Tina Muir is a professional runner, having competed for Great Britain in the Half Marathon World Championships in 2016. However, recently Tina has had a break from professional running, initially as an attempt to recover from 9 years of amenorrhea, and then due to having her first child. Now Tina is back training, juggling motherhood with running, hosting a podcast (Running for Real) and somewhere amongst that she has written a book ‘Overcoming Amenorrhea’. So we asked for her insights and advice on amenorrhea, and how to start the recovery process…
Times are changing.
Until a few years ago, talking about your period was an absolutely taboo topic. It was something that we as women had to keep to ourselves; whether we were having them or not, how heavy or light they were, the symptoms we experienced, and any complications, don’t even go there.
Thankfully, that is where wonderful people like those behind FitrWoman and others in the industry who are making it okay to talk about it, are making things better. Giving us a more open stage to discuss, and removing that unnecessary sense of embarrassment about something so natural.
I take pride in my part to get the conversation going. I decided to step away from my career as an elite runner to start a family, while also giving my body a break from years of intense training. I had a secret though, one I had been keeping for a long time. A secret that was eating away at me, but it was finally time to be true to who I was and admit it.
I had not had a period in nine years. Okay, so that is a lie, I had one, but it was forced on by some pretty heavy medication, and after doctors proved that I COULD cycle, that was enough. Deal with it later.
Well, now later was here, and I wanted to try for a family. I knew that you cannot get pregnant if you are not ovulating, therefore I had to get my period back before I could try. Twelve weeks, about 10kg of weight gain, and total rest from all exercise later, I fell pregnant.
I realize for me it happened quickly, and I was very very lucky for it to come together like that, but I also did all the right things to give my body the best opportunity to actually do that. I recently released a book, Overcoming Amenorrhea, where I shared everything about my journey to this point.
I talked about my story and how I ended up going nine whole years of just ignoring it, and then the second half of the book is my advice for everything I did to get it back.
I won’t tell you everything here today, or we will be here for 8 hours, but I will give you three of the main things I did to recover my period, and how, if you are struggling with amenorrhea or a loss of periods, you can try these and hopefully get your body functioning correctly while still being able to enjoy sport or whatever it is you love to do.
The first thing I would recommend is to check everything in the background. Have you ever had a period in the first place? The treatment for primary amenorrhea (never had a period) is very different to secondary amenorrhea (you have had regular periods in the past), and if you are working through primary, you will need the help of a GP or specialist.
Either way, your first stop should be to see your doctor. Get them to run some blood tests to make sure everything is as it should be, and also go to see your gynecologist (that is what it is here in the US, someone who is going to check your reproductive organs) to rule out some other health conditions, and again, make sure everything is as it should be.
Secondly, food. There are multiple reasons people lose their period, but in most cases, this is the result. No, I am not talking about eating more healthy foods. In most cases, it is a lack of calories. Put another way, you are not putting enough energy into your body for the amount it is burning off or expending. This can be frustrating as you may feel like you are eating a lot, eating enough. You may look at others and wonder why they are thinner than you or eat less than you, yet seem to be functioning, so it can’t possibly be that?
I am going to be a bit in your face here, and say it probably is. In most cases it is. I fought hard with anyone and everyone who told me it could be a calorie deficit, but it turned out, they were right.
It might feel uncomfortable at first, but you need to eat more at meals, eat more often throughout the day, and just generally put more energy into your body. Not more salads or vegetables, but calorically dense foods that are going to help restore your body. Again, my book covers this in greater detail, but I would also recommend listening to my Running For Real Podcast episodes with Nancy Clark and Renee McGregor.
The third point is rest. Most people who have amenorrhea are Type A, organized, high achievers, and we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves as well as having the ability to push our bodies hard. As much as you may not want to, some time away from running or exercise altogether is probably just what you need. I took ten weeks off, and it left me feeling rejuvenated and although I was out of shape, I didn't mind, as I was back to just enjoying running for what it is.
I hope that helps a little. It is tough to put it down into one blog post, but I do have more information in my recovery blog post on my website. I wish you the best of luck, you can do this!
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