– I think we should start today’s topic by saying that “women are not small men”, says Ingrid Tandrevold in the latest episode of the podcast “Kant ut”.
The team she and biathlon friend Tiril Eckhoff take up is women’s physiology. Something they would like to know more about even when they were younger, and because there is limited research on female athletes – a topic also NRK has previously covered.
Now Eckhoff and Tandrevold openly share their own experiences to give this more focus.
Has changed the training
Among other things, Eckhoff says that after she stopped taking birth control pills just over two years ago, she began to read up on how the menstrual cycle can affect exercise so that she could get her body more in balance.
– This year I have chosen to periodize my training by cycle, reveals Eckhoff, who logs and follows his own cycle closely.
This way she knows when during the month she feels best and worst in relation to the sessions she has planned.
– When you ovulate, you have quite high estrogen and progesterone. And estrogen is what is our testosterone, and then you build lighter muscles. So then it pays off, then you are often alert, in a good mood, to play with a little hard, says Eckhoff in the podcast episode they have called “Let’s talk about menstruation and exercise”.
The overview has made the 30-year-old feel safer now, and that there is less crisis maximization after a bad training session.
– I think you have to use your cycle to bring out the best in yourself, says Eckhoff.
Concern over lack of menses
She and her teammate also talk about pain associated with menstruation and exercise, and about resistance and discussions they may encounter from others in the field.
– I have a slightly different period than you. even though we are similar in many ways, our paths diverge here. How should I present it? My menstrual history is that as of today I do not have my period. It has been a source of great concern, for I have not understood why I do not have it. I have had it before, but I have never had it regularly, Tandrevold says frankly.
This has led to concern for the 24-year-old. A number of tests showed that both bone density and fat mass were as they should be, and not until Tandrevold went to the emergency room with a severe stomach ache on the way home from a height collection last summer, she found out what was the cause.
– I had cracked some egg blisters on the ovaries. Ultrasound examination revealed that I had a lot of follicles on my ovaries. This means that instead of the eggs loosening and you getting your period, they are stuck, Tandrevold explains.
– A great relief
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the diagnosis, and is characterized by the hormones being out of balance. Symptoms can be abnormal hair growth, pimples and obesity, but Tandrevold thinks it can be easy to overlook in top sports, since you train so much anyway. She also had none of the other symptoms.
– It was a great relief to understand what it was that made me not have my period. Because I really felt like I was doing something wrong, the biathlete admits.
– It’s very tough of you to say that. Maybe you get an extra person with the same symptoms as you to check, says Eckhoff.
Furthermore, the duo talks about experience around contraception. They praise coach Patrick Oberegger for his knowledge of women’s health, and recommend male coaches and fathers to learn more. Both Eckhoff and Tandrevold want more openness.
– Our best tip is to listen even more to the body. It is you who knows yourself best. It is perhaps even more important when you are a girl and have hormonal fluctuations and all that. It can be anything in the exercise diary and on the plan, but it is still you who knows how your body is best. It is not the case that your response to a workout is exactly the same as in another part of the cycle or another time. And I think that is extra important to keep in mind, Tandrevold thinks.
– They’s groundbreaking
Professor of physical activity and health, Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, has been researching women’s health for a long time. She praises Eckhoff and Tandrevold for their openness, and believes that they are great role models – not only in this podcast episode, but also others.
– It’s sparkling. The way they convey is credible and genuine, praises Sundgot-Borgen.
– They are far ahead. I believe that all active athletes should be given a thorough introduction at an early stage about what it actually is to have menstruation, how important it is and what challenges may be associated with menstruation, she adds.
Sundgot-Borgen also highlights Tandrevold.
– Transparency around PCOS is extremely important. There is a higher proportion of female athletes who have this than girls in general. One of the most important reasons for irregular menstruation, or that it does not come, is that the energy availability is not sufficient, and when you have checked that you get enough in relation to consumption, you should investigate further, the professor explains.
She understands the longing for more research on female athletes and their physiology, and thinks it’s a shame that many in 2020 think it’s scary to talk about menstruation. She also believes that Eckhoff and Tandrevold can simply be used in teaching contexts.
– They are so clear and distinct. I think it’s a bit groundbreaking that the two, who are such great role models for other performers, talk like that. It will make it much easier for other girls. There is music in my ears, but it is almost bad that there are two performers who have to carry the load, says Sundgot-Borgen.
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