We have outlined 3 key considerations for women when they are undertaking triathlons. This information could be applied to a range of sports and activities though.
- 1.Fuel your body
Fuelling your body correctly is incredibly important to optimise your performance, maintain bone health and ward off injury.
Higher training levels lead to increased energy expenditure and therefore require increased energy intake. Without appropriate energy intake, female athletes put themselves at risk of developing RED-S (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport) syndrome. RED-S in females was previously termed ‘The Female Athlete Triad’ and is characterised by low energy availability, oligomennorhea (infrequent menstrual periods) and decreased bone density. This is an important consideration for female athletes as suboptimal bone density puts you at an increased risk of bone injury (think stress fracture!).
If you are unsure where to start, a registered dietician can help you identify how to better fuel for your training load.
- 2.Utilise Your Cycle
A new wave of evidence has emerged that looks specifically at the affects of the female menstrual cycle on performance and training. Some recent studies have shown that the best strength gains are made in the first 2 weeks of your cycle (i.e. the 2 weeks starting from the first day of your period). By understanding this phenomenon, women can train more effectively. If you do notice that you fatigue more easily in the second two weeks of your cycle, then place a larger focus on strength and endurance in the first 2 weeks, and then focus on technique (e.g. swim stroke or lower limb alignment during running) in the second 2 weeks.
- 3.Look after that pelvic floor!
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that run between your legs, attaching to the pubic bone at the front and the tailbone at the back. The function of your pelvic floor is to maintain continence and support your pelvic organs (bladder, bowel and uterus). Causes of a weakened pelvic floor include childbearing, constipation and performing high impact activity (e.g. running) without optimal pelvic floor strength.
Signs of a weakened pelvic floor include:
- A feeling of heaviness in the pelvis, particularly towards the end of the day or after training
- Leaking with coughing, sneezing or running
- Difficulty holding in wind
If you are training for a triathlon and doing lots of running, you want to ensure that your pelvic floor has the strength and endurance to keep up with your training load. Daily pelvic floor exercises will help to build up your pelvic floor function.
To engage your pelvic floor, squeeze the circular muscle around your back passage (as if trying to hold in wind!). Keep your glutes relaxed and don’t hold your breath. See how many seconds you can hold this for and then repeat 10 times. Gradually increase this until you can perform 10 squeezes for 10 seconds each.
Here is a link to all of the Women’s Health Services that we provide at SquareOne Women’s Health. Book in for a Women’s Health appointment here so that you can perform at your best and achieve your goals.
Written by Brigitte Egan from SquareOne Women’s Health.
Brigitte is a physiotherapist specialising in women’s health. She treats a range of women’s health concerns including incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic/sexual pain, pre/postnatal care and return to exercise.