Impact of the training for women

Why does intense training impact the menstrual cycles to amenorrhea?

Last week, we focused on the importance of the hormonal system for female athletes (it should be the same for men but it seems that we take less account). The training cycling management doesn’t often take into account the moment in the menstrual cycle and we can bring the female cyclist into a well-known situation: amenorrhea.

Several things must be kept in mind:

  • Energy intake and outake impact the whole human functioning,
  • Lipids are necessarily elements in the hormonal production and in particular of LH and FSH.

If the energy expenditure is very important and the daily food intake is limited, the body will search for calories in the fat reserves. In parallel, the lepting rate tends to decrease and therefore reduces the satiety feeling (the well-known loss of appetite with over-trained athletes).

But the leptin is involved in the stimulation of FSH and LH hormones: less leptin, less hypothalamus stimulation and finally, rupture in the chain of production of sexual hormones.

It should be noted that beyond the absence of (temporary) maternity possibility, the fall in progesterone levels also generates long-term bone fragility.

It is important to keep in mind for various factors when coaching young girls:

  • The races choice for each category and the cyclist long-term development: in France, a cyclist who just starts to have her period (so irregular) and a cyclist with regular periods should be separated. A "U14" cyclist with a regional program has enough races in his season. I become crazy when I hear federal coachs encouraging these girls to participate in events with an inadequate mileage: yes, they gain experience in the race, no, they will not progress faster.
  • The creation of a relationship of trust especially when you are a male coach to talk about intimate topics but necessary when we start an intense competition program. It is always a delicate thing to go into this intimate side and the parents, or at least the mother, must be a point of support. The coach must stay in the physiological/training sphere and does not have to talk about sexual education with a young teenager. This role must always be clear, frequently and unequivocally reminded to avoid an honest educator to pass for what he is not and put impassable barriers that some people unfortunately cross: this is called pedophilia,don't hide the term.
  • The training block program choice after puberty even if it’s a tough job until the menstrual cycles are not stabilized. I have remarkable feedbacks highlighting the difficulty of managing the state of form. We can enter in an over-training situation very quickly with a marked anemia situation. Although, we can have a long talk about the use of oral contraception and its secondary risks but it is still an ease for the young cyclist to know the precise day of the beginning of her periods…. But, we enter into gynecological considerations that I do not control, being a simple little cyclist coach. But the planning is much simpler in this situation.

With this last article that concludes this synthesis of my female training experience, I hope to have brought you some insights on the subject. I hope that the coaches who will read these articles will understand the importance of the training monitoring from the U14 categories: they are still children but, we, coaches, must have a serious "stir meninge" to help these young girls to progress at their own pace without damaging their motivation and their health.

That's why I will always fight for that young girls are not drowned in a boys group, for limiting their training time with boys beyond the U14 category because it is not a real chance, more the contrary. 

Women's cycling is a different kind of cycling from men's cycling, and we have to think about it for every sport: a woman is not a man!

Frederic HURLIN -

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