re not getting those regular hits. When we talk about menopause, we’re not just talking about estrogen and progesterone. We talk about everything and everything is linked. And so just not being able to catch up for a girl’s night out, you know, like that that’s actually has a bit of impact on how you feel. You know, anxiety levels go up, depression levels go up. For women who commit suicide, the menopause phase is the highest phase for suicide of women . So is there a link to that? Yeah, <laugh> there is .Tiffy Thompson: 19:08
What do you wish that more fitness professionals knew when it comes to working with perimenopausal or, or menopausal women?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 19:20
That’s an awesome and very hot question right now. So , my recent episode that went out this morning, I speak with a personal trainer who discovered for himself what was happening with some of his clients. And we was discussing how neither of us in our college education ever came up against menopause and training. So we cover puberty, we cover the menstrual cycle for women . We cover , we as fitness professionals, we generally understand how to train a pregnant person . We know how to help them recover. And then that’s it . Thank you . Carry on.Tiffy Thompson: 20:01
<laugh> . Yeah.Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 20:03
And that’s actually a real problem because women in their 40s generally can afford personal training, and their lifestyle and their health and fitness becomes an important thing for them. They understand that. And so they will tap into personal-training services, but they’ll also come up against the weight gain that happens despite the training , the muscle pain and fatigue, and things that happen that start to kick in because of perimenopause. And if their personal trainer does not know to look out for these things, then they will continue to pay money for no results. And this is where I want to encourage personal trainers and fitness professionals to get on top of what’s actually happening to women in this phase of life and how you can help them. It’s not all physical assistance to help them , you know, physically get their six pack back , or , I mean , we’re not even gonna have that conversation, but what we’re talking about is “how can we make those training sessions really enjoyable and valuable and make them feel like they’re getting the gains that they need?”—which is strength, no loss to muscle , mental wellness and feeling good about what they’re doing, looking after their health. So those things come up the ranks, and I think women in their 40s do start to think like “this is really important for my health and well- being.” So I just wanted to challenge , you know , fitness professionals to start into , you know , why is it that you can’t results ? Why are my clients putting on weight despite, the fact that they’ve training with me five years and they’re amazing? You know, even though their diets are just immaculate as well, you know? I’m actually developing a course right now, which is gonna go on my new website. So I’ll let you know when it goes live. Yeah . But I’ve actually written the course, and it is seven modules, which breaks down—I’m passionate about fitness. So there’s a lot of stuff around how to train women in this stage. There’s things about nutrition, which changes as well. And I do a big section on stress, the impact of stress , the importance of rest and recovery. And I do a little section on community and joy and how that’s so important. So , I mean this whole journey through the fitness industry has brought me to this stage where I am deeply passionate in helping women in this stage of life .Tiffy Thompson: 22:37
I guess you had that sort of aha moment with your husband where you decided to start the podcast. Do you have any advice for women who are looking to make a similar sort of shift in their career from one aspect to another?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 22:55
Um, I think that’s one of the coolest things about mid- life and aging is once you can get the brain fog out of the way, things become very clear. <laugh> Very clear about your life. So “who do I like working with? What area of fitness am I deeply passionate about? How do I think I can help people and what do I want to get up every day and do?” So those are sort of some of the questions that , um, that I answered for myself. And I think that comes from an altruistic place of just knowing. And when you answer those questions, you get really excited and the excitement doesn’t go away and it’s like a year later and you’re even more excited about the opportunities. And I think that that applies not just to this particular space in fitness but for any space in fitness or anything in life—it’s just knowing that whatever you’re gonna put out there in the world, you’re doing it every day with a lot of joy and authenticity and honesty . And I think that people will buy into you when you are honest like that. And you being yourself. Of course. So, yeah. Another thing with mid- life is you just honor and accept who you are. And your BS meter is excellent as well. < laugh>Tiffy Thompson: 24:19
Yeah . Looking back over your career, what would you say is your entrepreneurial superpower?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 24:28
