In this episode, hosts Paul Warloski and Dr. Paul Laursen, along with guest Marjaana Rakai, delve into the intricacies of training female endurance athletes. They discuss the importance of understanding female physiology, the menstrual cycle’s impact on training, and the need for individualized approaches. The conversation also touches on the importance of communication between coaches and athletes, tracking menstrual cycles, and addressing symptoms to optimize performance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Female endurance athletes may require different training approaches than their male counterparts due to physiological differences.
  • Tracking the menstrual cycle and understanding its impact on performance is crucial for female athletes.
  • Coaches should foster open communication with female athletes about their menstrual cycles and related symptoms.
  • Individualization of training plans based on the athlete’s cycle and symptoms can lead to better performance and overall well-being.
  • Strength training becomes increasingly important for women as they approach perimenopause and menopause.



Paul Warloski (00:36)

Hello and welcome to the Athletes Compass where we navigate training, fitness, and health for everyday athletes. Today we're starting a discussion about female endurance athletes. And I am excited because it's a special episode for me as an older guy, because I really get to learn more about what's working for endurance training for the female athletes I work with. One of the things that I have learned in working with female athletes is that there is no one size fits all approach in training that works.

There's a quote that I've had on my wall at school when I was teaching by William Golding, who's a, he wrote Lord of the Flies and he was a novelist and playwright. And he had this great quote. He said, I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, which is a great first line. They are far superior and always have been. Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she will make you a baby.

Paul Laursen (01:16)

He had this great quote. He said, I think women are foolish to pretend they are.

They are far superior and always have that. Whatever you give a woman, she...

Paul Warloski (01:31)

If you give her a house, she will give you a home. If you give her groceries, she will give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she will give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit. You know, I love that. I just love that. But you know, Marjaana let's start with the basics.

you know, why do female endurance athletes need to train differently than men? Or is that the wrong question?

Marjaana Rakai (02:06)

Yes and no. And once I'm going to go on a little tangent here and talk you guys through a few of my thoughts as a female athlete and a mom of three, only one girl though. But let me just begin to say that if you're a male and you live with a woman or you have a daughter, you should be listening to this podcast.

And as I speak to two male coaches, I am glad that I get to talk to you, because the better you understand female physiology, the better coach you will be to your female athletes, and maybe even your daughter. So we've established that women are amazing, right? I think you boys agree.

Paul Laursen (02:59)


Paul Warloski (03:00)


Marjaana Rakai (03:03)

To answer your question though, we really don't know if females should be training differently from men. But just by asking this question, you're like light years ahead of many other male coaches. And in fact, I found a really interesting research done, or it was an interview, with over a thousand Swedish and Norwegian female athletes.

that shows that only 11% of those athletes spoke to their coaches about their menstrual cycles. So if you have 100 female athletes, only 11 of those will have the discussion with you. So 89 will not. And there you go, you coach them and you have no idea why they have skipped a workout because they are cramping on the bottom of a bed or you know they've

lied about why they skipped a workout. So there's so many sources of little negative things that can be affecting your relationship with your female coaches or female athletes.

Paul Laursen (04:15)

Yeah, and I'll just add that I have experienced sort of both Marjaana, like, you know, women like yourself, no problem, very open about it, and then, and others that seem, it's not something they necessarily wanna talk about. And yeah, and of course you can be a much more successful coach if you are aware and empathetic to the situation.

Marjaana Rakai (04:31)


Yeah, totally. Ever since we get our periods, we thought to suck it up and life doesn't stop just because we're in horrible pain. We go through a lot of hassle and pain during our periods, but we still show up at school, we still show up at training to our best ability.

We are pretty amazing that way, but it doesn't really need to be that way. When we're athletes, like, if we're thinking that we're cramping so bad that we can barely walk, we need to think about, is it conducive to do any hard training that day? So I just wanted to kind of emphasize the need to take that negativity out of the situation.

and maybe embrace the fact that female bodies are amazing and we can do incredible things. And it's really beautiful if you think about it. Female bodies are made to give you babies, correct? That's what we are, that's what we're here for. And we have this beautiful opportunity to do that for almost 40 years, depending.

