woman’s body is sensitive to change, so when you suddenly increase (or start) high-intensity
running while training for a goal event or chasing a PB, your body may respond
negatively. Besides niggly over-use injuries potentially cropping up, like ITB
or shinsplints, another area where problems can occur is the menstrual cycle.
Not only can the cycle be disturbed, it may disappear altogether, a condition
known as amenorrhea. Now this may sound convenient to many women, but it’s a
serious condition that can lead to osteoporosis, the weakening of your bones,
and continuous stress fractures, due to the reduction in oestrogen produced by
CAUSE AND EFFECT
Amenorrhea can occur for a variety of
reasons, some of which are perfectly normal, such as pregnancy or menopause,
but others may be a sign of a medical problem, such as a hormonal imbalance, or
a side-effect of medication or contraception. Other possible causes could be
Stress can temporarily
alter the functioning of the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls
the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle, notably oestrogen and
progesterone. Ovulation and menstruation may stop as a result, but usually
resume once stress decreases.
low body weight interrupts many hormonal functions in the body,
potentially halting ovulation. Thus women with an eating disorder, such as
anorexia or bulimia, often stop having periods.
Excessive exercise can also
affect the hypothalamus, resulting in the disappearance of menstruation.
at those three lifestyle factors, you should understand that a female runner
doing excessive high-intensity, long distance training could be at risk of
developing amenorrhea, given the combination of low body fat, stress and high
HOW TO AVOID IT
you’re upping your training, make sure you seek nutritional guidance to
properly nourish your body for that extra effort and mileage. Quite simply, more
training means more nutrition! If your period then becomes light, unbalanced or
eventually disappears for two or more cycles – and you’re not pregnant – see
your doctor immediately. Take the signals as a red flag that you need to slow
down and cut back a bit – by at least 20% of your training volume – because no
race or running goal is more important than your health!