I’m very creative. Like my brain just goes off , and the moments that those creative thoughts enter, I’m usually exercising. So it’s interesting, isn’t it, how the physicality of movement actually helps my creativity? And so I sometimes will go out for a run and I’ve got my phone with me. I’m listening to music, but I’ll put on the voice memo and voice record an idea because I can’t contain all the ideas. So yeah, it was podcasts, then it was books, then it was course and it was website, then it’s <laugh> , you know, and then it’s like online classes. It’s just how I’m gonna do it that’s different to what everyone else is doing. So , yeah, my superpower is creativity and in the fitness industry, I’ve used that to create workouts and programs that are still taught today. And events, event management , social media marketing. I mean, I’m not an expert in that field, but I do know what lights me up. And so I can turn that and , you know, sort of pivot that to something that’s in the fitness industry.Tiffy Thompson: 25:38
When you look towards the future, what’s your next five-year goal?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 25:45
I’m gonna stick in this space , um , in Sexy Ageing. So Sexy Ageing is a brand. It started off as just the podcast. And honestly it was only ever gonna be a podcast, and it would be a hobby, but then it accelerated and, you know, you just know that you can do more and then it could be your job. So it is getting towards that space where I will have a career in this space across different pillars of wellness, and it will come under the Sexy Ageing brand . So I’m gonna stick around for the—in five years , I’m giving myself , I always give myself five years with any company as well. But , you know , if it’s , it’s something that I love, I don’t see myself stopping at any stage in life. As long as you love what you do, there’s always more to be done. And I think a good thing is like also you get to the stage of life, if it’s not all about the financials, then you can just keep going. Cause you’re getting joy every day either by putting something out there and going, “Oh, I’m so proud of what I put out there. I’m really happy that I did that .” And then the feedback that comes back—I mean , it’s so nice to get positive feedback , but I think you’ve got to put it out there just from a place of personal joy first . Then you , if you do get positive feedback then you just keep going. I actually consult to other business, and that sort of gives me a bit of money to put into my own thing . So it’s not like I’ve stopped working in the fitness industry. I do work , but my goal is that I’ll be working for myself and I’ll be working for Sexy Ageing. That’s the future .Tiffy Thompson: 27:36
I think a lot of women have had this idea that once you hit a certain age, you sort of become invisible. You’re just, you know , irrelevant. What would you say to those women?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 27:51
Hmm , yes. I have felt that moment, I think. Yeah. I think it’s incredibly challenging. I think the fitness industry shines a light on that as well , because it is a “youth-ified” industry. But I remind women that in the year 2025 there will be 1.2 billion menopausal women. That is a massive industry . So you’ll not be invisible in , you know, in that particular space or if you pivot towards mid-life training and you take on some coaching. So it’s other than physical coaching, you take on some , you know, maybe do some courses , NLP, lifestyle coaching, and just continue to up-skill yourself because it is such a great age. You know, when you do these courses, it’s not a waste of money because you get so much out of it so much faster. It’s not a case of you do it in your 20s and you gotta repeat it in your 30s and then you’ve gotta repeat it in your 40s. By the time you’re in your 40s, it’s like, “OK, this is it. This is game on ,” you know. “I know this for myself. I know this to be true. And I know I can help others as well.”Tiffy Thompson: 29:04
There’s a special advantage, too, to having gone through something and then helping other people going through a similar thing that you can’t really implant onto other people.Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 29:13
Yeah , I mean , life experience, you know , counts for a lot—counts for empathy and understanding, and maybe even some tips. You know , “I spoke to this therapist.” I think that that really counts for a lot .Tiffy Thompson: 29:31
It’s been a pleasure talking with you today. If people want to get a copy of your book or want to follow up with your podcast, where can they find you?Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 29:41
It’s Sexyaging .com actually. So everything is there. The website is officially launching this week, but I’ve noticed that people have started subscribing already. <laugh> The book is on Amazon . It’s called “My Menopause Memoir,” and the Sexy Ageing podcast is on every podcast platform. So it’ll be great to get feedback . There are polls with the podcast . So every episode has a poll . I’d love to get people’s feedback if this is an important conversation for them .Speaker 3: 30:11
Perfect . Thanks so much .Tracy Minnoch-Nuku: 30:13
Thanks for having me .Speaker 3: 30:15
That’s it for Women in Fitness Business. Thanks for listening.