The Autumn season has been full of both big and local marathons. From Berlin to the Pilgrims marathon, finishing with the New York City Marathon yesterday. I have had the pleasure of helping many clients to get to the start line of their autumn races by either helping them recover from injury, or by preventing injuries with regular osteopathic treatment and sports massages. It has been a pleasure to hear about all of their accomplishments.
I have been following many elite marathon runners on instagram and reading about their build ups. Some went for the usual 16 week training programme, where as others chose only 13 weeks. I was excited to watch the New York Marathon yesterday and did so with friends, I was mostly looking forward to watching the domestic battle of the elite women marathon runners. Shalene Flannagan was going in as the defending champion and was up against the experienced African, Mary Keitany. There were some less know American athletes lining up too; Molly Huddle, Allie Kieffer and Desiree Linden.
For me Allie Kieffer has been an inspiration. She has been promoting, strong not skinny and trying to promote positive body confidence. She has admitted she has been her heaviest weight going into the New York Marathon this year and that’s even with running 115 miles a week and using nutritionists. Allie has been trying to educate why you don’t have to be ‘skinny’ to be a runner.
For any marathon runner, fuelling yourself is key, from long runs to recovery runs and even on race day. Getting the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein is key. For a lot of athletes they under fuel. Their calorie expenditure is greater than their intake. For some, if that continues over a long period of time, it can decrease essential bodily functions. In women, that can stop your menstrual cycle. Some would say why is that bad? If this occurs for longer than 6 months, it can be. Your oestrogen levels will decrease, which will then affect your bone health, which can result in stress fractures and the start of osteoporosis, osteopenia can occur. This issue is being described as the female athlete triad, which is an interrelationship of menstrual dysfunction, low energy availability (with or without an eating disorder), and decreased bone mineral density. The effects on the body can cause issues such as; mood swings, lack of concentration and fatigue (1).
It is so easy to compare yourself to others with what is being published on social media today. For some, it encourages the need to exercise to create the ‘perfect’ body, or push yourself to run a PB because thats what everyone else is doing. But are you doing what is best for you and your health?
With having completed a marathon less than a year after giving birth to Lily, I put my body under a lot of stress and then being encouraged by how well I was running, I continued the marathon mileage and then decided to move house, which caused a lot of stress on my body. For me this has resulted in absent periods. No matter how much I eat, whether I eat excessively or track my calories, I cannot get my periods to return. I have been to the doctors, twice this year demanding blood tests, their response; ‘ We aren’t concerned.’ This is infuriating!!!! I will happily admit, I have over exercised and under eaten to get the ‘bikini body’ and ‘perfect wedding dress body’. Looking back, yes that was the wrong thing to do and this is another reason why I have come off certain social media platforms and have unfollowed things on Instagram, which would encourage this behaviour again.
I have decided to decrease my mileage, I have changed my approach to quality over quantity, have a complete rest day, enjoy life, take twice daily calcium tablets and multi-vitamins and not do a marathon. So yes, for those that keep asking if I am doing a marathon, next year. This is why! Although watching the marathon yesterday was inspirational and I know I am going to be jealous as clients and friends start the build up for their spring marathon, I am concentrating on myself and my health!
For those who are concerned, either about themselves or a fellow athlete, do not be afraid to talk to them. This is something that needs to be talked about in female athletes. In searching for some answers on how I can help myself, I have found great app, called FitRwoman. It allows you to track your cycle (which doesn’t help me at the moment) and guides you on what training you should do in what phase of your cycle.
- Ackerman K, Nazem TG. The Female Athlete Triad. Sports Health, 2012, Jul: 4(4): 302-311.