I have had more of a focus on coaching rather than running in the last few weeks. It’s broadened my perspective of training and I would like to share this with fellow runners.
Being married to a runner and having a lot of female clients has opened my eyes to some of the restrictions females have when training compared to males.
Menstrual cycles can have a big impact on the way that females approach their monthly training plans. Intense exercise and drastic changes in diet and weight loss can lead to inconsistent, irregular or even the absence of periods. The menstrual cycle phase can cause effects such as abdominal cramps, blood flow, change in body temperature, feeling more fatigued, more emotional and sometimes just not even feeling like running which is okay.
After doing research and getting insight from some experienced female athletes it seems as though the effects differ largely between runners. Everyone’s body is different and menstrual cycles can have more of an impact on some than others. If you’re a female runner whose training gets impacted by this, then you should be working around it, rather than forcing running sessions during your period. Other female runners have found that rather than being negatively affected when training and competing during menstruation, running actually alleviated the negative side effects of cramps and lethargy.
Previous studies have shown that elite athletes can lose as much as 15 seconds over 3,000m when doing a race at the time of their menstrual cycle. I really encourage athletes to speak about this – it’s not embarrassing at all. We live in the 21st century and talking about these sorts of things should be normal.
If you have a coach and feel uncomfortable in telling them when and how your menstrual cycle affects your training, then you can update this on your online training calendar. Running sessions and races can be built around this. We all want to get the best possible performance out of ourselves and factors like this should get taken into consideration.
Loss of periods when training is a serious indication that the athlete could be underweight which can lead to injuries and stress fractures and subsequently a decrease in performance.
In my view, women should embrace menstruation as a privilege and what defines women rather than a curse or burden. Menstruation is proof that women are able to have children and that is truly an honour and privilege. We should not look at it as something that is negative that hinders running.
Rather than dreading it, celebrate it. Be positive and accepting – this will reflect in how you perform.