Paul Laursen (05:58)


Marjaana Rakai (06:07)

35, 40 years, depending on the person. And each month we have that one chance. That's beautiful, right? Why is it so negative?

Paul Laursen (06:15)

That's right. Yeah, it's amazing.

That is a good question. I don't, I don't, how did it become taboo? You know what I mean? And I don't know. I think it was, there was a, there just must've been an era and a time. And, and, you know, it's, it was our own other humans that went before us that somehow put a negative slant on this, that it was dirty or something like that, right? You know?

Marjaana Rakai (06:24)




Paul Laursen (06:50)

and it just shouldn't be talked about. But that's probably what we all grew up with, right? And now I think we're, again, we're in a new era right now where, you know, our children are probably growing up and we're all, I know in my family, it's very, it's spoken about all the time. And my wife is a teacher in the community and she's, you know, she's teaching sex ed and she teaches these sorts of things. And I think we're starting to, we're changing as a society.

but you're spot on that the old opinions are lingering probably still Marjaana but they needn't be. They needn't have to. They shouldn't. So let's talk about it. Let's talk about it. And maybe if I can just kind of set the scene a little bit, let's just bring everyone onto the same page from, what is the cycle, right? What's happening? So we are talking about, let's bring some science in.

Marjaana Rakai (07:25)


Yeah. No. They shouldn't. Let's talk about it.


Paul Laursen (07:46)

We are talking about a generally 30 day cycle, but you know, that's plus or minus 10 days, probably on either side or more. And that is one of the things that's interesting. I will also mention briefly that we are, to Marjaana's point, we at Athletica are very proactive in this area. We are conducting research with MiraCare, our partners.

device and Marjaana I know you were part of this study as well. And maybe you can highlight a little bit that basically it involved a morning urine sample where you would pee on a wand every morning, almost like we used to do with HRV4Training where you take a one minute sample of your heart rate variability in the morning. Well with MiraCare, you just, you know, with your first urination of the day, you pee on this, on this wand.

and then you insert it into the, into the MiraCare tracker and you get a variety of these different hormones that are at different concentrations throughout the cycle. Am I speaking correct there, Marjaana?

Marjaana Rakai (09:01)

Yes, and we did take HRE as well.

Paul Laursen (09:04)

That's right. Fantastic. Right. So we're doing the study. But anyways, you would get all of these various different hormones from estrogen to progesterone and some other ones, some luteinizing hormone and some other metabolites. But ultimately, we get these different phases. We get the follicular phase. This is the time when we're trying to create a follicle that is like an

an egg and whatnot and we're bringing this into down the fallopian tubes from the ovaries and we're going to bring this into the area where it can be fertilized, right? And this is this time of the month is right in the middle and it's called ovulation and that's when you that's the time when the magic happens, right? And we all come into this world, we're all here because of this, right? And this is kind of around the midphase, this is when progesterone and estrogen are

are simultaneously high. And in the sporting world, it tends to be associated with personal bests if you time your sprint event or even endurance event around this time. And then now we're shedding around the, in the next phase, right? In the luteal phase, right? So this is, and then...

This again gets to the end of the cycle and this is the bleed phase and this is the menstrual phase and this is when menstruation phase and this is when you have your period. And then that cycle repeats itself with the various different hormones at different levels throughout. And yeah, again, I'm no massive expert in the field but this is in general how the cycle is working and there are effects across those different.

phases. Marjaana.

Marjaana Rakai (11:00)

Right. And if we start looking at from a young age, right, so in puberty, women start getting these regular periods and they are not regular in the beginning, so it might take some time. And oftentimes, young girls experience a lot of pain, like their menstrual, like the bleeding phase is very painful. A lot of time.

the sport medicine doctors or doctors as prescribed a pill for the girls. Because it kind of takes some of the pain away cramping. But it's important to like understand that, you know, a young girl, there are a lot of changes happening in their bodies. We really need to be supportive and understanding on those.

on that time. So it might take some time before the menstrual cycle gets actually irregular. So it might go from one period, she might get the next one a few months later. So it's not always 30 days, even like say 35 year old might have irregular periods as well. So not like if you're looking at cycle to cycle, there might be some variation.

