fitness · menstruation · soccer

Marginal gains and menstruation

I love the idea of marginal gains. See Tracy’s blog post about the idea here.

I first heard about in the sports content reading Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes–and What We Can Learn from Them which, by the way, is a fun book about sports performance.

The main idea as I recall it was that when you are working with elite athletes at the top of their game you aren’t going to be able to make big changes and see big improvements. All the athletes are working at near capacity. Instead you focus on making lots of small improvements in all areas.

My favourite example concerned cyclists and sleep quality. It turns out, not surprisingly, that athletes sleep better at home. How to replicate those conditions on the road? The coach had them bring along pillows and blankets from home.

But coaches traditionally haven’t much attention to women’s menstrual patterns. Until now.

See Ending period ‘taboo’ gave USA marginal gain at World Cup.

” One emerging issue in women’s sport is the menstrual cycle and its impact on performance, player health and injury risk,” explains Dawn Scott, the USWNT’s fitness coach, exclusively to The Telegraph. “I’ve known about these effects, the research, for a long time – but working with 23 players, I had always struggled to know how to accurately monitor that and how to individualise strategies for players.”

It’s a great story. Go read it! But what I love is that the coaching team decided to be open and talk about it–not keeping the competitive edge a secret.

““We want to end the taboo,” says Scott. “At the elite level, but also for teenage girls. They should feel comfortable talking about this with their coaches.” Bruinvels admits that awareness and improved education are key motivations for her work. “Often we are afraid of discussing this because we don’t really understand it,” she says. “I feel particularly for male coaches, who wonder how they would start this discussion.”

Open air stadium with soccer field

 Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta, Indonesia

3 thoughts on “Marginal gains and menstruation

  1. I have the book Roar by Stacey Sims on my list (to buy).
    “her maxim is ‘women are not small men.” And while her book is aimed at high performance, I think that knowledge of how to maximise your own training cycle by understanding your own cycle (so you don’t try and do things because the 4 week cycle training program says – when your body is just going to be feeling crap that day), well for me it’s just super interesting. I love learning how my body works. It would be fantastic if all young women and athletes learned this as par for the course in their training journey. And didn’t stumble over it in a podcast (Sparta Chicks radio) at age 42.

    1. Just replying to my own comment.. but maybe the normalisation of elite female sport, and team sports in particular, in the mainstream, will start these conversations. Because, say, if the AFLW senior coaches or the women’s test cricket side (who are still predominantly men) are investigating this as they learn how to maximise the training and performance of their athletes, well that is the gold standard for coaching. This then trickled down to the under 18’s competition coaches are also using this language and the younger women learn about the effects of a menstrual cycle on their output.

      I also understand there is some research into the association between ACL injury and menstrual cycle phase. The AFLW are interested in this because they have had a high incidence of these injuries.

      To hear a coach on a pre game broadcast one day “she is being rested this week because she’s ovulating and we can’t risk another ACL” – we’ll know we’re fully evolved into accepting women as athletic beings capable of many things. And not a vessel of ancient taboos.

    2. I, too, have Sims’s book, Roar. I opened the conversation with my male coach by giving him the book.

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