VRP Blog 4

Women’s stuff, although Men, you need to understand! 

My blog for this week came to me as I read an email that really resinated with me. It went something like this…

One frustration i have despite completing all the training set, that when the days are short and dark and in between being busy on the front line my speed has dropped off and even worse, my endurance. I constantly feel drained and fatigued on runs that used to be standard for me. I’m not sure what to do or what is going on? Any thoughts even if it is to just carry on.

Now the reason this really stuck with me was that I have experienced the same and I don’t mean the kind of fatigue you get after a period of hard training or even the feeling of over training. I’m talking lack of energy physically and mentally and loss of that spark or any speed you thought you had for what seems like no obvious reason. Sometimes for a week, sometimes for as long as 3 weeks. It has taken experience and time to figure out what my body is doing and why.

To all the female athletes (that’s you girls 😜) out there, this can be and often is all to do with hormones whether related to where you are in your cycle or whether you are menapausal. It is so important you take note of where you are in your cycle, how you feel at certain times of that cycle as it can have quite an impact on training & energy levels.

It has taken a good few years to try and understand how my body reacts at certain stages. The first time the light bulb started to flicker was about 5 yrs ago where both Mart & I had qualified to run for England Masters in a 10k in Cardiff. I can’t have been more than 2k into the race when I started to really struggle to hit the pace that I knew I was fit enough to run. I started to see fellow competitors who I knew I was stronger than pass me and I just couldn’t react. It was one of the first times I really had to convince myself to finish the race, no runner wants a DNF (did not finish) next to their name. I remember every emotion of that race. When I could get my breath back and stand up as it had taken everything from me I just started throwing questions at Mart and my coach as I didn’t understand what had just happened and I thought I had let myself down, (I’d kill for the time I got that day now ☺️)

It took me some time to analyse what had happened, it wasn’t just a bad day, I know the difference, there was something going on in my body.For me it took a while to work out due to the irregularity and often non existence of my periods, what was going on and how it effected my running and the example above followed a time where my periods were all over the place and hard to track = my body was just trying to figure some stuff out.

My point being, it’s not a myth. There are certain times in the month where you will feel much more energised than others and this can be exuberated in a maximal race situation, there is no hiding!

The start of your cycle days 1-14 follicular phase.

Progesterone and oestrogen (main hormones) are at their lowest which can cause dips in your energy and leave you feeling quite flat. This doesn’t mean stop all exercise it just may mean that you need to take your foot off the accelerator on some sessions or even do more strength based exercise. 

The middle stage

As you approach ovulation (around 14 days if you are regular) there is a surge in oestrogen and testosterone which can have an enormously beneficial impact on your well being, mood, energy levels and ability to train more easily. Many female athletes report their best performances during this phase. 

The luteal phase

This is the phase between ovulation- day 14 and your period. Progesterone levels start to rise and oestrogen falls. This could have an effect on mood as progesterone is seen as a depressant compared to the mood elavating benefits of oestrogen. You may see an effect on training here too.In this phase your heart rate and body temp may be slightly more elevated leaving you more susceptible to fatigue so you may decide to drop the intensity of your workout/run. Interestingly you may also see a drop in endurance so if you are training or racing in an endurance event you may try to opt for shorter workouts.

In summary, for women, and men as you need to attempt to understand us women, you may want to consider the above when looking at your training schedule. Plan some rest days in the luteal phase which of course doesn’t mean skipping training entirely it just means being realistic about what is achievable and being kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if there is a slight dip in performance.

As much as this irk’s me, some changes are out of our control!As Female athletes taking a closer look at how our bodies change during our cycles can be incredibly helpful.When we understand what’s going on inside then we can set ourselves up for success in reaching our goals!

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