So that's.

Paul Laursen (12:28)

That's absolutely right. And this is one of the things that, you know, in terms of preliminary findings, this is the part that's fascinating to us, those that are into this area are aware of this, but kind of relates to what I was mentioning with the plus or minus 10 days around the cycle. It's so individual and it's not only individual in terms of the timing of those cycles, in terms of 30 days versus, you know,

Marjaana Rakai (12:45)

Tee hee.

Paul Laursen (12:54)

21 days versus 42 days, right? It's also individual in terms of the phases, right? Like the luteal phase versus the follicular phase versus ovulation, like there's nuances in there. Like you don't even have to, it does not follow necessarily an exact pattern. And this is why the MiraCare Fertility Tracker holds great promise, again, as this.

as these technologies become.

non-invasive invisible monitoring kind of like, and they will because they always do, this is going to get even more, we're gonna be able to refine the optimization of this. We are looking in the study, the reason we're doing this fishing experiment is because we wanna optimize the training for females. We wanna understand it first, this is the same thing that we did with HRV when we were pioneering with this back in the 2000s, it's the same process that we're going through now.

with the MiraCare fertility tracker. So yeah, I guess that's the main thing that I wanna say, that individualness is so apparent, but then also the effects are so individual as well, right? Like some, I think something that's really important is that, and I know this is actually in speaking to Dan and some of the women that he coaches is,

Paul Warloski (14:08)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (14:10)


Paul Laursen (14:26)

You know, some women are just, they're just, it doesn't even affect them, right? And they're adamant that their period does not affect them. And then others, it affects them a lot. So you've got to listen to both. You got to listen to the individual that's kind of in front of you and help them achieve their best in accordance with what they're feeling and they're expressing to you. And again, that kind of goes back to where we started

Paul Warloski (14:28)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (14:40)



Paul Warloski (14:45)


Paul Laursen (14:56)

this podcast with having those open and honest conversations, Paul.

Marjaana Rakai (15:01)

Totally. Do we wanna talk a little bit about the symptoms that might be happening throughout the circle? Ha ha.

Paul Laursen (15:09)

Over to you, Marjaana Do you know about that?

Marjaana Rakai (15:15)

little bit of experience. So some of the perceived symptoms can be headaches, sleep issues, really bad quality sleep, you know quality, you wake up at night, you're just sweating or you just have like really light sleep. You might have tender muscles, I can always tell my back starts to hurt.

Your HRV might dip. I don't know if this is scientifically proven, but I've read a few studies that have shown that it might dip before periods. A general feeling of fatigue, brain fog, and I think William Golding was referring to the mood swings. And

Cramps, especially, really bad, painful cramps.

So, sounds fun, right? And I think like thinking about sleep issues, I think a lot of the other factors might be actually associated with sleep. Like the few podcasts that we did about sleeping makes total sense to think that if you're not sleeping well, you're not feeling well.

Paul Laursen (16:25)


Yeah, absolutely.

Marjaana Rakai (16:51)

And those fluctuating hormones can be causing like higher body temperatures so you have a hard time sleeping.

Paul Laursen (16:59)


Marjaana Rakai (17:01)

What else have you heard?

Paul Laursen (17:03)

Well, I was hoping I could just again go back to the endurance exchange conference and you mentioned Marjaana that doesn't HRV follow the cycle and indeed it does, right? It's in particular, it follows the higher levels of progesterone. So in general, when we look to the higher progesterone levels in the luteal phase,

Marjaana Rakai (17:16)


Paul Laursen (17:32)

then we see that HRV sort of falls in general on that. So HRV here in this example is this one here where we're looking at the RMSSD. So in general, in the luteal phase, we're sort of seeing this fall every luteal phase a little bit in general. And yeah, but again, you can kind of see all of the cycles that are sort of marked here in this experiment.

