Shaping the Language Around the Female Cycle- by Marilyn Chychota & Sue Aquila

This article is based on a conversation Sue and I had and my observations on some things I’ve noticed as a coach. I hope to improve some of the language and help women use new tools and information today to be stronger and better athletes.

Have you or any of your athletes used this app? FitrWoman

Using an app can be very important for sports like soccer, because some of the injuries can be hormone related.  For us endurance athletes, it may help maximize our high-performance days.

I also think younger athletes will benefit more too. We get dialed in as we get older. I have been using the native health app to track on my iPhone. It has reminded me that a tough workout may go really well when aligned with my cycle.

However, one thing as coaches we have to watch for is athletes predicting how their outcome is going to be based on the stage of their cycle, especially a negative outcome prediction. As coaches, we have to really watch and decipher what is productive and what is just another predetermined reason for mentally talking themselves out of performing with what they have that day. It needs to be used as good information on how to manage and improve performance. For example, what can I do to help KNOWING I’m in a certain phase of my cycle? By practicing coping strategies, we are learning to manage the situation by incorporating things like increasing sodium, implementing extra cooling strategies, or changing nutrition.   

I once asked the Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist, Joan Benoit Samuelson, how her period affected her racing.  She told me it doesn't matter.  When we race, we race.  She never saw it as an excuse or an impediment to winning.

We need to start asking where athletes are in their cycle for their race reports and after breakthrough workouts. It is better to focus on the biology of their success, really being aware of reshaping the language to, “If you’re in X cycle, here are the tools you can apply to perform at your maximum capacity.”

Some women are fearful of training in certain parts of their cycles now because of some of the information and language. I see women not racing because of fear of failure due to their cycle.  That needs to change!  How we frame this topic is hugely important in the direction our female athletes will go.

We see athletes saying things like, “If you have your period and want to race fast, you’re screwed!”  You can see the negative language. It’s up to us coaches to help athletes use all this info correctly.

I’ve been talking about this stuff for decades now. Years ago, I talked with a lot of female professionals and coaches about this, because female athletes have used progestin pills to try to eliminate a period and regulate hormones. With female competition horses, we also used to use an implant drug to regulate hormones. So this stuff has been around forever. What was interesting is many athletes got a period anyway when they rested for a major event, even on the mini pill.

We need to learn to perform, regardless of how we feel. Use this knowledge and the tools available to help us be our best. I race my best the day before or the day I start my period, despite feeling like I want to take an extensive nap.