Fuel Your Strength 383 - CrossFit & PeriPost-Menopause w Shawna Norton

CrossFit & Peri/Post-Menopause w/ Shawna Norton

You can still be a strong badass who can lift heavy as you journey through peri-menopause and post-menopause. But, you have to do it in a way that is a bit different than you did in your 20s. If you are a 40+ woman and not seeing the results you want, holding back on adjusting the way you train as your body transitions is probably the reason.

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Key Takeaways

If You Want To Level Up Your CrossFit Training Through Peri-Menopause, You Should:

  1. Find a trainer or program that takes into account your unique physiological needs as a woman
  2. Give yourself grace when changing your mindset around getting stronger
  3. Embrace the confidence that CrossFit and strength training can give you as you age

The Power of Muscle with Shawna Norton

Shawna Norton is an L1 Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition, with a B.S in Kinesiology. She holds an L1 with Crossfit and actively coaches athletes through her women’s only coaching program- Competitive Female Training. She is passionate about serving the needs of women in her community and loves helping them fuel their training and focus on what their bodies can do in peri-menopause and beyond.

Why You Need to Lift Heavy Things

As we get older, sometimes we can forget about the importance of hard things. Society tells us to focus on the scale and not get ‘too bulky’. But building muscle as you age, especially as a woman, is so important to your overall health, longevity, mindset, and happiness. 

This new stage of life is an opportunity for you to reassess what your body needs and create a strength training program that is going to meet your unique needs as a woman. Strength training isn’t just about what you look like. It is a way to ensure your quality of life throughout peri-menopause, post-menopause, and beyond.

Giving Women of CrossFit a Voice and a Program

Women make up 50% of the sport of CrossFit, and yet most of the programs out there are designed for men. That’s where Shawna comes in. She is all about empowering women with the right tools and knowledge to be given a voice in the CrossFit world and feel confident in their training. 

Shawna is dedicated to answering the question, ‘what about us?’. By helping women understand the power of muscle and how to achieve their CrossFit goals in a way that is adapted to a woman’s physiology as she ages, Shawna provides programming tailored specifically to the needs of women. A conversation that is not had enough, in this episode, Shawna smashes CrossFit misconceptions and provides a unique perspective on strength training in peri-menopause and on.

How have you adjusted your strength training to suit the needs of your changing body? Share your thoughts and experiences with me below.

In This Episode on CrossFit for Women Over 40

  • The biggest lessons learned through the journey of strength training and CrossFit (11:12)
  • Addressing the misunderstandings around CrossFit and getting strong as a woman (15:45)
  • How to adapt your training through the Competitive Female Training program (24:17)
  • Why the Level M Program is a unique approach to building strength (34:31)
  • Tips for shifting your mindset when it comes to how you train as you transition through peri-menopause and beyond (38:55)


“I got into CrossFit, and all of a sudden I had a barbell in my hands, and it was like, this is where I am supposed to be. I want to take up space, I want to lift heavy.” (6:17)

“I am still a beautiful woman, but I am beautiful because of how I am made, not because of how society says I need to be.” (12:54)

“Our programming is designed only for women. But we also communicate in a way that our female athletes can actually understand what they are supposed to do.” (29:10)

“Women are 50% of the sport, and we have the right to have our weaknesses addressed to the same level that you are programming for men. Think about that when you are programming.” (32:16)

“If you are not happy where you are at, you have to do something different. If you keep doing the same thing, you are going to keep getting the same results. Try it! What’s the worst that can happen? You’re going to get stronger?” (42:43)

“Having muscle is so much more than if you can fit into your jeans.” (48:23)

Featured on the Show

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Competitive Female Training Website

Shawna Norton Website

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Related Episodes of Weight Training for Women Over 40

FYS 382: Making Strength Gains in Your Late 40’s with Allison Fitzpatrick

FYS 378: Powerlifting and Recovery Tips for the 40+ Athlete with Laura Phelps

FYS 375: Strength Training Changes for Peri-Menopause and Post-Menopause with Dr. Stacy Sims

CrossFit & Peri/Post-Menopause w/ Shawna Norton Transcript

Steph Gaudreau
On this podcast, we are no strangers to the idea that women over 40 need to lift heavy. But what about if you do CrossFit? How do you adapt this methodology of training to best suit and serve you as a woman progressing through your 40s into Peri and post-menopause? My special guest today is going to explain just that.

Steph Gaudreau
If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hard shit, the fuel your strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train, and recover smarter, so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach Steph Gaudreau. The fuel your strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery, and why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go!

Steph Gaudreau
Welcome back to the podcast, my friend, thank you so much for being with me today. I’m stoked about this episode because we have a very special guest. And we’re going to be diving into not only understanding a little bit more about CrossFit in terms of what women need in this sport but also how to adapt training of this methodology and type to really suit a woman’s physiology as we progress through our 40s and beyond. My special guest today is Shawna Norton of competitive female training. Shawna is a nutrition and fitness professional. And she’s really passionate about helping women specifically in the sport of CrossFit and helping masters women over 40 to adapt their training and get the most out of it. So in this show, we’re going to be talking about all of that and more.

