Female endurance athletes have different considerations than their male counterparts when it comes to managing their training. In this first episode of a two-part series, Dr. Jinger Gottschall and coach Suzie Snyder talk cycles: the 28-day kind.
Female endurance athletes have different considerations than their male counterparts when it comes to managing their training. In this first episode of a two-part series, Dr. Jinger Gottschall and coach Suzie Snyder talk cycles: the 28-day kind. They’ll look at the role of hormones in athletic performance and bust some myths about the differences between men and women. Whether you’re a female athlete or know someone who is, this episode is a must-listen. Period.
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Jinger Gottschall 0:00
Hey, welcome back to another episode of the knowledge by Wahoo. I'm Dr. Ginger Gottschall, Director of applied sports research.
Suzie Snyder 0:09
And I'm Susie Snyder multisports specialist here at Wahoo. And today, we're discussing how your menstrual cycle impacts endurance training. So this is actually part one of a two-part series, and
Jinger Gottschall 0:23
Suzue is this gonna be awkward. It's gonna be me, because
Suzie Snyder 0:25
we're talking about periods. See, yeah, oh, I said the word
Jinger Gottschall 0:29
you did. And my hands got sweaty, and my heart rate started increasing because I don't want to make any of the guys out there uncomfortable.
Suzie Snyder 0:36
Well, you know, it's part of life, right? I mean, we have to, we got to talk about things that are uncomfortable. And what better way to start than to just get it out there.
Jinger Gottschall 0:46
It's so true. Okay, so I am Sorry, I interrupted you, you were specifying we've got two parts to this podcast.
Suzie Snyder 0:52
That's right. So today, we're going to talk about kind of anatomy and physiology. So be like the classroom session, just to help everyone understand what's actually happening during the menstrual cycle so that it helps us understand why and how it affects our training. So in part two, we'll talk about the application of how to either plan ahead of time with your cycle in mind or how to modify if you need to, once symptoms arise.
Jinger Gottschall 1:18
Awesome, actually can't wait for that. But there are some really cool details about part one to keep your interest. And it's going, to begin with some fascinating history about women in endurance sports specific to cycling and running. And interestingly, it was actually before 1900. So we're talking about 1894 1896, where we had the documentation of the first woman to ride across the continental US. That's a huge accomplishment. And also, the first women's marathon was actually recorded in Greece. And this little Daredevil did it the day after the official men's event in Athens. So that took some guts, then, unfortunately, women's athletics took a little bit of a back step in 1928, when the International Olympic Committee actually banned women from running any events over 200 meters. Unbelievable. So like, they can actually ban us. Yes, banning over 200. In here, here are some of the reasons that women should never run over 200 Especially not a marathon. Because unthinkable. They could grow mustache,
Suzie Snyder 2:34
Jinger Gottschall 2:34
Suzie Snyder 2:35
Jinger Gottschall 2:36
And my very favorite was that their uterus was going to fallout
Suzie Snyder 2:40
Just fall out. Like it's not like, you know, our bodies aren't made to have it or anything is to just fall out at any time.
Jinger Gottschall 2:47
Exactly. And, in fact, that was the reason Susie why women were not allowed to run in the Boston Marathon. It's been a male race director. Hmm. It was in 1967, Kathrine, Switzer actually entered the race. And on her registration, only used her initials, so was obvious that she was actually a woman who wanted to run the race and got to the start line was well into half the marathon when the media truck caught on that she, in fact, was a woman with a race number, and started to follow her. We're not actually doing anything to prevent her running, just following her in the story was kind of getting hot. Well, the race director was also on the media truck, he jumped off and tried to side tackle her at the same time, she had both her coach and her boyfriend with her. And her boyfriend was the one to actually sidestep him. And he was you can see from the pictures of some of the literally tumbling into the side of the road by this and she was actually able to finish. So
Suzie Snyder 3:59
Yeah,and it's actually awesome. That interview with Katherine is in half the road, the documentary about equality for women's cycling, which we actually have in the system app. So as an inspiration video, so if you haven't seen that yet, it's awesome in a lot of ways, but it's really cool to see the video of Katherine talking about that experience and see some photos from that in that documentary. So
Jinger Gottschall 4:24
motivating and also shocking that this was in 1967. Equally shocking to me is the fact that it wasn't until 1984 Yes, 1984 that the first women's Olympic Marathon actually occurred as well as the first women's Olympic individual road race in cycling. I mean, this is crazy. I was already 10 by now. And this was the first time these were happening on this international stage
Suzie Snyder 4:53
and was crazy to me is that it took another 16 years for women's polo To be included in the Olympics,
Jinger Gottschall 5:01
come on, women are not strong enough to hold all their upper bodies and are not safe.