So here we're looking at like a typical cycle here up in this window, right? Where I was trying to kind of explain all the various different things that are happening in the fertility window of ovulation. And then, you know, the various different, the follicular phase, and then the luteal phase, and then the, and then menses. So we can see menses in red, continually through the cycle. But to Marjaana's point.

we generally tend to see higher levels of progesterone associated with lower levels of HRV in general. So again, this is, you know, HRV is just kind of sort of picking this up. And that's, this is the, you know, this is in participant five in the study. So here's some pilot data from that really cool study. But again, we're really, you know, we're very proud to say that we're pioneering in this area. We don't know anything else that.

Marjaana Rakai (18:33)


Paul Laursen (18:54)

in the world that's kind of doing this right now. So we're quite proud of this collaboration, but yeah, I'm not sure if you wanna add anything there, Marjaana.

Marjaana Rakai (19:04)

Yeah, I think when we go a little bit forward, thinking about typical women and what happens is, you know, we get our periods and then we have our productive years and we have a baby. So, there's a whole bunch of things that happen during pregnancy and after pregnancy as well.

Without going deep into those, it's just really important for coaches to understand and just try to navigate the hormonal fluctuations and being a new mom and all that entails. And then, and it can start as early as 35, we're going into a phase called perimenopause.

Paul Laursen (19:51)


Marjaana Rakai (20:02)

where we start losing our female hormones or they start to fluctuate. And then typically around 50, we go into menopause and menopause marks 12 month period where you haven't had your period anymore. So there's different phases of a female body.

Paul Warloski (20:24)

Thanks for watching.

Marjaana Rakai (20:33)

And during the perimenopause and menopause symptoms can again include irregular periods until we lose the periods in menopause, fatigue, brain fog, hot flashes, even pelvic floor dysfunctions, which is also often happens with new moms, which is important for you guys to know is

Paul Warloski (20:43)

Thank you.

Marjaana Rakai (21:02)

It can make running and jumping really difficult. Um, is it normal? No. And there's a lot of, like, if you, if your female athlete can't jump because she's saying, oh, well, I can't really jump or run because, you know, I'm leaking, you can, uh, direct her to a pelvic floor, a physiotherapist, and, uh, they, they'll be able to help, help them out. So if somebody's leaking while they're running or jumping, know that it's not normal and that it can be fixed.

Um, and what else?

Paul Laursen (21:39)

Well, while you pause and think, Marjaana, what's kind of profound to me, and again, in the context of maybe male, we spoke about male coaches coaching female athletes, when we look to this, is every male coach out there aware of these different hormonal fluctuations that occur on a repeated cyclical basis month in and month out, and how those different levels of

you know, estrogen and progesterone, because they affect moods and they affect other physiological happenings in the body. And again, back to Marjaana's point, this is all in the, with the purpose of keeping the human species alive, right? Like this is critical. This is always going on in your female athletes, right? So, yeah, it's...

To me, I'm just amazed about it. And just looking at this cyclical kind of data with these different changes in the hormones, that just wakes me up a little bit as a male coach.

Marjaana Rakai (22:49)

I mean, you should, if you're a male coach and you don't know about this, don't be ashamed. Don't feel bad because a lot of women don't do it either. There are a lot of female athletes that have never tracked their periods. They have no idea why they're feeling off. So, and I'm gonna come back to this, but tracking your period should be like first step.

Paul Laursen (23:17)


Marjaana Rakai (23:18)

And for you as male coaches, the first step for you should be to open up the conversation. Hey, how is your period? How is your menstrual cycle? What do you experience? And have you tracked it ever? And then, I think the first step for you is to open up the conversation. And then for the first step for the female athlete is to start tracking and understanding.

their symptoms.

Paul Laursen (23:50)

Well said, Marjaana.

Marjaana Rakai (23:56)

But I think we, I wanted to get to Menopause because we have a great question from our listener. Paul, do you wanna take that question?