Book a Call for Strength Nutrition Unlocked

Before we jump in. Just a quick reminder, if you are ready to get your nutrition in order, you want to see how to put it together in a complete system. That’s proven this is my fuel your strength system, then go ahead and check out This is my Strength Nutrition Unlocked program. We’re going to take you through the exact system, the blueprint that you need to know to start addressing your nutrition in a way that’s going to give you better results in the gym, increased strength, more muscle, the muscle shape and definition that you want to see better performance in and out of the gym and increased energy from sunup to sundown. It is absolutely possible. I see it with my clients all of the time. You know, there is no time like the president to get to work on this. I know it’s easy to say oh, I’ll do it later. But the truth is, is that time is passing you by, and imagine where you would be if you started six months ago. The next best time to start is now. I’ll see you over there at Alright, let’s go ahead and jump into this episode was Shawna Norton of competitive female training.

Steph Gaudreau
Hey, Shawna, welcome to the podcast.

Shawna Norton
Hi, thank you for having me.

Steph Gaudreau
I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to do this, considering we’ve known each other for how long?

Shawna Norton
Oh my God, dude, we have known each other for years. Literally 10 years. Like I was telling someone the other day, I’m like, I went to Easter dinner with her. Like, how do I not interact with you more? Do you remember?

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah. And we live in the same city.

Shawna Norton
And we do the same shit. messaging back and forth. And it’s like, yeah, cards, even word cards, like how have we not nerd it out together?

Steph Gaudreau
I think we have in social situations, but nevertheless, our paths have been kind of converging on each other. And here we are kind of beating the same drum in slightly different circles, I feel like but still related. And I’m just excited to have you on today. And we’re gonna get into it. And hopefully, we won’t go off on too many tangents but I always love tangents because you never know what will come out of it. But give the good listeners a little overview in terms of like you how you got to this point, doing what you’re doing, like what brought you to this place, doing competitive female training.

Getting Started with CrossFit

Shawna Norton
Um, so I got into CrossFit almost 10 years ago. 10 years in October. I started doing CrossFit because I was an ultra runner, and I wanted some strength training slash alternative training. And I found CrossFit Elysium and fell in love. And the funny thing was I had before I started doing CrossFit, I’ll never forget this guy I was dating at the time, he and I were on a hike that Jim had just opened up from the house we lived at. And I said to him, I’m like, Yeah, I mean, I really need some cross training and, and I, I am interested in CrossFit. But I don’t want to get too bulky. And I can’t believe those words came out of my mouth. Because 10 years later, I’m like, How big can I get? How strong can I get if I could put on more muscle and 100% I’d be there? So yeah, I started CrossFit, fell in love, realize that I wanted to be strong, versus being skinny, you know, I’d been in the running world for at that point, eight years, and I had been aspiring that whole time to be lean, skinny.

Shawna Norton
And I got in CrossFit sudden, I got a barbell in my hands and was just like, Ah, this is where I’m supposed to be, I want to take up space, I want to lift heavy and you know, the first time I had done a jerk, and I got that barbell overhead and, like, landed it, I was like, this is the best fucking thing ever. Um, and then from there, it just evolved, like I was going to school to be a nurse, I got accepted into a nursing program, Bachelor of Nursing program. And I had this epiphany that I didn’t want to work with that demographic, because I didn’t want to work with people that could have prevented their shit. I wanted to work with people who wanted to prevent their shit. And so I changed degrees when kinesiology started doing that. And actually, Leon had, we had this whole conversation with, I didn’t want to be put in a box. And I was seeking a label, because I wanted to know where I fit in, in the strength and conditioning world. And I didn’t know what title I wanted. So, you know, I was trying on all these different hats.

Shawna Norton
I thought I was gonna go to physical therapy school, you know, did I want to be a registered dietician, blah, blah, blah. And like, you know, in our world, right, it seems like people by default want to take advice from a registered dietician versus a nutrition coach. And it’s like, you know, Leon told me, he’s an anesthesiologist, and he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. He said you know, you could prove, perform anesthesia on someone if that person gave you permission. The reality is that when you are given a scope of practice, you’re actually put in a box and told this is only what you can do, right? So as soon as you get a label, then all of a sudden, you have to be, you know, as a registered dietician, like, I’m controlled by a scope. And he’s like, you have this opportunity to not be defined to not have to be in a box to help a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. And so it took a lot of confidence and time to develop, like, who I wanted to be. And now, you know, I get to do nutrition coaching, unlicensed therapy, because that’s half of what the nutrition coach does.

Shawna Norton
I get to you know, I’m a CrossFit coach. So I get to help women with strength and movement, and I get to help with injuries, like and I just always preface it with Hey, you know, I’m not a physical therapist, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a registered dietician. You know, here’s, here’s my advice, or research it yourself. And then competitive female training started because I started working out with some kids, and now one of them is my coach when I started coaching at power k athletics. And they weren’t following misfits, and they wanted to get a team together to go to the CrossFit Games. We were following misfits together, training together, and our keg flooded. We moved to CrossFit Humanity, our team split apart because a of couple people didn’t go with us to Humanity.

