The ‘P’ word...
How does being a woman affect my running.
Being a woman is an incredible thing, and something all of us women should be proud of, but sometimes, it can be an absolute pain. There is no denying it would be great to be able to train consistently week in, week out, without our hormones affecting us, but this just isn’t possible. At least, not if you’re healthy.
There has always been such a stigma surrounding periods. We are all far too shy to talk about them and be honest about the effect they have on us. There is no shame in voicing how your period makes you feel. In the end, all women understand, and men need to as well. Periods can be a complete pain. Quite literally. There is nothing worse than going into a session when you’ve had period pains all day. I am generally quite lucky as I don’t tend to get period pains, but the times I have had them, you just want to curl up in a ball and go to bed. Not ideal, when you are about to start a track session. There should be no embarrassment in being honest to your coach. Put everything into your session, but tell your coach you aren’t feeling 100% because you are on your period. This needs to be the way we all think, but for some reason, it just isn’t spoken about. Not only can period pains affect training, but depending where I am in my cycle I can be left feeling very lethargic and heavy legged.
Why don't we talk about it?
Quite simply, because it is still seen as a taboo topic that shouldn’t be addressed. Nowhere near enough coaches approach the topic of periods. It is avoided as if it’s a bad thing. If my period is affecting my training, I should feel able to voice it. All coaches, both male and female, should be aware of how our cycle impacts our training. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed about it.
Not only do periods affect our bodies, but also our minds. I quite frequently find myself feeling negative and very emotional when it is coming up to my period. It can get frustrating, but again, I know this is only normal. This is my body showing me it is working properly. I should not feel afraid to say why it is I feel emotional, it is only normal!
For some unknown reason, it has come to be believed that it is normal for us long-distance runners not to have periods, but it isn’t. We need them to function properly and to perform to the best of our ability. Period. Without periods our bone health is affected, as is our future fertility and our ability to recover and build muscle. This is quite frequently because our body does not have enough energy to complete the demands we are asking of it, let alone to menstruate. In the past I would go over 5 months without having a period, and I didn’t think anything of it, but this is not a sign of a healthy human, let alone a healthy athlete. Not having a period is not normal in a long-distance runner, not matter what anybody may say.
What did I do?
When I finally realised the need to get my periods back, I had to make some major changes to my diet and training. I had to put enough fuel into my body in order to allow it to sufficiently complete the training I was asking of it, as well as having enough energy to perform natural acts, such as menstruation. This meant fuelling myself properly before and after training, ensuring I wasn’t ever training fasted, and making sure I was giving my body all the nutrients it needed. I also had to temporarily cut back training. I reduced the amount of exercise I was doing significantly, allowing myself time to gain the weight I needed in order to function healthily, without constantly burning off what I was putting in. Finally, I learnt how important it is to allow your body to recover properly. Previously, I would get by on minimal amounts of sleep, always compromising sleep for training. Whilst you may have to get up earlier to fulfil your daily training, I had to ensure I was going to bed at a suitable time. This allowed my body to recover and restore itself, helping keep it healthy.
Having a period is something we should all be proud of. Whilst having periods can be a nuisance, I now shout with joy every month when mine arrives. I bet you are wondering why, but it means I’m happy and healthy. If my body is functioning well, I know I am training and fuelling properly. I would worry if I wasn’t having periods.
Don’t be ashamed of having periods, be proud to be healthy.
6/7/2019 02:22:43 pm
Brilliantly written! Definitely something athletes need to be more open about, as well as understanding the importance of having periods.
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I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!