Paul Warloski (24:08)

Yeah, that's from, it's from Kim Campbell. And she asks as a 57 year old age group, Ironman distance athlete and newbie coach, I have completed long distances from 2015 through her menopause cycle. And I can see the errors throughout this journey, specifically made by coaches who don't understand the female physiology.

Looking back, I can see where I went wrong and she wants to use this in her coaching so it doesn't happen to others. But here's her questions. Can you see AI taking this into account, age and menopause, in the future and how each female who experiences these changes sometimes has no symptoms and trains quite happily with no repercussions? How could AI...

capture the need to rest more or perhaps adapt to doing an easier or lower intensity session. The same principles would apply to ovulating females, the question of when to train or at what intensity.

Paul Laursen (25:12)

Yeah, it's a great question. Maybe I'll start with that one, Marjaana. But basically, this is really the purpose of Athletica because, you know, and I'm sure Paul will appreciate this as a, and Marjaana, appreciate this as a coach. There's so many potential inputs that we could have on any athletes program. But it's sometimes hard to make sense of it all and to

you know, to really decipher what's important data. But, you know, to your questions, like you've just identified, here's something that matters all of a sudden. And it's like, if it's mattering, then the signal should be made very strong, the interpretation should happen, the data should be synthesized accordingly, and a signal should go to you and your coach around that. And that's our mission with Athletica. That's what we aim to do. We aim to take this complex

these complex issues to translate them, to synthesize them, and to then translate those into actionable insight and decisions for you as both athlete and coach. So that's the whole purpose of Athletica right there. If it's in the context where it's the athlete that's this, it's not affecting them and their inputs to their training log

with, you know, through analysis of their comments, either voice or textual are, you know, no problem, then we're not gonna flag it, right? But in the context that you, you know, the alternate context where the symptoms are great and the hormones are, you know, showing evidence that there could be something there and the HRV is showing its, you know, its alignment, then we make that recommendation.

to you and your coach. So it's just a brilliant question and it's completely in line with our mission and purpose.

Marjaana Rakai (27:16)

Yeah, I love this question. And there's been a lot of talk about whether women should follow a certain type of periodization, for example, not training as hard in the luteal phase, but it's totally individual. And even from cycle to cycle, it might differ. So if you have an athlete, for example,

horrible cramps, maybe that week is a good week for a recovery week or five days, four days, whatever she needs to feel energetic again, she's sleeping better because oftentimes you're not sleeping well when you're cramping. Sometimes it's only one day, sometimes it's three days. So that's why I love Athletica because it's so flexible. You just, you know.

change your training and it calculates your load again. But I would be really, I think Paul, you were talking to Lauren Colenso-Semple a few episodes back and she was saying like, if you take two weeks off on luteal phase just because it's luteal phase, you're leaving a lot of training gains on the table, right?

Paul Laursen (28:41)

Yeah, well said. For sure. It doesn't make any sense, really, does it?

Marjaana Rakai (28:42)

Yeah, so it makes no sense whatsoever. As much as like hitting it hard first day of your period, just because somebody says that, oh, you should be hitting it hard when your female hormones are at the lowest. And when your period starts, that's when your female hormones are your lowest. Just because somebody says.

that you should be hitting it hard. You go to the gym and lift heavy or you do your VO2 max workouts, then what if you have an athlete that is cramping, not telling you anything, you know, that she's not feeling well? You can totally see that, right? You can see it in their data, like I know you can do better, why didn't you push yourself harder? Like that doesn't make any sense either, right?

So that's why I'm like so adamant about tracking your cycle. Understand when you're not feeling well and when you're feeling really good. Know when that happens so that you can push those hard workouts to the face when or time when you're feeling great. And maybe just do gentle yoga on those days that you're

Paul Warloski (29:52)

Thanks for watching!

Marjaana Rakai (30:05)

You're fried.

