One of my most visited posts on the blog was all about Running and Periods.
I talked about the fact that I didn’t have a period for a while and my desire to get it back and in the comments there were a number of women that had experienced or were experiencing the same thing. I get a lot of emails about about this subject so I thought I would talk about what I learned from the experience. Remember when I used to use at least 36 different colors in each post?
Losing your period from being underweight is your body’s way of warning you that something is not right. In my case (and in many other women runners case) it was due to not enough body fat and overtraining. I had this crazy idea that the lighter I was, the faster I would be. This can be incredibly damaging to your body when your weight gets too low and you lose your period. These types of athletes are at risk for a decrease in bone mass which may be irreversible. Our bone health is pretty darn important. Musculoskeletal injuries are not fun.
I really don’t think we talk about this kind of stuff enough and there are too many young runners out there that think decreasing their body weight/fat will improve their performance and then they end up with the Female Athlete Triad. When I was a cross country coach I made sure to spend plenty of time talking to my girl athletes and watching for warning signs to make sure that this problem did not happen with them.
Gaining the weight was most certainly difficult on me mentally at the time (about two years ago). I think that the number one thing that got me ‘through’ that time and to work towards gaining weight until my period came back was thinking about my future. Yes, I love running and it is a big part of my life but I knew that the thing that would bring me the most happiness in life was a family.
I was right about that one.
We need to remember that our long term health is much more important than a silly race or hitting what we think will be our best ‘racing weight.’
To get my period back I had to increase my body fat (not just weight because you could still gain muscle weight and I don’t think that would make a big difference). I think it took me about 3 months of really working on eating more calories and exercising less to get it back.
I was very lucky that I just had to gain body fat in order to get my period back and I know there are a trillion different things that some people have to do in order to get it back but I am just telling you what worked for me.
Get the problem fixed now. Don’t wait until after your next marathon/race to work on getting your period back. Even if you don’t want to have kids for a while it doesn’t matter, you need to talk to your doctor and get on a nutrition/training plan that will allow your body to get back to a weigh/body fat percentage that is healthy and for your period to return!
Has running effected your period?
Those of you that have (or are) experienced the female athlete triad, what did you do to get your period back? Ever had to do anything to get back to a normal cycle?
Have you ever overtrained?
Who has had a stress fracture before? Where?
Who is going to come over for an Oreo and ramen party while we unpack together?