One for the ladies.....
You’ll likely see many debates on the relative strengths and weaknesses between women and men and much of this is anecdotal and can, therefore, be completely inaccurate for any one individual. There is, however, a very real difference in women who have passed puberty and experience menstrual cycles and men or those women who do not have menstrual cycles (the one advantage of losing my ovaries to Ovarian cancer is that I no longer experience these!). The difference is hormones.
In the first half of the menstrual cycle they are anabolic (building up) as they are oestrogen driven. In the second half of the cycle they are catabolic (generally in a state of tissue breakdown) due to progesterone.
If you still have the joys of menstrual cycles or can recall the differences when you did, what did these two phases mean for you? What impact did you notice in training or in performances? What were your implications and did you adapt your nutrition and lifestyle accordingly? Perhaps you had cravings for different foods at different times. Perhaps you’ve never made the connection but now are wondering if there is something behind it!
Some women find their periods stop with intense training. This is completely normal.
There is a free app for women that can help you track your period and train smarter.
The app helps you track your menstrual cycle and provides you with personalised training and nutritional suggestions tailored to the changing hormonal levels throughout your cycle.
The app helps you know when to push harder, when to prioritise recovery and how to optimise your performance in each phase of your cycle. It will give you tips on foods to reduce symptoms, fuel your training and support your recovery.
If you experience extreme changes in energy levels this may well be worth a try, particularly if you are training for a major event - you want to be performing at your best on the big day, after all.
As you will know, I am a channel swimmer, so what should you do if you are on your period at on the big day? Just let it flow! It’s not safe to wear a tampon for that length of time, so just leave a trail. No one will see it! I did exactly that on my first successful channel swim!
Another option that some women take is to speak with their GP to alter how and when their menstrual cycle happens around the big event and this is worth considering if you suffer more than the average woman and you have tried adapting your diet and not noticed a sufficient difference. This approach can work well when you have reasonable certainty about when your event is, it can be more tricky when there is a large degree of uncertainty (like a channel swim!).
I am interested in your experiences, please feel free to share for the good of all those facing these challenges.