As women, we go our whole lives hating our periods and thinking they were more of a pain than anything. They are a complete drag most of the time. Dealing with the cramps and PMS is just inconvenient and NOT fun. I have always hated getting my period..until recently.
I’ve always had a somewhat regular cycle. I have been on and off birth control pills which REALLY regulated it, but even when I’m off the pill, I’m pretty regular.
I started Jamie Eason’s LiveFit program in September 2011. This was the first time I really dedicated myself to weight training and working out 4-6 days per week. The first month of LiveFit training was fine and my cycle was regular. By the 8th week of training, my period was non existent. This was the first time my period just decided to not come AT ALL. No signs, no symptoms, nothing!
I started to really stress about it. I knew it wasn’t normal and something in my body wasn’t regular. I knew I wasn’t pregnant but I took a pregnancy test anyway to put my mind at rest. As I thought, I was NOT pregnant. I did some researching and found that exercise can actually affect the menstrual cycle in women. I was confused at first because I had always heard that exercise, staying active, being at a healthy weight, and eating healthy is GREAT for the body and will help regulate your cycle and that’s what I was doing. I was confused.
Fast forward 8 months to today.. I’ve still been exercising 4-6 times a week and my cycle has been a hit or miss every month for the past 8 months. I am writing this article today because at this point I haven’t gotten my period in over 2 months. I took another pregnancy test to be safe and once again, I’m not pregnant. I have recently talked to many other fitness girls and learned that this is a very common problem for women like myself. I have learned a LOT about why this happens by talking to others and researching the issue.
I’ll explain a bit more about what I learned. I hope that this may help some of you understand why this happens to us, as athletes.
There are several factors that could affect a woman’s hormones.
Weight – If you’re underweight, your body won’t produce the hormones it needs to complete a menstrual cycle. If you’re overweight, your hormones may be thrown out of whack and make it hard to conceive. Having too low of a body fat percentage is unhealthy and you may experience a missed period. You need to be at a healthy weight in order to maintain a normal hormonal balance.
Stress – When we are stressed or have high anxiety levels, the cortisol released by our adrenal glands is affected. This abnormal release of cortisol can impact our estrogen and progesterone hormones. With these hormones affected, the regularity of our cycle can be affected.
Exercising – Over exercising (overtraining) may put too much stress on the body to produce the regularity of hormones it needs to complete a cycle. Exercising is draining on your body. Menstration isn’t vital to occur in order for our bodies to survive. The main point of menstruation is to reproduce. When we exercise, our bodies go into a survival mode and may shut down unecessary functions in the body(menstruation) to save energy to keep our bodies going in it’s current condition. It holds on to every bit of energy it can in order to allow vital functions to work properly.
After reading that weight, stress and over training may affect my menstrual cycle, I started to think about my own personal situation. The last time I got my body fat checked, I was around a 17%. To many people, this may be too low but it’s not unhealthy according to the “books”. Maybe that’s why my period is no where to be found? My weight is on the lower end as well. Both of these factors could DEFINITLY be affecting my cycle. I have not been stressed, so I don’t think that is a factor.
I’ve recently realized that maybe I’m training too hard for my body. I took last week off completely from training and was hoping that it would allow my body to chill out and regulate itself. It didn’t help because it didn’t come.
I started to wonder…is my missing period HURTING my body? I mean…I don’t mind not having a period to deal with..but is my body sending me a message that I should be listening to?
The answer is YES. Amenorrhea (the absence of a period) can put you at high risk for osteoporosis, a disease in which your bones become brittle and are more likely to break. Amenorrhea is usually caused by a lack of estrogen (female hormones) produced naturally in the body. Estrogen is necessary to prevent osteoporosis. By over-training, our bodies will lack estrogen and can cause fractures to our bones. You are MUCH more likely to hurt yourself if you are over-training.
When you miss your period for over 6 months, you could have secondary amenorrhea which could affect your fertilitly in the future.
Okay….THIS IS WEIRD….
Sorry..as I was writing this post, guess what? I got my period (sorry guys if that’s TMI). How ironic! Wow, I’m in shock. I guess all I need to do was start a blog post about this and it would jump start it (jk).
I don’t know why it decided to come at this very moment, 2 1/2 months late, but I think taking a week off of training probably helped. Maybe it gave my body that rest it needed. I need to make sure to take my training down a notch and hopefully keep myself regular from here on out.
I know this was such a strange post, but I hope that it helps some women realize that this is a common problem in the fitness world. If you miss your period once or twice, it’s pretty common. If you miss your period for more than 6 months, please go see your gynecologist because It could affect your fertility and bone loss.
Train hard, but train smart!!! If your body is telling you something, listen to it!