Paul Laursen (30:06)

Yeah, I love it, Marjaana. It kind of, it aligns really with the whole philosophy that we spoke about in the last episode on HRV, right? Like it's one extra tool in the toolbox that you're equipped with as a woman to be tracking and to be tracking the cycle and also to be developing your feel around that cycle as well, right? Like, you know, when this happens, I am good or not so good, right? And then how do I curb the training accordingly? And how, you know, if you're coached,

Marjaana Rakai (30:14)

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Paul Laursen (30:36)

then how do I communicate that issue with my coach as well to help your coach out? Because you as the athlete are probably gonna be more insightful around these decisions than they are. So, you know, that's where you kind of need to take charge of the controls or at least, you know, work in tandem potentially with your coach around these. One thing...

Marjaana Rakai (30:48)

Yeah, totally.

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Paul Laursen (31:01)

If I could, I think, you know, this was, this happened in our last podcast, here is like, I really, there's another important aspect of the whole cycle that I want to bring on the table. And that is that a lot of the cycle starts in the brain, believe it or not.

And this relates to Marjaana's talk about the menopause and all these sorts of things, right? So it all starts actually with the HPA axis. Remember, and we've spoken about this in other podcasts too. We're talking about the healthy athlete, right? And this, you know, the healthy athlete starts in the HPA axis. So HPA axis stands for hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. And it basically, it's like this regulation kind of center in your brain.

that is it's talking, it's between the hormone system and your nervous system, right? And then there actually is this, there's these other regulatory hormones that talk to something called the HPA gonadal axis, right? So another series of downstream gonadal hormones that are kicking off the whole cycle for us. And to Marjaana's point about menopause, well, these

this signal that basically menopause happens when the estrogen in the ovary starts becoming less effective or less of it and the HPA gonadal axis is firing harder in some of these hormones and saying, come on, work harder, but it can't. And then there's all these various different fall-on effects from that as we go into ovulation. But this circling back,

to healthy athlete philosophy, Phil Maffetone Paul Laursen, is basically, you know, if your menstrual cycle is shut off and you're of reproductive age, and this is very common in the female athlete that is subscribed to the no pain, no gain philosophy. This is often, so when I work with female athletes, they come to me.

big thing that we try to do is we try to get the menstrual cycle back going because many athletes will come to me and they'll have a basically the menstrual cycle is kind of absent. So that means that means back to the brain, that brain is still thinking to no pain, no gain. It's not, it's too stressed. And can a woman, should a woman try to be fertile in a stress sort of situation?

Probably not, right? So think about if we go back to ancestral health, you're running for cover. Do you wanna get pregnant at that time? Probably not. So we're turning off that HPA gonadal access. So we gotta turn that back on. We gotta get healthy first. So that cycle kicks back in. And that's a typical story. That's a successful conversion for me, female athlete coming to me, and we go through a bunch of healthy athlete principles.

Marjaana Rakai (33:48)



Paul Laursen (34:14)

When that cycle that it's like a indicator, it's like when the period kind of comes back and it's on a regular cycle, it's like hallelujah, right? Like that's just celebrated, absolutely. Like that is awesome. And guys don't totally have, we actually do. And it's the males will have the same effect and they will not be getting an erection in the morning.

Marjaana Rakai (34:25)

Oh yeah, it should be celebrated.

Paul Laursen (34:42)

So to have a male erection in the morning is kind of like, that's the only equivalence of a tell, right? Because that means your testosterone levels are high and that's, you know, you should, that is our compass as a male and female as a compass is having a regular cycle. So.

Paul Warloski (34:55)


Marjaana Rakai (34:56)

That's your compass.


Paul Warloski (35:09)

Thanks for watching!

Paul Laursen (35:10)

There you go. And it's all down to the connection between the HPA axis and the HPA-gananol axis. So there you have it.

Marjaana Rakai (35:11)


Yeah, but it's funny because a male erection is celebrated, but female periods are not. I think it's a pretty wide culture within elite athletes that you should not be getting periods. You're not training hard enough if you're still getting periods. This is a real thing.

Paul Laursen (35:28)


Paul Warloski (35:28)


Paul Laursen (35:45)

I've heard of that. I've heard of that. Which scares me, really.

Marjaana Rakai (35:49)

It really scares me too. It's crazy.

