Female Athlete Triad (FAT)

When you breathe, eat, sleep and live for running, being told to have 6weeks off is like telling a frog to not hop! It has been hard, mentally.

November 2010 – I prepared, with single mindedness, for the North Face 50mile inSan Francisco. I had never done this distance and decided I needed to get as fit, as lean and as strong as I could in 4weeks. That was the first mistake. I was training 25-30hours a week with a combination of running 4.30hr runs, cross training, swimming, biking and weights. Along with this, a low carbohydrate diet. And naturally I started to loose 1kg a week, which I now know was too much to quickly for my body to have a natural balance.

The Female Athlete Triad (FAT) is a state of imbalance between diet equilibrium, hormone regulation and bone density. And with only one of these slightly out of sync the others will try to adjust often creating a weakness such as going into a state of amenorrhea (menstruation ceases) or getting bone stresses.

 April 2011 – 6 months later and the tell tale signs begin. Bullet shots to my ankle, stabbing pains at heel strike and 6months of amenorrhea. “Its simple” says the specialist. “You have put yourself into FAT and have scored yourself a stress fracture”. “Ops” was my comment back. Fortunately he was brutally honest. “You need to have 6 weeks off running. You need to get fit and fat (the production of oestrogen – the regulation hormone is directly related to body fat content). You will run like s*** for 2months and then you will find your strength. It’s better than being a lonely broken 50year old isn’t it”. I gulped it down and walked out of there with my tail between my legs.

I spent the next 6 weeks in the gym doing weights, cross training, rowing, biking. I went aqua jogging and swimming and rode my road bike on the not so cold and greasy days. It really is incredible how long 30minutes on the cross trainer actually feels. I would much prefer being out running for 3hours at a time. Why does time stop like that?! I really struggled to get my head around putting on weight as it is totally the opposite mentality that I am continually striving for. I added natural fats to my diet like avocado, sun dried tomatoes, nuts and a few more cakes (hardly natural). 

Finally, after an extra 4kgs and almost at break point mentally, my system finally balanced itself out. The heel pain disappeared and I could begin my slow progression into running. With only 4 weeks running I was up to 45minutes pain free. Injuries never come at a good time, and people always say “it will do you good”, but at the moment it has put me back for probably 2months of good racing. It is another lesson learnt the hard way…I guess, often the only way.

I now head to Font Romeu – Pyrennes for a week with my ‘meandering family’ – the Salomon team. A week of training and racing (Kilian’s Classik) at altitude will be great for me to get myself back into the frame of mind that I love…the mountain mind.

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6 thoughts on “Female Athlete Triad (FAT)

  1. Pingback: Kinabalu Climbathon Recap « Frosty's Footsteps

  2. Very interesting post. Came across this from Salomon Canada Trail S_FlightCrew’s re-tweet, and glad I did. Recently started training with a running coach. I’m not an elite athlete, but love to run in the trails and am just looking to build strength so I can continue to do what I love. The training is more than I am used to, and I have been wondering what other impacts it will have on me.  After reading your post I am keen to re-visit my diet to ensure it is balanced to my everyday schedule now.  Thanks for sharing this experience. And congratulations on the Kinabalu Race, you’re an inspiring runner!

  3. Thanks for sharing :) This is such an important issue that can really damage our training for something that fills our soul with purpose and strength. Feeling strong out on a training run or a 50 mile race is empowering. We as women just need to fuel our bodies with everything that moves us from within!
    Greta

  4. Oh my..I just read this for the first time. Last year I had amenorrhea for 10 months. I took some time off and finally got my period back but in the mean time I got a wicked case of PF. At least I thought it was PF. I am know wondering if I too have a stress fracture. I am still trying to figure it all out. DO you still stick with a low carb diet?

  5. I know this is an old post, but it’s such a valuable one. It is so refreshing to hear an elite athlete saying that being too light can lead to injury, and that you need some fat in your diet.

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