Honest Post #2

I am just going to get straight to it… This week I have had my first proper period since May 2017. There, I’ve said it.

I will be honest, I have been very nervous about writing & posting this. I have also felt embarrassed, and worried what people will say, but after speaking to someone who has also gone through this, I know that is important to share my story, in the hope that if someone else is going through the same thing, they know they are not alone and that they can talk to someone.

To give some background to this story, last May I decided to come off of the contraceptive pill, not because I had any intention of falling pregnant, but after being on the pill for most of my teenage & adult life I decided I wanted to give my body a break, and try to get into a normal and healthy cycle, as one day I was planning on starting a family of my own. I did read online that after being on the pill for a while it can take a little while for your body to adjust and that your monthly cycle may be a bit all over the place for a few months. So weeks passed, and I didn’t get a period, but I wasn’t worried. Soon, those weeks turned into months, but I just kept telling myself it was normal and that my body would start working properly soon. And if I am being completely honest, I didn’t miss them at all! No period pains, no bloating, no crazy hormones – it was a bit of relief.

But soon, those months turned into almost a year of no periods. But still, I was in denial that anything was wrong. I only spoke to a handful of people about it, and brushed off any concern as I didn’t want to admit anything was wrong with me.

If you have been following my blog & my Instagram, you will know that at the beginning of the year I upped my training significantly as I was training for the London Marathon. I was running more than ever, going to the gym 3/4 times a week, I lost a considerable amount of weight and was following a tailored nutrition plan. On the outside I looked healthy, and to be honest I felt it. I was the fittest I had ever been and was seeing so much improvement in my running I didn’t really care about anything else.

I chose to tell very few people about what was going on, but those that did know, were concerned, probably more concerned than I was, which is worrying in itself. I continued to brush off comments with a typical ‘I’m sure it will be fine’ response, which is very irresponsible but sometimes you need to realise these things on your own, and luckily, I now have.

A couple of months back, someone very close to me gave me some information about a condition known as the ‘Female Athlete Triad’ as they were concerned that this may be the reason why I wasn’t having periods. At first I completely brushed it off, this obviously wasn’t what I was suffering with. In my head I wasn’t an elite athlete, I wasn’t small enough, I ate a healthy diet, so I couldn’t possibly be affected by this. In all honesty, I was just majorly in denial that my issue was something that I could do something about.

Triad

Whilst I was training for the London Marathon, although I was training hard & eating right, one thing that I really struggled with was sleeping enough. Although I was tired, I was rarely getting more than 6 hours sleep a night. As an athlete our bodies need sleep to recover and to give our bodies a chance to rest & repair, and I wasn’t doing this. I was making myself get up early to go to the gym or do a session, going to work all day and then training again in the evening. I got so used to doing this, I just considered this normal, and what I needed to do if I wanted to improve and become a better runner. But in reality, I was probably just causing more harm to my body, and that extra hour in bed in the morning would probably been a lot more beneficial then forcing myself to get up and go to the gym.

After some persuasion, I eventually booked an appointment to go to the doctors, I was starting to realise that something wasn’t right, and that I needed to speak to a professional. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the help, nor advice that I was hoping for. I am no way putting down the NHS and the services they offer, but after my appointment I felt like I was just making a big deal out of nothing. I explained to the doctor that I hadn’t had a normal period for over a year, I told her how frequently I exercised and my concerns about the Female Athlete Triad, but unfortunately she wasn’t really aware of the condition and could offer no advice. I was weighed in the surgery, and as I am a healthy weight and my BMI is normal there wasn’t any concern. I had my bloods taken, and they came back as normal, so that was the end of that. I had no answers, no advice, and still no period.

In early July I picked up a hamstring injury. I was devastated. My training for Berlin was going so well, I was getting faster, I was getting stronger and was loving all of my sessions, and I had to just stop. Mentally its been very hard, but luckily I am now at the back end of it, it’s been 5 weeks now and I am still not back to training fully, and although its hard, I now see it may have been a blessing in disguise. During marathon training I was averaging around 40-50 miles a week, as well as 3 x gym sessions a week, working full time & teaching a bootcamp class 4 nights a week, I was always on the go and busy, but recently that has changed.  Since my hamstring injury, my training has reduced dramatically. I have still been exercising every day, but putting my body through a lot less stress as I haven’t been running high mileage or doing tough sessions. I also work in a school, so have the luxury of school holidays currently, and for the first time in a long time, I am averaging around 8 hours sleep a night, in fact it’s actually been a struggle to wake up some mornings. At first I felt extremely guilty, and almost lazy, but now I can see that my body obviously needed it.