CrossFit Training for Women Over 40

Shawna Norton
And all of a sudden that I was like, I want to be a master, CrossFit Games athlete, Roderick started programming for me. And I had this epiphany at the time when he started programming for me. I was following five different programs, because I had a hold on, so I was like, well, I need to dress all of the holes at once. Right? So it’s following running and lifting and gymnastics, and then master’s program, and I was following strong fit all at once. And of course, you know, my body was all torn up. And I said to him, I’m like, I need some help. So initially, he started just tailoring everything to me. And then he started programming for me, and I realized that what he was programming for were the weaknesses the majority of women had, which is upper body power production pulling.

Shawna Norton
And I was like, dude, like, this program needs to exist for every woman out there who does CrossFit and wants to get better? And then yeah, I mean, that was the idea that started four years ago. And then over time it’s developed into where we’re now where we’re at now and trying to serve the women of CrossFit.

Steph Gaudreau
Amazing, I hear so many parallels between your story and my story. And I guess I didn’t realize you had such an extensive background in endurance sports, because I would look at you as like, Sean is so strong, right? Like, you’re so strong, like, so like, badass and muscular. And, but when you were talking about your running background, the whole time, I was thinking, Okay, this is me and cycling, because I was into mountain biking, and racing bikes for eight years prior to coming into CrossFit. And yeah, I just really resonated with a lot of the things that you talked about, you know, if you could go back and tell your runner self, you know, 10 years ago, you know, what, what would you or what would you say to your previous self with, like that person who was nervous to start strength training early? Didn’t want to okay, like, what would you tell your past self?

Will Lifting Weights Make You Bulky?

Shawna Norton
Do it sooner! Man, I wish I had found CrossFit sooner. Like, I Yeah. It’s, it’s who you look up to, right? And you and I like, We’re the same age, we grew up in a world where we had Teen Magazine, and those girls were super, super skinny. And, you know, it was all about how pretty you could be in cute clothes. And, my dad taught me to be a person first and a woman second. You know, he, like when I got my first car, he made me work on my car, like, he made me change my own tires, I ended up changing the engine myself.

Shawna Norton
And that was like, his thing is like, you know, you just because you are a female doesn’t mean you’re defined by that gender, you have the ability to do anything that you want. But I struggled with that, because, you know, I’m one aspect, I knew I was capable of everything I set my mind to. But then on the flip side of that, you feel like you have to fit into this world, especially in southern California, like, all my friends in my 20s were these thin, beautiful little blonde girls. And, you know, I was a tomboy. And so I had this constant struggle in my head of how do I be a person and still, you know, fit in with, with where I thought I wanted to fit in? And yeah, it wasn’t until like my late 20s, and early 30s, that I started realizing that I didn’t have to fit in and that I could still be accepted and loved. I’m still a beautiful woman. But, you know, I’m, I’m beautiful because of how I was made not because of how it’s how society says that I need to be.

Shawna Norton
So yeah, I wish I had started CrossFit sooner. Like, oh my God, even if I Yeah, if I started like in my late 20s. Who knows if I would have been mature enough to, you know, move well and, and not add weight to the bar, I tend to be I’m not a typical woman where I have to be encouraged to add weight. I am like a dude in that aspect where I’m like, That bucket. That last one was horrible. I should add more weight to it. Um, but yeah, I wish that she had known that if she had gotten into the gym and seen her body develop the way it was supposed to. That she would fall in love with her body sooner because that’s what it did CrossFit. I didn’t love I didn’t even really like my body until I started doing CrossFit. And then once I was like, how like what I’m capable of, then I love my body took me fucking 42 years to say that. Now I started CrossFit when I was 32. So yeah, it took me to 35 to really love it.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. And I asked you that question and I super appreciate your honesty and your transparency, your answer and I think a lot of people are going to resonate with a lot of women specifically. But I asked you that question because I hear from people all the time who are like us that we are you know like we’re talking to our former selves but just in different people. You know, I’m a cyclist and like I feel like you know, now I’m getting into my 40s and should probably start strength training but I’m afraid or I am that you know that runner and I’ve always been taught that lightness and leanness same thing in the cycling world, but lightness and leanness are the top two priorities that I need to be pursuing. And therefore I do things differently with my nutrition and my training and all that stuff to prioritize that over strength and resilience and, and robustness and those sorts of things. So I appreciate that because I feel like there are tons of people that I hear from who are sort of like they’re on the cusp.

Steph Gaudreau
They’re like ready to dip in the toes. And they’re like, oh, like hesitating. So if this episode helps them kind of put the toes in the pool, you know that that’s great. And so hearing your perspective, I think is really important. I want to kind of back up a little bit you were talking about starting the process. I mean, I’ve been in and around the CrossFit world, since winning the CrossFit world, you know, I’ve talked about this on another podcast, like has garnered a bit of a reputation for itself, and I think is really misunderstood in other ways.

Is CrossFit Dangerous for Women?

Steph Gaudreau
You know, a lot of negative press in some aspects are people have ideas of what it’s like, and they’re like, you know, I’ve heard XYZ about it. It’s not for me, or it’s dangerous or whatever. Like, if you could address some of the biggest misconceptions, I guess, that you hear or that you think people have about CrossFit? Or that methodology of training? What would you want to tell them?

Shawna Norton
Well, the first thing that I always tell everybody, is when they say that CrossFit is dangerous. When I was 25 or 26, I fell off my flip flop in the middle of the afternoon and broke my foot. And I was sober. It was a sunny afternoon, in San Diego, there was nothing I just happened to really quickly step off the curb and snap. And I’m like, walking is dangerous, you know, driving your car is dangerous, like, everything has some inherent danger to it, right? Like you can drown by drinking a glass of water. It’s CrossFit, we did a lot of things wrong to start. And definitely, like, I respect that, but it’s different now than it was 20 years ago, right?

