Mead­hbh Mc Grath

Most women ex­pe­ri­ence hor­monal shifts dur­ing their men­strual cy­cle, and for those into sports, their per­for­mance can be af­fected. Now two Ir­ish cre­ative minds are lead­ing the app pack for ath­letes with writes

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - HEALTH APPS -

IN June, the Bri­tish long jumper Jazmin Sawyers shocked sports fans when she pulled out of a com­pe­ti­tion in Bos­ton at the last minute. The 23-year-old Olympian later posted a note on Twit­ter ex­plain­ing that her pe­riod had started just hours be­fore she was due to leave for the track, and she was suf­fer­ing with in­tense pains that meant she could barely walk. “This is some­thing that isn’t talked about enough in sport, and it ought to be,” she added.

For all the sci­en­tific ad­vances made in sport in re­cent years, ig­no­rance around men­stru­a­tion still abounds. It typ­i­cally falls on in­di­vid­ual fe­male ath­letes to fig­ure out how to deal with the ef­fects of their pe­ri­ods.

Thank­fully more women are speak­ing out about how their cy­cle af­fects their per­for­mance, in­clud­ing Chi­nese swim­mer Fu Yuan­hui. She told re­porters at the 2016 Olympics that she was feel­ing “pretty weak and re­ally tired” be­cause she had her pe­riod, while Bri­tish ten­nis player Heather Wat­son cited “girl things” as the rea­son for a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult at the Aus­tralian Open in 2015.

For Ge­orgie Bru­in­vels (28), Sawyers’ rev­e­la­tion was bit­ter­sweet. A com­mit­ted run­ner and PhD sci­en­tist at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don re­search­ing how fe­male ath­letes’ iron stores are af­fected by men­stru­a­tion, she ex­plains: “At first I thought it was a good thing [that Sawyers was talk­ing about it], but then I im­me­di­ately asked a mu­tual friend for her de­tails be­cause I wanted to help her. I think it’s crazy for ath­letes to get that far in their ca­reers and train so hard, but this isn’t some­thing they’re pre­pared for.”

Pe­ri­ods can of­ten act as a stum­bling block for women in sport — whether it’s young girls drop­ping out when they reach pu­berty, or elite ath­letes find­ing their train­ing ob­structed at cer­tain times of the month.

Ber­nadette Dancy (37), an ul­tra run­ner — any footrace longer than the tra­di­tional marathon length — from Blan­chard­stown, Co Dublin, says her cy­cle has def­i­nitely im­pacted her per­for­mance, and she was anx­ious that her races might suf­fer dur­ing her pe­riod.

“That was very much a con­cern when I was do­ing the ul­tras. That would not be fun, hav­ing to worry about chang­ing a tampon while you’re run­ning,” says Dancy, a lec­turer in health and ex­er­cise sci­ence and a mother of two. “My pe­riod def­i­nitely makes me more slug­gish. Es­pe­cially af­ter hav­ing chil­dren, your cy­cle is out of sync, and for me it’s heav­ier. In the week run­ning up to my pe­riod, I’m much more tired, so I will find it harder to get out the door, and I’ll be dread­ing it from the day be­fore. I wouldn’t be able to work as hard, but once you get run­ning you feel bet­ter after­wards.”

Dancy has been run­ning since her school days, and started do­ing marathons in 2006.

“Then I had my chil­dren and I thought I’d never do an­other marathon again be­cause I couldn’t find the time to train,” she ex­plains. But af­ter hav­ing her sec­ond child, she got back into run­ning, par­tic­u­larly long runs. When a friend de­vel­oped blood cancer last year, Dancy had the idea to or­gan­ise an ul­tra run to raise aware­ness. Now based in Twick­en­ham, Eng­land, she de­cided to run 70 miles from Lon­don to Portsmouth, in the hope of get­ting 70 peo­ple to do­nate blood. It

In the week run­ning up to my pe­riod, I’m much more tired, so I will find it harder to get out the door

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