To me, it is no coincidence that since my training load has dropped, and my sleep has increased it has allowed my body to function normally, and that is why, for the first time in 15 months I am having a proper period. It has made me realise that although I was exercising & eating healthily, my body was far from healthy. And now I am determined to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

As I was in denial that anything was wrong, I did not discuss this with either of my coaches. So to them, I was completely healthy! But I know I can’t go through another marathon training cycle and put my body through the same thing again. So something has to change. I will now be tracking my monthly cycle and will be keeping my coaches updated – it may be that my training load has to be reduced, my calorie intake will need to be increased or I have additional supplements added into my diet.

Am I scared about having to potentially eat more and that I may gain weight? Absolutely. I have talked openly about my body image issues and this is a whole other issue that I am going to need to work on as I go through this journey to get my body working normally again. But hopefully, with the support of my coaches, my amazing team mates and those closest to me I will get through it.

What I am going through is a real issue, and it shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. And I hope that now I have shared my story, if any of you are going through the same, you will realise that too.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and if any of you want someone to talk to, please reach out.

Jordan xx

9 thoughts on “Honest Post #2

  1. carolinejmacmillan says:

    Great post Jordan, and really interesting. I feel sad that you GP couldn’t help you, and just brushed aside your concerns. It’s a really dangerous space – where you have been in denial about something being wrong (but deep down know something isn’t right) and then pluck up the courage to go to a professional only for it to be brushed off and labled as ‘normal’ when something was clearly wrong. If you didn’t have this injury – then you might not have stopped, and might not have addressed the issue the way that you are now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah says:

    Well done for posting this and for your honestly. You’re an amazing athlete and have achieved times way beyond most people’s dreams. Your hard work is inspirational and it takes a lot to realise the fine line between pushing hard and pushing too hard.
    I didn’t have periods for 2/3 years in my 20’s when my weight dropped to 6 and a half stone (I’m currently 9) but at 38 I had a healthy baby girl at the first attempt at falling pregnant and I like to think I’m fit and healthy now. The body is an amazing thing and forgives us for a lot!
    Take care lady and look after that amazing body! There’s more important things than numbers in this life xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kim H says:

    Something similar happened to me. I was on the borderline between overweight and obese and decided to do something about it. I lost 80lb in about a year and started being active for the first time in my adult life. My period disappeared for 14 months, it was 9 by the time I went to the doctor and they said much the same, I was a healthy weight etc, nothing on the blood test. I was increasingly worried so had a couple of weeks off training and steadily put on a bit of weight, reintroducing training slowly and trying to ignore my desire to be in a calorie deficit. When it returned I was very relieved. However I now have a daily battle in my head about not being thin enough anymore and worrying that people will think I’ve failed somehow because I put a bit of weight back on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Holly Gardiner says:

    This is also my life!!! I got my first period on Tuesday after months without – I also work in a school btw, but am a fitness instructor on the side, I teach 15+ classes per week (spin, BodyPump, Les Mills GRIT) as well as my own strength training 4x per week and 2x HIIT! At the end of June I had all of my wisdom teeth removed which meant no training for almost 2 weeks, weirdly I felt good! I was already aware of hypothalamic amenorrhea/female athlete triad by then and was curious to see if it helped…initially I thought it hadn’t! Then I’ve had the stress of moving house on top. The last 3 or so weeks I’ve been so busy making my house I home I’ve not got back into my own training so just stuck to my classes, I’ve been eating more variety (less strictly weighed off tuppawares) and felt generally less stressed – never again will I ever put my body through so much! I realise with how good I feel now that less is more, and that the desire for a family one day is greater than the desire to lift more, and will be a much bigger achievement when I’m 80.
    Congrats to you too girl!!! 🙂 here’s to the future!! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. James says:

    Hi Jordan,

    Thanks for writing this very personal and empowering blog post. You discuss a hugely important topic that is often dismissed because of the stigma or possible embarrassment around the area of menstruation. The Female Athlete Triad has recently had a change of name and there is an increasing amount of research into what is now called Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). Lack of or irregular periods is one symptom/risk factor of RED-S but there are many (including bone stress fractures, recurrent injuries/illness) and it is most prevalent in sports with an aesthetic component (ie dance/ballet) or long distance athletes such as marathon runners.

    You highlight a very important point about the lack of education around the subject, even amongst GPs. For best care, advice from a sports specific practitioner is of great value. A google scholar search of RED-S can bring up some useful papers for more information. I have also written a brief blog on the topic if you are interested https://www.maphysio.co.uk/single-post/2018/07/20/Relative-Energy-Deficiency-in-Sport-RED-S-An-overview-of-what-it-means

    Kind regards and good luck with healthy training.
    Thanks again.

    James

    Liked by 1 person

  6. inpursuitof140 says:

    Hi Jordan,
    It’s so great to see your post bringing awareness to this issue. As marathon runners and athletes, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of assuming that we are healthy. I think over-training is a real issue in the endurance sport world, and I’m glad to see a post drawing attention to the female athlete triad. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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