Shawna Norton
You’re walking into a gym, and you know, most of the time, 90% of the time, you’re having responsible coaches, you’re having people who are paying attention to how you’re moving. You know, especially as women, I feel like coaches tend to be cautious with pushing them as much, you know, like it is the type with the man is like, take the weight off, like you’re moving like shit, stop that. And then the woman is like, what wait on you’re capable of way more you can do it. Right. Um, so from an injury standpoint, like any sport you participate in there, there is a risk. But I think that the positives so far outweigh the risks, especially for women, especially for women as they get older, because we do so much single leg strength and biometrics and sprint work. And you know, the confidence piece of it like a woman understanding what she’s capable of, and being given that gift of seeing how powerful she is, like, that’s huge. So I think first Yeah, CrossFit is as dangerous as it makes it. You know, you’re responsible for yourself, be smart, but it’s, it’s probably way less dangerous than 90% of the sports out there. Like mountain biking, Holy fuck, man, you know, you’re gonna be like, that’s just super dangerous, and they never talked about that.

Shawna Norton
And then, like, from the bulky standpoint, like I think that’s another one that women are, you know, they see the CrossFit Games athletes, and they don’t want to look like that right? And there’s that whole like, shit her Instagram is gone now but they’ll You look like man stuff, right? And the negative, I don’t know what you want to say, like, the negative attention that that garners. Like, I trained for five hours a day, five days a week, and I eat between 2000 and 3000 calories a day to maintain this muscle mass. And I still have never been told I look like a man. I’m waiting because that’ll be a compliment, because I’m like, I did it. Like I have that much muscle that I have arrived.

Shawna Norton
It’s like it’s a good thing. I’m listening to his book right now. And he’s like, You have to earn jealousy. And I liked that because it’s like, yeah, you have to, if you’re getting, if you’re getting feedback like that, then people are paying attention to you right? Like it the majority of women are never ever going to get to that space where they feel bulky because of how much work it takes to build that muscle and how much fuel it requires. As you know, we’re trying to get them to eat 2000 calories. Getting them to eat 3000 calories is probably near impossible for most of them. Right. So I think those two are the biggest you’re not going to get bulky. I can’t even tell you to know how much work it is required to put on the amount of muscle that those games athletes have. And the risk is so much lower than the reward.

Shawna Norton
Yeah, and then I mean, after that, like, I think it’s scary from a tribal standpoint because we are a super clique. Right? Like, you know, CrossFit is you have that community and they’re your family. And it’s intimidating to step into a new tribe. But the cool thing about 90% of CrossFit gyms is how extraordinarily welcoming they are. And you have to see it like you can take my word for it and try it. But I think if you step into a gym, and you see how welcoming and inviting it is, and how excited people are, that you’re new, and you want to play in their sandbox, like, it’s, yeah, you’ll step in, and then you’ll be like, Oh, my God, how did I wait so long?

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah. Why did it take me this long? Yeah. To your point about, you know, call the clique? You know, I think we would say community, right as a is the positive connotation there. But there are so many other things that are like that, too. I mean, I do Brazilian jujitsu and a half for the last five years, those are the people at my jui-jitsu Academy. They are my jui-jitsu family. And so I think, you know, a lot of times, it’s just like, if you’ve ever participated in a team sport, you know, maybe if you’re in high school, or college or something like that. You may have flavors of that. But then a lot of people leave. If they ever did play team sports in school, they go off to being an adult, they’re like, oh, no, I’m by myself in this big box gym. You know, I put on my headphones. Nobody talks to me. And so yeah, we kind of lose that sense of like, oh, when there is like shared controlled suffering, we build that connection, right? It’s all like serotonin and like we’re together and, and I think we lose touch with that it from an athletic fitness standpoint until we do get into worlds like a CrossFit gym or jiu-jitsu academy or something like that. We’re, it’s close. It’s close-knit, it’s tight-knit, it’s family. It’s a connection. We’re doing hard things together. Yeah, it breeds that. It just it breeds that different feeling than if you walked into a Gold’s Gym or something.

Is CrossFit Safe for Over 40?

Shawna Norton
Absolutely. Yeah. And it’s, it’s everything like my parents started doing CrossFit. Last year there was a gym by their house that does a legend class three days a week. And like my dad, I literally cried at my dad. I was on the phone with them. And he’s like, we just got back from kickboxing or not, excuse me, not kickboxing. Oh shit, I can’t kickball, they went and played, my parents, are 68 and 72. And they went and played kickball with their CrossFit family. And I was like, this is CrossFit. You took my parents who are old and think that they’re gonna fall apart and show them that they can still be kids and have fun. Like, that’s CrossFit. Right? Like that, to me is the epitome of it. And that’s what you get to experience. And then you have the accountability part of it. Like your coach knows what class you go to, that you build that rapport with the other people in those classes, they expect to see you they’re disappointed when they don’t see you, you know, they’re gonna give you shit if you don’t show up. So you have that, you know, and you have that FOMO of like, you see the workouts and want to know how well you did and what you’re capable of. Yeah, I mean, I drink the Kool-Aid. So hardcore, like CrossFit, to me is, is, it should just be a part of every person’s life, I think, in some regard.

