It’s a Female Issue
I’m going to take a bit of a risk here and talk about the uneasy topic of female athletes and their monthly fairy godmother. We all know about it. Some of us ignore it, while some talk openly; everyone is different in how they are affected and how they handle it. That dreaded, “Damn, it's that time of the month!”
Females have another dynamic to being an athlete that traditionally isn’t talked about. Most older studies on training and performance are based on male athletes and the ones that are on females generally have no mention of female cycles. Now it’s getting more common for athletes and coaches to look at how this factors in for female athletes.
There are so many different ways I could talk about this topic. I’m going to stick with some basic thoughts and experience and hope that maybe we can open the door on some of many points to be considered.
As a female athlete myself, and a coach of many female athletes, I’ve seen everything from being crippled to bed for a few days, to not noticing any change at all. The bottom line is we all have to deal with our cycle and sometimes it hits in the most inconvenient times, like at a main competition or key event.
Some female athletes completely lose their period. That is probably something you should see your doctor about to be sure there are no health concerns. For some it is just a part of them being active but in all cases you should at the very least consult your doctor to be sure there are no immediate or long term health risks.
Some athletes and coaches plan the cycle of their training and competition schedule around their monthly cycle. This can be a great addition to programming for female athletes if you have that luxury. However, we all also know that races dates are not going to care what your cycle is. So I don’t think it helps to fixate on that. What happens when your AAA race date falls right in that time you “shouldn’t be racing or doing intensity?”
Some athletes use synthetic hormones to manipulate their cycle or eliminate it all together. This can be helpful but you should absolutely do it with a good doctor that understands sport and health after sport.
I can personally remember it seemed to work out that every single major race I did it just so happened to also be that time of the month. For me, tapering often brought it on whether it was time or not. Training as a professional to try to win races was very hard on my body and when I’d rest for a race I’d get it every single time. So I can personally say every Ironman I did, I had my period.
I’ve seen everything from females getting a little too fixed on this and literally talking themselves into a bad performance, to some females not even noting it was a part of the week.
I feel the answer is somewhere in the middle. We as females all have to deal with it. Some worse than others. I will tell you the other woman on the start line won’t give a rat's ass whether you are on your period or not, they’ll take that podium spot away from you in a blink any chance they can. We have to come up with ways to just knuckle down and perform no matter what adversity in front of us.
Come up with a system that works for you to handle your personal level of impact. My advice would be to not let it cripple you mentally. Just like any piece of your plan as an athlete, you have to come up with a strategy that is going to get you to every start line the best you can possibly be and carry on.