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Bowerman runner opens up about dealing with RED-S

Elise Cranny wants runners to speak openly about the dangers and prevalence of RED-S

Elise Cranny is a member of the Bowerman Track Club and one of the best distance runners in America. With personal bests like 14:48 in the 5,000m and 4:05 in the 1,500m, Cranny has made a name for herself as a young runner with range and strength. On Monday, Cranny spoke about her experience with RED-S on the Voice in Sport podcast and on her Instagram. Cranny feels that RED-S, or relative energy deficiency in sport, isn’t talked about enough, and she wants to do her part to change that. 

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What I wish I knew 6+ years ago: Your body is going to change as you grow and develop. This is normal. This is natural. And this is beautiful, important, and necessary. Embrace the change and don’t fight against it. Celebrate the power of your body and what it is capable of. Recognize and embrace your own unique strengths that make YOU unstoppable. • RED-S or Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport needs to be talked about more. Among teammates and friends, within families, and especially between coaches and athletes. A female’s menstrual cycle is an incredible tool. A loss of a period in female athletes can often be traced back to energy deficiency. When energy output is greater than energy input, both the body and mind can’t function at optimal levels. Fueling properly to support training volume and intensity is crucial for mental health, physical health, reproductive health, and overall quality of life. • I didn’t start addressing these issues until I was already in the midst of injury in college, but unhealthy thoughts and habits were bubbling beneath the surface well before that first bone injury. If you aren’t getting a regular period as a female athlete, I urge you to seek help, to talk to teammates and coaches, to make necessary adjustments to fueling and training. • Over the next several days, I am going to share some tips that have helped me along the way. I am not a nutritionist or an expert, but I hope that sharing some of the things that worked for me can help anyone struggling with RED-S or disordered eating. I committed to making a big change, to working at it every single day (still working on it), and to challenge my mind to focus on how I feel rather than on appearance or weight. • Thank you to @voiceinsport for giving me a platform to share my story through their podcast. I am proud to be a mentor in this community working to inspire and be inspired by the next generation of female athletes. Link in bio to visit Voice in Sport and to join the platform if you are looking to connect with a mentor or access incredible content on various topics that are relevant to female athletes.

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RELATED: Nutrition advice for runners dealing with RED-S

Cranny writes that her experience with RED-S began in college: “I didn’t start addressing these issues until I was already in the midst of injury in college, but unhealthy thoughts and habits were bubbling beneath the surface well before that first bone injury. If you aren’t getting a regular period as a female athlete, I urge you to seek help, to talk to teammates and coaches, to make necessary adjustments to fuelling and training.” 

RED-S is a product of under-fuelling and sustained (unhealthy) weight loss. RED-S doesn’t occur overnight, in fact, it’s usually a slow burn as runners ramp up mileage and intensity, and fail to meet their energy needs as they do so. This begins as LEA (low energy availability) which means that your energy input (food) and energy output (exercise) don’t match up–your exercise is outweighing your food intake. If runners are in a state of low energy for too long, they can enter into the territory of RED-S, which can compromise bone and reproductive health – these changes can have long-lasting negative effects if left unattended. 

Puberty makes you faster

It’s important to note that world records are set by grown-up women, as opposed to teenagers. These women have undergone changes during puberty which may make them heavier in the short-term but stronger over the long haul. Cranny said on this week’s podcast, “Focus on the feeling of strength and empowerment as opposed to losing weight, and feeling frail, and on the brink of breaking. It’s a lot more common than people like to think or talk about. In college I learned in my junior and senior year, when talking to younger athletes, that a lot of people were having a similar experience.”

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Cranny says that overcoming weight-focused training is something she has to think about every day, but that it’s been key to her success. Follow her Instagram channel for daily tips this week on overcoming RED-S, and remember that strong is fast. 

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