Why CrossFit For Women is a Great Idea

Steph Gaudreau
I love it. I love it. I want to talk a little bit more about something you mentioned, you were talking about the gaps in your own training, and you did several programs to try to address those gaps. And that kind of led you to develop this programming that you do today with your coach and is now what you do with competitive female training. I’m wondering if you can go a little bit deeper into just searches about like, what are some of the biggest areas you see women are struggling and why did you decide to create something specifically for women in that regard? Why not just say, Well, hey, you can go into your gym and modify XYZ, like why is competitive female training different? And why do you think it’s so powerful?

Shawna Norton
Um, because we focus only on the needs of women. And you know, so So CrossFit was designed initially for military, firefighters, you know, first responders, and the reality is the majority of those people are men, right? So it’s, you don’t see very many men walking into a CrossFit gym on day one struggling to get a pull-up, or struggling really with many upper body things. Have you ever seen a man unless he’s coming back from injury or he’s very overweight? Not doing a push-up on his toes, right? Like it’s just not the upper body strength. We have a third of the upper body strength of men.

Shawna Norton
And, you know, flipside we have a very strong base. But even our base tends to be very fat-heavy versus muscle-heavy, right? Like we’re stronger with our legs. But we’re so proportionately we’re not as strong as men. So the GPP, the general programming that a CrossFit gym offers, caters inherently to men, whether they’re intentionally doing it or not. So women are having issues, you know, you’ll see a female who’s been doing CrossFit for four or five years still doesn’t have a strict pull up. She has her grip strength like she can’t string together toes bar because she can’t hold on to the bar, right? She doesn’t jump on the box like she’s still doing, you know, the low bone boxes where she struggled and was scared with Box Shots.

Shawna Norton
The core work is like, you know, you’ll see a woman that doesn’t, because of our pelvic floors, because our hips are designed to spread apart for babies because of how hormones affect our joint laxity. Right? Like, women don’t have as strong naturally, of course. So when I started doing my programming with my coach, I realized how much upper body he was putting in how much pressing and pulling how much poor work power production, he just incorporated in on a regular basis. And I was coaching at CrossFit humanity at the time, and I looked around, and I’m like, this is something I had never, I have never had to modify a pull up for a boy ever, like got, or maybe I had once, but obviously, it was like one time out of 100 times for my female athletes, right?

Shawna Norton
And then like that level of frustration, where the default if, if the girl doesn’t have a pull-up, they just put her on fucking Ring Rows. And I’m like, Whoa, that’s great guys, like, you know, there are million other modifications that you can provide an athlete to actually help her get her to pull up. But the coach doesn’t know it, or they don’t want to take the time to train it right? Or teach it and then do push-ups. Like, they just put them on their knees. How do you think that’s going to help an athlete get a full range of motion if you teach her how to push up on her knees? So I started seeing all that through a different lens. And then we built this program where it’s like, I mean, CFT I jokingly call it with my athletes, that it’s really just fuck your arms training.

Shawna Norton
Different levels of how bad your arms are today because it’s what we do like is it’s so predominantly gripping strength, for strength, pulling and pressing in just a variety of ways. And, and it’s yeah, it’s focusing on the weaknesses of women. And there are some women that come in that, you know, already have that home strength, probably a gymnast. But otherwise, like most women that are coming in, they are lacking sorely in their gymnastics. They don’t have confidence that perfection. They don’t even understand, you know, if what’s the cue that everybody says when you’re Olympic weightlifting, be more aggressive? That is not something that we inherently do. If I tell you to be more aggressive? Like, what did you want me to have more rage, like, I don’t understand that right? And Rodricks is amazing, his, one of the best cues he ever has graded for that is just throwing the ball harder.

Shawna Norton
Like, if I’m really close to you, you’re gonna lob the ball at me, if I’m really far away, you’re gonna, you know, use more force to get the ball further away, right? So, so like understanding how to communicate to a female athlete in terms that she can process and apply versus those arbitrary, you know, use your laps. Like what the No, no women woman, the majority women don’t even know where their lats are like, and you want me to, I don’t know what what’s the last, like, you know, use your lats be more aggressive. And it’s like, yeah, we just communicate so our programming is designed only for women, but we also communicate in a way that our female athletes can actually understand what they’re supposed to do.

Weight Training for Women

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, that’s huge. I love all that. Because, you know, so many of the things you mentioned, I mean, I’ve seen it not only from the athlete perspective, and coming in from a very warm body dominant sporting background, so I’ve done sports since I was into kid soccer, track, cycling, like, almost no like my pulling, pressing strength, definitely lagging behind 100% agree with you there. And I’ve seen that also from the coaching side, the right coaching, Olympic weightlifting, and learn having to learn how to communicate with women differently than then. Because most of us weren’t like noodling around in the garage.

