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Movement & Menstruation

Following on from Petra’s Fertility Fitness talk last week containing lots of great tips on the why and how to of exercise, this article looks at the personal experience of one woman, Monique Murphy, and the intersection of exercise and reproductive system health.

Monique is an athlete and Paralympic swimmer, but after having her lower leg amputated following a fall, experienced horrendous periods, and was only diagnosed with endometriosis after 5 years of suffering and having coaches and health professionals minimising her pain.

Her story is here:

The article talks about how sports science and sports medicine is predominantly male, as well as coaching, and how menstrual health was just not something that was addressed. Even simple and obvious things like menstrual cycle tracking were not implemented. This is obviously crazy when peak performance is the aim (whether elite athletes or us more average, multi-tasking Wonder-Women!).

Monique mentions that acupuncture was one of the strategies her team doctors were trying, but with the aim of just getting her through the next 24 hours. This is never going to properly address something that is so pervasive and cyclical. Women deserve so much better.

We know in clinic that women need to be listened to and heard, and to have proper investigations such as laparoscopies, in order to identify what is going on. Only then can the best combination of treatments – conventional and natural - be applied.

So, to get back to exercise and movement, Petra described how a consistent routine is vital, and also recommended mixing up activities to keep it fresh, to work different muscles, and to recover. It makes sense to tailor activities so that they ‘fill your bucket, not empty it’.

If you experience times of pain, cramps or any of the other un-joyful aspects of endometriosis, definitely still move, because that will release endorphins and dopamine, and shift stuckness of Qi and Blood, but don’t expect Olympic performance when things are really hurting.

As Monique said, once she knew about the endometriosis:

“It wasn’t in my head, it was something in there, something that was wrong. It’s not because I’m not strong enough, it’s not because I don’t have the ability to put things aside and race hard when it counts”.

Use exercise for physical and mental nourishment, and seek answers when you know something’s not right. Women who keep putting out great performances (in sport and life) despite menstrual issues are so damn tough, there should be a medal for that!

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