Paul Warloski (35:49)


Paul Laursen (35:52)

Yeah, and let me tell you why it scares me because if you're doing that, that means your estrogen levels are down and that means your bone deposition is down as well. And I'm sorry, ladies, but you're ruining yourself for the future in terms of your bone mineral density. So that's really, really scares me. You're gonna potentially run into osteoporosis in a later age because of that. I think that's the female athlete triad syndrome.

Marjaana Rakai (36:08)


hip fracture and death. Yeah, early death, yeah, early death. It's crazy and you're basically putting yourself into early menopause.

Paul Laursen (36:19)

Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, early death, right? So, yeah, yeah.

Yeah, and you don't have to. This is the thing that so many females don't realize how just how good they can become with a normal regular cycle. And they're unfortunately they've been fed a bunch of lies that they have to be a certain body mass and they shouldn't be having a period and nothing could be further from the truth. Again, yeah, and again, we're speaking about

Marjaana Rakai (36:36)


Paul Laursen (37:03)

champions that we've coached from with the healthy athlete philosophy.

Marjaana Rakai (37:10)

Yeah. Going back to Kim's question about menopause, I think each individual needs to try to navigate it the best they can. But going into menopause, strength training becomes, well, even before going into perimenopause, strength training becomes so important. And I think a lot of...

women who are active and like to race they are actually leaving some on the table when they are not doing strength training.

Paul Laursen (37:47)

Yep, absolutely. I mean, it's all the things we want, right? We want the strength trainings giving signals to the muscles to adapt and be strong and resilient. And it's also giving signals to the bone, to lay foundation, to lay bone mineral density. So yeah, there's multi, and then all the various different other hormone profiles that are so key for health.

Marjaana Rakai (38:13)

Yeah, good sleep. I think like sleeping is one of the difficulties that we see a lot of menopausal and even perimenopausal women, you know, tackle. And I was reading somewhere that like drinking something really cold can help because the hormones are, you know, like you're going through hot flashes, your body temperature is higher, then you got to go to sleep and you're...

just soaking wet, sweating. So something instead of drinking your hot tea, maybe have something cold to drink.

Paul Laursen (38:54)


Marjaana Rakai (38:55)

But yeah, I mean, just individual navigation, I think open communication with your coach. I think those are, you know, the first steps to navigate menopause

Paul Laursen (39:09)

And I just want to take this opportunity to thank the brave and forward thinking women of our, that have volunteered for that study with the MiraCare, HRV4Training and Athletica collaboration. And again, thank you for your help. Yeah, just thank you for your help and being so willing to, you know.

provide this insight for everyone else and allow us to be leaders. It's interesting when I presented that slide at the Endurance Exchange Conference, it moved me almost to tears because I had a standing ovation from the women in the audience who were moved by the fact that we were pioneering and doing research because as many women will know they've been left out of sports science.

Marjaana Rakai (39:51)


Paul Laursen (40:02)

and coaching research for far too long, and it's about time that we righted that ship and did more work in this area.

Paul Warloski (40:13)

So we have another question from a Kim, but this one in Massachusetts. She would love to know how you approach training females through their cycles. And we've talked about this a little bit already. I understand the research says there's no evidence to align specific training at specific times, but for instance,

I know recovery is different in the luteal phase and I noticed that my resting heart rate is always slightly higher and my HRV is slightly lower. is there a best practice you would like to take with managing stress and recovery when it's different half the month from a physiological perspective? Any thoughts are greatly appreciated and I love listening to the show. I love those kinds of questions.

