Guest blogger Anj Bell is a physiotherapist with 2 teenage daughters. She loves to swim, bike and run and regularly supports junior athletes in her local clubs with information and advice on being an athlete and having your periods. "The menstrual cycle should be openly discussed, it is a major part of your life and nothing to be embarrassed about. Your period signals you are growing up and reaching puberty. It’s is a sign of normal and healthy growth and development.
Typically, your menstrual cycle starts between the ages of 10-15. It's normal to be nervous about your first (and maybe second and third) period. It is also normal to dislike it - especially if it affects your moods and gives you cramps. Add to this, there's the inconvenience of monthly bleeding. Just try not to dwell on them, look at your menstrual cycle as being a rite of passage. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about it and help each other.
Getting and having a regular periods is very important. It helps the development of bones, of muscles and even our brains. The hormones released are very special and necessary. Very sporty girls are sometimes at risk from suffering from disrupted periods, this is called the Female Athlete Triad.
So to explain these three factors:
If you exercise you need energy. This comes from taking in calories. Food not only gives you the energy to perform well in your sport, it also allows you to grow, to repair and to function.
If you have menstrual dysfunction (no period or an irregular cycle) it reduces the essential hormones you need to function, as well as causing long term problems in later life.
Osteoporosis is bone loss. This is linked to poor eating, overtraining, and having MC issues. It may not affect you when you are young, but tends to hit you in middle age when poor bone density becomes a problem causing pain, fractures and joint deterioration.
So, sporty girls need to:
Have balanced energy availability - EAT well and match your energy intake to your training demands.
Monitor your periods. There are great apps out there. For example CLUE. If your menstrual cycle is > 35 days or if you are 16 and still haven’t started, discuss it with your doctor, just so that you can be checked and to avoid any long term issues.
Many Olympic female athletes have started to talk about their periods. This video is a really interesting one and highlights the need for us girls to break the taboo surrounding our menstrual cycles and sport!"
The science of your menstrual cycle is explained here :
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