Up until the past 3 years, when it came to periods, I was deluded. I believed in order to be a better runner it was better not to have periods than to have them. I was convinced that is was normal to not have periods as an athlete. There was next to no accessible information out there to tell you about the importance of periods to training. Or, if there was, no one seemed to speak about it, especially not at a club level to developing athletes. Due to the lack of education on the subject, I saw periods as a nuisance that would slow me down, interrupt training, and signify that I weighed too much- I was living on another, incredibly unstable planet.
Unfortunately, I learnt the hard way. It took two stress fractures, in the tibia of BOTH my legs, at the same time, to realise that periods signified health, which would allow me to develop into a stronger, and subsequently faster, athlete. As a consequence of not having periods, my bone health suffered. I’m no specialist, and this blog is completely about my own experiences, but I have learnt how vital periods are to my long-term (and short-term) health.
Fast forward three years to today and it is a completely different story. I am not shy, and am in fact proud to say, I have consistently had a period every month for the past 2 years unaided (I’m not on the pill).
It sounds sad, but I genuinely get excited when my period arrives. The heart sinking feeling I used to get is a very far cry from the excitement I now get. I know it is a sign that I am a healthy functioning woman (even if I do look 12!). It allows me to see that I am fuelling myself well alongside training, and my body is coping with the intense activity I am asking it to do.
Learn the signs.
I have also come to know my body and understand why it feels how it does at certain times. Leading up to my period, my legs feel heavier in training, my stomach becomes more sensitive, I can get VERY emotional and my concentration can be all over the place. Rather than beating myself up for my body reacting in these ways, I accept it as a part of me. I used to get angry at these bodily responses, but now I am actually proud and fascinated. I am amazed by my body’s ability to respond in this way, and sometimes be quite predictable (not always!). Whilst I experience these feelings, they are very individual and vary from person to person.
About a year ago, I started using the FitrWoman App, and I have found it incredibly insightful. I had no idea about the symptoms I experienced at different times of my cycle or that my legs feeling heavy was even linked to my period, until I started using the FitrWoman app. It has allowed me to understand what my hormones are doing at different times of my cycle, what might be best for my body, and notice patterns in my symptoms.
It was also a tool that allowed me to open up about periods. If there is an app for them, and near enough every woman has them, why aren’t we speaking about them more. I now feel 100 times more comfortable discussing periods than I used to.
This leads perfectly on to my last point. I recently changed coach, and one of the first things he asked me was about my periods. I felt so relieved that he spoke to me about this topic, and it was so refreshing. Periods aren’t something to be ashamed of or hidden away from, and we should feel more confident to speak to our coaches about them. If you have ever worried about approaching the topic with your coach before, you may find it helpful to break the ice. It isn’t an excuse when a session might not go to plan because your body isn’t feeling great, instead it is a valid explanation that your coach should know about.
I am still learning to listen to my body and not beat myself up when the symptoms I am feeling are working against me.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!