Marjaana Rakai (40:57)


Paul Laursen (40:58)

That's awesome. Well, I'll kick off first. I think Marjaana kind of covered that one. Don't take the two-week Luteal phase off because you're going to be leaving a lot of performance on the table and training on the table if you do that. That being said, again, this has been looked at for a long time in some of the high performance centers. I was privileged to be around some of the leaders, Christian Cook.

and others that are really looking at both the English Institute of Sport, High Performance Sport New Zealand, and some, I mean, you know, these guys and gals are really looking at Olympics and they're looking at targeted individuals. They, like, they're, you know, one percent or less really matters, they know the cycle does correspond with some.

potential like personal bests in the strength area. So there's something about this surge of estrogen that does light up the brain. Remember the brain is so key, is kind of what we were just speaking about with in terms of that ability to output force. So there is something there that could potentially say that, you know, in this two or three day window, that might be a really good time for performance

You know, like it's not easy to always time every single thing with these, this three to four day window. You kind of, you're wasting your time, I think with that. And you know, cycle is gonna be, and it's gonna line up, I think generally with the calendar, according to fate a little bit. And if we're worried too much about it, probably unless you're in the Olympic program, I don't think you're kind of wasting time. We'll leave the Olympians.

and their teams to try to kind of split those hairs. But otherwise, I think it kind of comes back to the feel stuff that Marjaana and I were talking about. You want to expand on anything there, Marjaana?

Marjaana Rakai (43:01)

Yeah, I think I basically covered it when I went on my rant. Go by feel, track your period or cycles with the symptoms. And I would actually recommend doing it on a pen to paper or using a Google sheet. There's lots of menstrual cycle tracking apps that also gives you advice.

Paul Laursen (43:06)

I think you did.

Marjaana Rakai (43:29)

But remember, when you're using these apps that you might get biased by their bias, you know, if somebody says that this is what happens on one study, doesn't mean that it happens to you because you need to remember you're an individual and studies are always group averages. So, yes, so track your cycle, all the symptoms for three to four months so that you kind of start to see develop.

patterns? Do I get headaches every time, like two days before a menstrual cycle begins, like the bleeding phase begins? Do I have bad cramps every time, day one, day two? If I go and do a HIIT session, how does that make me feel? What if I just do three, four days, go mountain biking, go do yoga with your girlfriends? Do something.

soulful, like when you're in pain, don't push yourself with the, you know, your regular four by four hard VO2max intervals or whatever you're doing. That would be my recommendation. Check your periods, know yourself and then communicate with your coach if you have a

Paul Warloski (44:51)

Yeah. And keep the, please keep the, the female endurance athlete specific questions and all the questions coming, you know, we're going to come back to this topic. This has been absolutely, you have, if you could see my, my show notes, they have scribbles everywhere because I'm writing the whole time, but here, here are three things that I have really learned this week and really, you know, kind of gotten out of this conversation. One is that, you know, it's important to track your menstrual cycle.

know your symptoms and communicate those with your coach, especially male coaches who might not be aware and might be uncomfortable, who knows what it is, but the communication is key. Number two, every woman has a different cycle with different symptoms. I didn't know that the cycles themselves can be different. Each woman is an N of one with her own context, life, and training situation and needs to treat it that way. And number three,

Paul Laursen (45:29)

but the communication is key. Number two, every woman has a different cycle with different symptoms. I didn't tell them. The cycles themselves can be different. Each woman is an N of one with her own context, life, and training situation, and needs to treat it that way. And number three, women can treat the stages of their menstrual cycles, any other situation that arises. For example, if cramps are bad, do what works for you.

Paul Warloski (45:48)

Women can treat the stages of their menstrual cycles, like any other situation that arises. For example, if cramps are bad, do what works for you, listen to your body, maybe take the day off. In the end, you have to compete when the day comes. But other than that, it's a matter of treating the symptoms as you would any other symptoms.

That is all for this week. Thanks for listening and join us next week for the Athletes Compass. You can help us by asking your training questions in the comments. You can help us by liking and sharing the podcast, giving us five star reviews and engaging with us on the social medias. From Marjaana Rakai and Dr. Paul Laursen I am Paul Warloski and this has been the Athletes Compass podcast. Thanks for listening.

Paul Laursen (46:12)

That is all for this week. Thanks for listening and join us next week for the Athletes Compass. You can help us by asking your training questions in the comments. You can help us by liking and sharing the podcast, giving us five-star reviews and engaging with us on the social medias. From Marjaana Rakai and Dr. Paul Laursen, I am Paul Warloski and this has been the Athletes Compass Podcast. Thanks for listening.

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