Steph Gaudreau
A bench pressing with our dads or uncle or older brother. And yeah, certainly there’s exceptions to that. But you know, to your point, we have different experiences. And that can affect so much not just, you know, like our, what we’re used to doing physically, but like how we conceptualize movement. And you know, you up pull-ups, I think I hear this. And I wanted to mention this because I know you have a resource for this, and we’ll put it in the show notes. But I can’t tell you how many messages I get consistently for women that say, I’ve been training for this many years, four years, five years, three years, and I still am not able to do a strict pull-up system. So it’s, it’s a huge lack in terms of the upper body programming.

Shawna Norton
Absolutely. And it’s crazy because it doesn’t even like, I don’t think they understand that it translates to everything. So if your kettlebell swing, your snatch, or your clean and you pull early part of that is because you don’t have the lack of strength to keep the barbell close, right? Like, you don’t have that upper body strength. As soon as it gets heavy, your body weight, as soon as you have 150 pound clean, you don’t have the physical strength to hold it close, then, you know, momentum comes into play. And it’s like, it’s, it’s so crazy to me that women are 50% of the CrossFit population. But we’re not like, like, this is the feminist pardon me? Why are the boys’ weights first? Why would you look at like, you know, the Metcon? And you see, like, 135 95 Why do they why? Why am I modifying my stuff to that, right?

Shawna Norton
Um, and, like, I get that someone has to be first and I, I’m okay, with some things being like, you know, this is the standard, and then we’ll adjust it, but at the same time, like, recognizing that we are 50% of the sport. And we have the right to have our weaknesses addressed to the same level that you’re programming for men, like think about that when your program, you know, that was like the level I’m like, I’m teaching these women, even if they don’t follow our menopause level, like, I want you to be confident enough to walk into the gym and tell your coach, today is a strength day for me. And I’m not going to go hard in the Metcon. Because I need to focus on strength, and not apologize that you’re going to do something a little different than what’s written. Because you are a woman, you have unique needs. And those unique needs can’t always be met you accommodate me when I’m injured, right? Like you, you’ll make adjustments for me if I’m coming back from being sick.

Shawna Norton
While making adjustments for me based on my changing physiology. My estrogen is going out the window who like, you know, I have to tailor to that. And teaching women like, you know, giving them a voice like, like having them be confident that I don’t want to do Ring rows anymore. You know, this, this isn’t I need to learn how to jump. So can I program today, apply this, you know, met calm to help me jump instead of just doing it as written and doing step-ups? Right? Like, yeah, it’s giving women a voice to be confident in the space that helps them throughout.

What’s the Best Exercise for Menopause?

Steph Gaudreau
Absolutely, I was gonna ask you to talk a little bit more about your level of programming, because I think this is pretty unique and amazing. And it’s to your point is something that I hear from a lot of people who are doing CrossFit, or maybe they’re doing a similar style of programming, but they’re doing it at home. And they’re like, you know, I’m just really having a hard time. Like, I know, my body’s changing. I know, there are things that I need to think about differently in my training, but like most people, don’t have a background in training, don’t have a background in exercise physiology, as they’ve maybe not been a coach. So they’re sort of like I’m kind of stuck in this middle ground. Like I don’t know how to modify things, but I know that what I’m doing isn’t working. Yeah, so what are how are some of the ways that your level M programming is different than some of the other C or CrossFit programming that you might see?

Shawna Norton
Um, Stacy Sims is like, I don’t worship a lot of people, but I would come close to saying I worship her because of all of the research that she’s doing on our behalf. And she’s getting that research out there. So I read roar, which is her first book. And she started talking about how to tailor your training to menopause and changing physiology. Right and I knew and I’ve known like the other tenant of, of CFC across the board is building strength as one of the core pieces. If you’re, you know, if you can squat clean and press overhead 180 pounds, then a 65-pound thruster is going to be an aerobic movement instead of a strength movement. Right. So focusing inherently on strength across the board is so important for women.

Shawna Norton
And then, so So I have that understanding, I knew from what I’ve been learning with hormones that as estrogen decreases, it’s harder to put on and maintain muscle mass, right? So I was already doing some of that with my private clients anyways, like, you know, if they follow CFT, we were adjusting it and I’m like, okay, don’t Metcon at all today don’t condition at all today, just lift and go heavier, maybe than what’s prescribed. And then if they were someone who was doing CrossFit programming at their gym, I would do the same thing. I’m like, just walk in and tell your coach, you know, this Metcon, I’m going to make it a strength and additional strength piece instead of getting my conditioning on. And from a recovery standpoint, like, like, CrossFit is amazing in a lot of ways. But at the end of the day, you should not be beating your body up five days a week with the conditioning part, right? Like we can handle lifting, we can handle lifting every day, you could lift heavy, heavy every day, and get appropriate recovery. As soon as you add in the conditioning part of it, it breaks your body down, right? So as you get older, yeah, takes longer to recover in general. Um, so from like we’re talking about from a cortisol standpoint, your need to manage your cortisol levels across the board, but even more so as you get older.

Shawna Norton
So level M was introduced when I saw the need, I have these private clients, and I was interacting with women, nonprofit on women of profit. And I take what Dr. Sims recommends where it’s always lifting like just lift heavy shit, as she says, five days a week, right? And then figure out your conditioning to serve your your your unique goals, but keep it to two to three times a week got mops like you don’t, you don’t need to do more than that. And if you lift heavy regularly, then then your body is strong enough to push through the conditioning, right?

