It's not just one team. It's us, too.
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Two articles came out in the past two days regarding teams surround female athletes and their performances.
The first article (probably one that showed up on many people's feeds), is about a rising star who sacrificed her personal health and well-being due to greed and ego. In case you haven't guessed it, it's the NY Times Opinion piece with Mary Cain.
The second article reflects on how a team supported an athlete, who was on her way to relative-energy deficiency syndrome (RED-S), but was able to work to improve her health and earned the stars and stripes jersey at this year's US National Road Race Championships. This article was about Ruth Winder by Danielle Kosecki at Bicycling Magazine.
Both articles reflect on the culture of sport. With Mary Cain, this is unfortunately a common example of how toxic sports culture has become. Rather than companies, coaches and teams supporting athletes in every regard to achieve their best, greed and ego drove athletes out or to the ground for the sake of money and fame. This doesn't just happen at Nike's former Oregon Project. This happens on high school and collegiate teams as well, which is especially concerning because this is when the body changes the most. Puberty itself brings lots of challenges and changes, but by imposing unrealistic standards under the guise of performance causes deterioration to the whole body and mind.
I've heard countless times how a healthy or an already compromised athlete thinks they should eat less because they're performing poorly. I've heard from many of my teammates and friends say that having periods doesn't help with performance, when in fact women experience their best performances on/just after their period because their hormones are at the lowest levels. We are not robots. We are not machines. We are human beings with varying physiologies that cannot keep up with the currently established sports culture.
This has to change.
And it is changing. Thanks to :
1) The (albeit slight) increase in researching female physiology and performance (see Dr. Stacy Sims for example), and RED-S. 2) The doctors using this research to help diagnose and treat issues that may present differently in men and women.
3) The media who is slowly bringing these issues to light.
4) The teams like Trek-Segafredo and coaches supporting their athletes to train to their potential without sacrificing their health.
5) The increase of women stepping up into leadership positions in sport (and in general).
But what can we the audience, the spectators, the fans, the weekend warriors do?
Simple: Support all of the above. Share the two stories referenced here. Keep the conversation going.
Cain, Mary, director. The New York Times. The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Nov. 2019, www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000006788354/nike-running-mary-cain.html.
Kosecki, Danielle. “Ruth Winder's National Championships Win Almost Didn't Happen.” Bicycling, 6 Nov. 2019, www.bicycling.com/racing/a29651960/ruth-winder-national-championships-win-almost-didn-t-happen/.
Ted Talk with Dr. Stacy Sims: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5LYGzKUPlE
Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life. By Dr. Stacy Sims. (Amazon Link)
Recommendations for Healthy Nutrition in Female Endurance Runners: An Update https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4443719/
Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S)
The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/
11/08/19 Addition: Health 4 Performance, a guide for RED-S for everyone (from athletes to coaches to parents) http://health4performance.co.uk/