Suzie Snyder 5:07
As a pole vaulter myself. I was shocked when, you know, I was in high school and I wanted to pull and they wouldn't let me because New York State forbid it. So it took a girl somewhere else in the state suing New York, and she won, and we gained the ability to compete in the competition. But that was like 98 or 99, I think. And then the first New York State Championship we were included in was 2000. So it was unbelievable. And, you know, of course, they included it in the Olympics. And I got to watch. And I was like, I know
Unknown Speaker 5:45
Suzie Snyder 5:47
This hasn't been as crazy.
Jinger Gottschall 5:49
Yes, equally as crazy is the fact that I have not had a male coach ever talk to me about my period, really? Never.
Suzie Snyder 6:00
Well, I think I've had one, maybe two. And that was just in the last three or four years. I've only ever had men coaches, which I never really, actually realized before. And I don't know why just connections, I guess. But yeah, I think I've had one or two, bring it up and just ask, you know, they're very professional about it. But you could kind of tell maybe it was a little awkward, but just basically asking, Do you have a regular cycle? Right? Does it affect you? Do you have negative symptoms? Do you have days that you can't train or can't train hard because of it or, you know, stuff like that? So kudos to them for being comfortable enough to bring it up, Tommy, but I think as a woman athlete if your coach doesn't bring it up, it's up to us. And we should absolutely bring it up and not be afraid to talk about it. And I think if we bring it up in the first place, they might be a little bit more comfortable, because they might be afraid that we're uncomfortable talking about it, and it's just this elephant in the room. So right,
Jinger Gottschall 7:04
the bottom line here is to open up the discussion. And our next goal for the second half of this part one is just to get us all on the same page and understand a little bit more about the terminology, what various phases are. And then we will actually take those phrases and talk about the application in part two. Yeah. So let's begin with some definitions. I love talking about hormones. And I think it's fascinating in terms of what's going on at any one moment. But what actually is a hormone could you actually give a definition of a hormone, and they're basically a messenger, it's a chemical messenger, that's going to take the information into the blood, and then distribute that information to the tissues and the organs of the body. So a messenger, think about a hormone to other terms and locations where a lot of these reproductive systems are being regulated by hormones is the uterus, which that's what folks thought could actually fall out. This is the hollow pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis. And it is where the unborn baby develops and grows, people also called the uterus a lay term, the womb. And the second one that I want to make sure we all are clear on is the ovaries. These are a pair of female glands, basically, one on each side of the uterus, their lateral. And this is where the hormones estrogen and progesterone are made. So we've got a little bit of anatomy, a little bit of introduction into hormones. And now let's understand the function of each of these. Let's start with progesterone. So says What would you say is a female or a woman? So the primary function of progesterone.
Suzie Snyder 8:54
Progesterone is the hormone that's the most highly responsible for preparing the body in pregnancy. So it's really responsible for the lining of the uterus building up and maintaining that pregnancy. A lot of chemical reactions have to happen for that process.
Jinger Gottschall 9:16
Exactly. And that's where progesterone comes in. Now, the interesting thing is, although Suzy was just talking about the primary function in women, which has to do with preparing the body for conception, men also have these receptors, and both men and women will have these receptors throughout the bodies for healthy bones heart, your liver, and brain tissue. And you'll see some similarities to estrogen here, but it's just so that you are aware. Men also have progesterone receptors, and it's critical for varying roles other than just female reproduction. Yeah. How about estrogen? What would you say as a primary function?