Shawna Norton
So we do that we have them lift. The sessions are about 90 minutes long, and they lift five days a week, they do accessories three to four days a week. And then they do sprint interval conditioning. They do Sprint’s two days a week and then sometimes I’ll add in the third day dependent, and then they do plyometrics lateral work.

Steph Gaudreau
That’s awesome. I think that’s brilliant. And it’s definitely serving a need in the community right and for so long. Especially women who are in perimenopause, or postmenopausal are like, what about us? You know, and we talked a little bit before we started recording about how, you know, we just have this like still massive gap in research and all the reasons why that is. And so I feel like you’re, you’re really doing something cool to say like, Hey, you want this program for yourself, and you don’t want to have to think about it. Because it’s not where you’re trying to put your brain space. You just want someone to guide you and have really thought it out. You all are doing an amazing job with that, you know, Can we touch on and this will be kind of maybe the last question that touched on like the mental adjustment that has to come with, like doing the programming different than maybe you’ve always done.

Can You Build Muscle During Menopause?

Steph Gaudreau
So whether you’re coming in from like a, you know, endurance background or you’ve been in CrossFit for a while and you’re sort of like okay, I’m approaching my perimenopause, menopause post menopause window here, like, what are some of the mindset or like, the mental component that you feel like women have to adjust or they do tend to struggle with when they come in, that you talk them through as part of the training?

Shawna Norton
Um, so I think, especially because of the demographic like, you know, we’re dealing with 40 year old’s, and we’re these women and the women that are older than us are coming from that. I’m supposed to be skinny, right? So it is scary as to how to lift anything past a two-pound dumbbell because, again, I don’t want to get bulky. I don’t want too have big muscles, things like that, right? So if you’re all of a sudden saying, I want you to do lifting and lift heavy five days a week. That’s very intimidating from a body composition standpoint because there Like, no, I want to lose body fat and you’re like, right, I know I get it. But let me show you the magic of muscle and what it does it rest for your body fat. Let me show you, you know, like when what do they say a pound of muscle uses 11 to 17 more calories? Well, it doesn’t seem like that much, but you get another 10 pounds of muscle, it’s 170 calories, you’re burning effortlessly, you know, just existing Not to mention, it just looks better, right?

Shawna Norton
And that you’re not going to get bulky, you know, you’re you, you’re going to be fighting to keep that muscle on instead of finding keep that muscle off. So that’s, that’s part of it, it’s like, you know, them being confident with it, it’s going to positively affect their bodies not negative. And these women like, I mean, you work with Perry and menopausal, right, and all of a sudden you like to wake up one day, and you have this belly, that you’ve been running and watching your nutrition, I have clients that they come to me and they’re from a nutrition standpoint like their food choices are amazing, right? But all of a sudden, they have this belly fat, and they’re like, What the fuck. And so you’re sitting here saying, I’m gonna have you do less cardio, and more strength training and they’re like, they’re already out of within. And then the thing that they’ve been indoctrinated into believe, makes the body fat go away, you’re taking away from them. And then or, you know, they’re saying, like, I want my rides to feel better, I want my friends to feel better.

Shawna Norton
And you’re like, okay, cool, we’re not going to do any more long, slow distance, you’re only going to do sprints. And they’re like, are you listening to me? And it’s, it’s like it, I mean, you just have to have that buy-in, right? Like you just have to women are amazing in that we are information seekers, we’d love to know the whys, we love to know the details. So you give them that data of like, what does muscle do it rest, you know, your, your long, slow distance is stuck now, because you don’t have any, you know, what, type two muscle fibers to help you pedal up that little hill or you know, to be explosive when you need to be. So like, it’s buy-in. And it’s, you know, giving them the information and the data to support like, this is why it’s going to help not just say trust me, and then it’s also reminding them, like, you know, you’re not happy where you’re at, you have to do something different. If we keep doing the same thing, you’re gonna keep getting the same results. Like, try it. What’s the worst that can happen? Are you gonna get stronger? God forbid. Yeah, so it’s its buy-in and information. And getting them to see, that your body has changed. So we need to change how things are, what things you’ve been doing.

Steph Gaudreau
Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head there for sure. And I hear these similar things all the time. And you’re right. It’s like if I continue, and I’m like, great, you can keep doing what you’re doing. Yeah. How do you think that’s gonna end up? Right? And I get it’s, it is scary to try new things. But like you said, you know, being evidence-based and science-based and showing people like, hey, this isn’t just my, like, random opinion, like, this is what happens is really, I think, grounding for people and saying, like, Okay, I’ll take that step.

Steph Gaudreau
But yeah, it takes, it takes some, I think, trust, and also, you know, there’s this element of like, we can keep holding on to the past, and like, what used to work in the past and like, getting back to what we looked like in the past. Or we can say, you know, what, it’s actually really exciting because I get to go into this different phase of life, approaching it from a really cool, interesting perspective. And like, what’s going to serve me right now? So we can either kind of like, be dragged, right, let go or be dragged? Is that really famous saying, and I think y’all are doing a really cool job of women that option if they’re really keen on that kind of programming. I think it’s cool.

