Menstrual Cycles And Triathlon: Women are not small men!
Updated: Apr 13
I’m enrolled in a class by Dr. Stacy Sims, author of ‘ROAR’. The class, Women Are Not Small Men (WANSM), explores the science behind her assertions that women are indeed, not small men and we shouldn’t be treated as such. What Dr. Sims has discovered is that women respond very differently to endurance training. Why? Sex differences.
And what does it really come down to for women? Where do we (coaches and athletes) need to focus first for women athletes before anywhere else? We need to focus on the menstrual cycle. This means that the coach and the athlete need to have a conversation about the athlete’s menstrual cycle.
The athlete’s menstrual cycle needs to be tracked within Final Surge so it can be seen by both the coach and athlete. Remember this if you’re groaning about this discussion – it applies to discussing menstrual cycles (do you have them or not and why) and endurance training in general: get comfortable being uncomfortable. This discussion will help you, the athlete, be more successful!
Then, there needs to be a discussion about contraception because it, too, affects the training cycle. It may seem a bit invasive, but the conversation is remarkably simple. The note I sent to my athletes read like this:
I'm working on making some training cycle adjustments for you as a woman athlete. If you've read Dr. Stacy Sims' book, ROAR, you know that women are not small men and we shouldn't train that way.
We have important races on your calendar this year and I want to make sure that we are giving you every advantage and setting you up for success.
Our menstrual cycles are just that, cycles. As such, we have high hormone phases each month and lower hormone phases each month. My intention is to match your training to your cycle. While this may seem a little odd, I know we're going to get greater and better results if we can work with our physiology and not against it.
Here's what I need from you:
- If you track menstrual cycle, please provide me with the last few months data - I just need the date you started and date you stopped each cycle.
- If you don't track it, I want you to START tracking it.
- If you are taking contraceptives, I'd like to know that, as well.
HOW to track it:
- In Final Surge, please make a note on your calendar that you're starting your cycle and a note when your cycle is finished.
From that data, I'm going to modify your training plan.
You may be thinking, "Good heck, Coach, that's super invasive." Please contact me (phone/text/email/smoke signal) if you have any questions and I'll walk you through my thought process!
As always, this data stays between you and me!
Once you have the data for your menstrual cycle, you’ll be able to determine the follicular phase also known as the high hormone phase (Day 1 to ovulation), ovulation (Day 12-13) and the luteal phase also known as the low hormone phase (ovulation to menses).
This is important because we can plan when we can really make gains in training and when we need to back off a little bit. The coach will develop a training plan that is really going to work for the athlete or the athlete can devise a training plan that will really work for them – there will be less guesswork as to when to really take advantage of maximizing training gains.
Start there – track your menstrual cycles and my next Coaches Corner post will discuss what to do next! Stay tuned! (Or, if I’ve really spiked your interest, feel free to send me an email or message and we can discuss more).