Monday, December 5, 2011

A Taboo Topic

While researching marathon training plans for my upcoming third marathon on March 2012, I noticed that all methods seem to have one missing theme – They lack any mention of training around a woman’s menstrual cycle!

GASP – Did I really go there?  Certainly it is an uncomfortable topic for most men and women, but it IS important for every woman to be aware of, and consider when organizing a training schedule.

I am happy to provide a bit more insight on our "monthly friends," that in turn will help you to train harder, and maybe even become a better athlete. But here's the thing, I am not scientific in my approach, my brain does not work that way . Therefore I will break up the descriptions in layman's terms. And no, I don’t doubt your credibility of understanding complexities but I do doubt my ability of communicating effectively my intent.

Before I continue, I strongly suggest that all my female runner friends out there should start to keep a training cycle journal if you don’t already. I have been logging for a few months now, and it’s very exciting when I start to see trends, and almost be able to predict my performance for the week.

The menstrual cycle is broken up into three phases –

The first of these phases is called, the follicular phase. It is day one – thirteen with the first three to seven of those days that includes menstruation. It is marked with relatively low levels of estrogen. During the follicular phase, tempo runs and interval training will feel easier. You will get a quick burst of energy…Through carbohydrates that is.

The second phase is ovulation that begins on day fourteen. I don’t know about the rest of you, but during this time I feel like I am super woman – Out to conquer the world and well, hump every man that I see. Please note that I don’t actually hump every man nor do I try. I was just using this for dramatic effect. In keeping my own journal, I have noticed that I tend to run my strongest around this time.

And the last phase is day fifteen through twenty-eight day called the "luteal phase." Moderately high estrogen levels are held during this time. Because high estrogen levels are prone to fat-burninng, lowering lactic acid levels, those long runs will feel easier and  with less time needed to recover. During the luteal phase I would suggest drinking more sodium based drinks that will naturally help all around.

So there it is! That wasn’t so bad was it? For me, understanding my cycle has helped me immensely with my training. Do you keep a journal of your “monthly activities?" Do you find it helpful in gagging your performance?

Despite the "accident's" on the course, Uta Pippig is all smiles winning the 1996 Boston Marathon. I suppose I would be too despite those obstacles! If that is not inspiring - I don't know what is!

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