Suzie Snyder 9:56
Well, estrogen is what's really responsible for Women looking like women. So the female characteristics that we develop during puberty, you know, breasts, pubic hair, just anything that you associate with a woman looking like, right is kind of response, thanks to estrogen. But most people don't know, it has a pretty significant role in contributing to our brain health. So our cognitive ability to think bones and our heart. So it's really a multitasker,
Jinger Gottschall 10:31
it is. And you can see some overlap there with progesterone, both hormones again, men and women have these receptors. And in addition to the critical function of female reproduction, it's also cardiovascular liver, cognitive, etc.
Suzie Snyder 10:46
And for you men, because you do have a little bit of estrogen, it's actually responsible for reducing the inflammatory response in your body, which, as you train, you get inflammation. So you can thank your estrogen for bringing down that inflammation and helping you recover
Jinger Gottschall 11:04
and reducing muscle damage. So boom, you didn't rock the house. Alright, so now that we are all on the same page with respect to definitions of the hormones, and what these actual organs are, let's chat about the phases and we're going to break it down very simply into the follicular phase, which is day one through 14, ovulation that happens around day 14, and luteal phase, which is 14 to 28. Now, while we talk about and define these, I just want everybody to be clear, we're going to speak about it as a 28-day cycle. Not always the case, it could be really anywhere from 24 to 38. For some women, so you do want to track yourself, to see how long that is, then you could divide it and basically, your halfway point would approximately be ovulation. So let's start follicular. The follicular phase begins with a woman getting her period, this is what we're going to call day one through seven could last anywhere from two to five days, again, depending on the individual, but this is where the lining of the uterus is actually shedding. So that's what it is that you're getting rid of. And at this phase, estrogen and progesterone are both low. And that's then where you're most likely, dude.
Suzie Snyder 12:23
Yep, the baseline is the baseline.
Jinger Gottschall 12:27
If we continue with the follicular phase, the second half of this is when the lining of the uterus is building back up again. And you're going to see a rise in estrogen leading up to ovulation, again, not halfway point, which is where you get the release of the egg from the ovary. And the peak of estrogen at this point after ovulation is where you have that sharp decline in estrogen. And we begin the luteal phase, which is the second half of days 14 to 28. And a typical cycle. And this is the in-between time where you're going to be having one of two things, you're either getting fertilized and preparing for pregnancy, or the fertilization has not occurred, and you prepare to shed the lining again. So there's a lot of various peaks and drops in terms of progesterone at this point in time. And obviously, that's going to depend upon if the egg was fertilized or not. Yep,
Suzie Snyder 13:27
and progesterone is the one we attribute those pesky PMS symptoms to so because progesterone is just rising continually. And progesterone is also responsible for the contractile property of the uterus in making us actually shed that lining. So that's what gives us cramps and makes us moody and pose. So thank you progesterone,
Jinger Gottschall 13:51
right? So basically, we've just given estrogen-like all the love here, yeah, we're totally kicking progesterone to the curb, but we don't, not totally because remember, there are all those other cool things, it is important it is. So hopefully this helps us start the dialogue on a little bit of an educational basis. Now we're all on the same page. And we hope that you'll turn into part two to get the application.
Suzie Snyder 14:17
Yeah, here's a little challenge for you go out and talk to a guy about your period or your coach.
Jinger Gottschall 14:23
She said it again. She said it again.
Suzie Snyder 14:25
I'm just gonna talk about periods all day.
Jinger Gottschall 14:29
So we hope this sets us off on the right foot, as they say, that works for both cycling and running. Right. So in terms of talking about a woman's cycle, and a woman getting her period, and we really appreciate you listening to the knowledge by Wahoo.
Suzie Snyder 14:47
And tune in for part two, about the application of how the menstrual cycle affects your training and what we can do to prepare and modify and plan accordingly.
Jinger Gottschall 14:58
Yeah, because What we want to do is become a better athletes here we come