Essential Sports Nutrition


Menstruation and body image

I consider myself an expert on it relates to my body. I've had a regular (naturally produced) menstrual cycle for over 13 years. Each month, my menstrual cycle is a reminder of my healthy body and mind. Even in peak Ironman training, I still have a normal cycle. However, this doesn't mean that it's a fun time of the month. For almost two weeks out of every month, I suffer - mentally and physically. As a fellow female athlete, can you relate?

For females, menstruation is a normal monthly occurrence for a good 30-35 years of life. For female athletes, training and racing can be positively and negatively affected by your cycle - every female is different. An excellent read on this topic is ROAR by Dr. Stacy Sims. Although menstruation is often shunned by the media, it is gaining more attention by athletes, researchers and coaches. However, a topic that is not heavily discussed is the way your body image changes during your period.

Menstruation causes many physical and mental changes, specifically during the luteal phase (the second half of your cycle phase). Research shows that anxiety and negative body-image related thoughts are highest during this phase. In other words, females are more unsatisfied with how they look (appearance and body image) in this high hormone phase, often perceiving the body to be larger than it really is and feeling less attractive than normal. Despite research showing that body size remains the same, there's a strong association between body dissatisfaction and the menstrual cycle.

As I've discussed in previous posts, body image is a tough topic for athletes for its influenced by many factors. With so many mixed messages about what's the "ideal" image, how attractive or comfortable you feel about your body can be a constant work in progress. Emotionally, it can be tough to deal with all these messages, especially when there are dramatic changes in your hormones in the 10-14 days before your cycle. For this reason, it's important that female athletes become aware of the physiological changes that occur in the body throughout the menstrual cycle. The more self-awareness you have, the easier it is to take care of your body - especially when your hormones are making you feel miserable about the way that you look.

Here are a few side effects of menstruation that may affect your body image.
  • Constipation
  • Loose stools
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea 
  • Swollen or tender breasts
  • Night sweats
  • Gassy
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling tired
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Appetite changes
  • Food cravings
  • Trouble concentrating 
Body image and restrictive eating/dieting often coincide. For when you are dissatisfied with your appearance, you may conclude that losing weight will make you feel better about yourself and your body image. Self-esteem, anxiety and depression can also be problems of being dissatisfied with your body image. For many, to help combat uncomfortable physical and psychological feelings, next comes restrictive eating, overexercising and patterns of disordered eating.

By recognizing that these issues (above) are normal, my hope is that you will avoid extreme dietary changes in attempt to try to change the way that you look and feel and instead, have more compassion for your body during this time of the month.

I can attest that it's no fun to deal with the side effects of menstruation...month after month after month. Especially when trying to train consistently - often in tight/revealing clothing. That is why I feel it's very important to recognize how your feelings about your body change in the week (or days) before you start your menstrual cycle and to remind yourself that what you are experiencing is due to a change of hormones - because you are healthy. If you find yourself being more critical of your body during this time of the month, often noticing more physical changes with your body, use this time to become more in-tune with your body so that you can give it what it needs, what it matters the most.


Greenville News Run Downtown 5K Race Recap

Picture: Beth Molzer

Back in November, Karel and I were discussing a few running races with our coach to use for training purposes. During this chat, Karel realized that he has never ran a 5K before! Back in 2006, Karel joined me for the Tampa Bay Times 10K Turkey Trot - which he quickly flew by me within the first mile and finished in a blazing time of 39:45. This was back when Karel was bike racing and didn't really care for running as he loved riding/racing his bike.. To prepare for the Turkey Trot, Karel only ran 4 times before the race, in the weeks prior - starting at 20 minutes and working his way up in time (and speed) to the 10K distance.

Fast forward 13 years, an older (I mean wiser) Karel decided to sign up for his first 5K race. There was no special training (or tapering) for this race but instead, this was a workout where Karel was told to run as hard as he could to get his heart rate up as high as possible. His "workout" on race day also included running 25 minutes before the run and another 25 minutes after. Karel was looking forward to his first 5K as he loves to push hard and be in a race environment.

The morning started a little before 6am when we both got up to start the day. In typical fashion (nothing changes on the weekend), we both got a little work done on the computer before getting ready for our "workout" for the day.

Karel started his warm-up at our house with some mobility work and a ~16 minute jog on the treadmill to get his system going so he could go to the bathroom before he left the house. This also included a few pick-ups. Around 7:15, Karel drove the 8 miles down the road to downtown Greenville for the race, which started at 9am (we picked up Karel's bib number/shirt on Friday so he didn't have to deal with lines on race morning).

After Karel left, I started my workout with a 15 minute spin on the trainer (which I do before all my runs - something new I've started per my coaches advice) and then out on the road for my run workout. I had a 65 minute run (no intervals) which worked perfect for me to run from our house to downtown Greenville, via the Swamp Rabbit Trail. A 5K is not something that suits me (or my physiology) but I still wanted to see Karel race (and be in the race environment). I timed it perfectly so that I arrived to the race start just a few minutes before 9am to give Karel a smile and a wave.

The weather was perfect (in the low 40's) with light rain (drizzle). There was a big crowd for the 41st anniversary of this event. We have an incredible running community in Greenville so Karel knew that there would be some fast feet ahead of him. With no set pacing strategy, Karel focused first on his breathing and form and then gave it all he could. The course was rolling with very little flat (no surprise here in Greenville), which suited Karel. The only hard part was the fast downhill running. After the race, Karel finished his "workout" by running on the Swamp Rabbit Trail to the bakery. I met him there (I drove Karel's car from downtown) and we enjoyed a coffee and croissant before heading to Furman for a swim workout. Karel loosened out with an easy and short swim (I had a different swim workout) and he finished off with strength training right after the swim. Although a lot to pack into race day, the purpose was to get in the workouts before the soreness sets in.

Karel is happy with his performance and at the age of 42.5 yrs, he's happy that he can still chase around the "kids" in running races.

Per Karel's Garmin watch:
Mile 1: 5:32
Mile 2: 5:24
Mile 3: 5:31

Official race time: 17:08, 10th overall, 2nd male masters.

Here's a video recap of Karel's first 5K.


2019 Trimarni Kits - ORDER NOW

The Trimarni store is now open!!
We are thrilled to officially announce that the Trimarni team will be sporting Castelli apparel in 2019....and so can you!

Engineered for top-level racing, Castelli is dedicated to making the fastest clothing in the world for triathletes and cyclists by using the most advanced fabric technologies available. We are confident that you will love the reasonably priced, comfortable and functional kit items.

And because we can't have you sporting an old design on a new kit, our designer has revamped our 2018 kit design to make sure that you look GOOD and stand out in a crowd of triathletes.
As in years past, the black kit is for the males and females can choose between the black or pink kit items.

We can't wait to see you training and racing in your Trimarni Castelli kits.
2019 is going to be AMAZING!

To access the Trimarni page:
1) Click on this link.

2) Sign up on the bottom of the page. This grants you access to the Trimarni team page of kit items.
3) Start shopping.

If needed, here's a size chart. From our experience of trying on the various kit items, the pieces run true to size.

The store will only remain open until Monday January 28th.
This is your only chance to place an order so don't miss out on this one-time opportunity to purchase your Trimarni training and race day gear for 2019. 

A $15 shipping charge will be added to your order and Castelli will directly ship to you. Once the store is closed, please allow 6-8 weeks for production and shipping.

Anyone can place an order (friends, family, training partners, etc.). This page is open to the public. 

Thanks for your Trimarni support!