The time of the month is an issue that affects all sportswomen but why is it still something we never hear about?
I have found that there always seems to be one topic of conversation that the media love to talk about but never actually do – periods. A subject that is carefully controlled and yet the desire to discuss such a topic on a personal level is limited and brushed over.
It seems like there is no time like the present to start asking whether periods are a problem for sportswomen and do they affect performance?
It is widely known that sportsmen and women have, in the heat of a loss looked to blame anything they can, a bad sleep, an old injury, sunlight, when the fact of the matter is, that 99.9% of time, you just under performed.
I found it incredibly inspiring to see one of our country’s finest athletes Paula Radcliffe, speak up about it recently. Her period started on the morning of Sunday 13 October 2002, the day she was to line up for the Chicago Marathon. It was the day she went on to break the world record.
There has been proven evidence of this in a study of female rowers in 2011. Their heart rates, oxygen consumption, power output, blood lactate levels and other measures of endurance were tested throughout the month. The results? There was no variation in the results, regardless of where a woman was in her menstrual cycle.
I know that there are others that still feel their period holds them back and, everyone is different, we all have our off days. It’s a part of our lives, something we manage for years following puberty.
As I spend most of my days in the water, I can categorically state that as a four-time Olympic medallist, we obviously talk about ‘coming on’, but does it stop us doing the job we love… of course not.
When I was growing up, all I cared about was swimming, a sport where the majority of the time you are submerged in water, something which does not seem imaginable when your time of the month has arrived.
Luckily, very early on I had the support of my mum and sisters who told me that nothing would set me back apart from my dedication to being the best at a sport that I loved.
It is for this reason I am supporting the Lil-Lets ‘Becoming a Teen’ campaign to help reassure and educate young girls on the issues they face when going into and throughout their teenage years. Whether it’s overcoming the fear of facing a swimming or netball lesson in school or even attending a friend’s sleepover, your monthly cycle is not there to hold you back from doing the things you enjoy in life.
I am extremely proud to be amongst a host of celebrities from sport, fashion and music to create a series of inspiring YouTube interviews to help girls through the most important transitional time in their lives.
Campaigns such as ‘This Girl Can’ have helped empower young girls and I hope that this year’s ‘Becoming a Teen’ campaign will only help to further this step change.