Shawna Norton
Yeah. Yeah. I mean even if they don’t want to do CrossFit like I’ve had some, you know, being in the hit play, not pause group. I’ve had some women reach out about the following level if they’re not CrossFitters. And I’m trying to make it more accessible to those women because we do have the tenants of a really solid program across the board. And they don’t have to do Olympic weightlifting, you know, we can like they don’t have to do handstand push ups, things like that. But showing women that there’s a different way to train their bodies where they can get better results and they’ve been getting and you’re doing it too like I think, you know and Dr. Stacy Sims she has that program as well, it’s like, it’s, they just need to know that there are options out there. But at the end of the day, like you have many folks out there, you gotta fucking lift weights, you got to lift weights, you just have to. Even if you don’t like it, we can make it fun and we can make it engaging. But you have to lift weights.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, I put it proposed yesterday as your best anti-aging accessory as muscle, you know. And it’s true, we invest a lot in all sorts of AI we can talk about, like the idea of anti-aging and like why that’s icky in and of itself because it only really applies to women usually. But it’s, it’s interesting because we’re, we’re willing to do a lot of things and to invest in a lot of things to like, try to prevent aging or age. And in a way, that’s I guess I’m using your heavy air quotes here. Graceful. And yet, like we’re not understanding, I think it’s starting to happen. But understanding the power of like, muscle and why this is so important. And also like different types of training. And you probably see this too, like, yes, running is cool in so many ways in cycling is cool in so many ways. And I just wrote a post about like, peloton and how its business exploded in 2020. And they doubled their revenue in 2019. We all know why that happened. But, you know, it’s cardio is an aspect of in that, like, conditioning is so important. But like, it’s not strength training.

Perimenopause Exercise

Shawna Norton
It isn’t. It’s not and I’ll never forget I use it so many times. I when I first got my degree and I was working…I thought I wanted to work with older people, people that needed rehab, things like that. And I have this lady that had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. And I was going to her house and worked with her. And she said the coffee pot had gotten heavy. And I was like, Yeah and that’s a problem that the coffee pot has gotten heavy, like at least five fucking pounds, right? And I so I tell my client that I’m like, you want to be able to list the coffee pot when you’re at you don’t want to have to think about it. And strength training isn’t just about what you look like it is a quality of life thing. You need to be able to get up out of your chair on your own up off the floor on your own. You want to be able to you know, my mom is 72 and she’s so cute. She said to me that the kitty litter had gotten lighter. No, Mom, that’s CrossFit. You’ve gotten stronger.

Shawna Norton
She impressed the hell out of me. She said she carried two bags of kitty litter, which weighs 20 pounds a piece into the house from the car. So I mean, she had the 40 pounds, like it’s 72 That’s awesome. Like, that’s indicative of her staying balanced and not falling on the stairs. And you know, being self-sufficient, not meeting my dad to, you know, carry stuff for her. Right. And I think that that’s the thing that a lot of women don’t recognize yet, or they’re just starting to recognize that us having muscle is so much more than if you can fit into your jeans.

Steph Gaudreau
100%. Amen to all of that. So tell the good folks listening, where they can learn more about what you offer, so they can check out our website, They can check us out on Instagram at Competitive Female Training, they can check me out at Shawna_Norton or they can check out my website, And the cool thing is we’re getting like we’re filling into the space enough, but if you just Google competitive female training, like it’s the first page of Google now and I’m so proud of us.

Steph Gaudreau
So yeah that’s awesome. Thank you so much for being someone out there carrying the torch, in the ways that you are carrying the torch for women’s strength, our capacity, right like at this like expansiveness, like we are capable of so much more. Providing the type of programming that you do that’s really tailored to what women need. I think it’s just amazing. I’m really glad you came to the show. And thanks for hanging out with me today.

Shawna Norton
Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Steph Gaudreau
Fuck Yeah, let’s do it! All right, thank you.

Steph Gaudreau
All right. There you go. That is a wrap on this episode with Shawna Norton from Competitive Female Training. I absolutely adore what she’s doing in the world of CrossFit, especially for women. We talked about that in this episode, and specifically for women over forty, women progressing through perimenopause and into post-menopause. Yes, you can still be a strong badass, you can lift heavy, you can build your muscle, but you have to do it in ways that are different from when you were in your 20s. And I think that’s exciting. You get to embark on a new mission and new methodology. And continuing to do the things that you did before may not benefit you as much now, and that’s okay. We can learn new things. We’re smart. We can change direction at any time.

If want the show notes for this episode, including the links to the different things that we talked about Shawna is programming her, pull up program, and so much more. You can do that over at Go ahead and check out those show notes including a full transcript. please hit subscribe on your podcast app. Share this episode out on your Instagram stories and send us a DM tell us what you liked about this episode. What resonated for you it is always an incredible joy to hear from you. And it means so very much. All right. Thank you for being with us today. I will see you on the next episode. And of course as always, stay strong.

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2 Responses

  1. Really great episode. I have been waiting for someone to address this in the Crossfit space for quite sometime. Most of the information I was aware of from my own research but to have it on the airways and hopefully reach more Crossfit coaches, owners, and mainstream would help in shifting the mindset of Crossfit training for women over 40. I pretty much stopped training a few years ago because the mindset was not relevant to me anymore. Adjusting for decreasing energy and strength due to hormonal changes isn’t considered and most often frowned upon in this space and I am so overjoyed that you and Shawna have taken on this discussion and hopefully spear head a change. KUDOS!

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Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau, bs, ma, cissn!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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