British runner Tina Muir, 30, a former British elite runner who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, has published a book entitled Overcoming Amenorrhea: Get Your Period Back. Get Your Life Back. Amenorrhea is the loss of menstrual periods, which has serious implications for women’s athletic performance and their reproductive health. The book details Muir’s nine-year struggle and is intended to support others dealing with the issue.
— Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience) January 21, 2019
Muir was a professional runner and Olympic hopeful with a 4:26 personal best in the 1,500m, 16:08 in the 5K, 34:35 in the 10K, 1:13 in the half-marathon, and 2:37 in the marathon. In 2017 she was training to be a pacer in the London Marathon and run the Gold Coast Marathon, but she was feeling burnt out and lost. Moreover, she had not had her period for nine years, and was terrified that if people found out, they would assume she had an eating disorder. Ultimately she decided to take a long break from running, without knowing if she would ever come back.
Amenorrhea is one of several hallmarks of RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport) in women, that can lead to diminished bone health, stress fractures, and a cycle of repeated injury and recovery, not to mention compromising their reproductive health. Muir knew she wanted to have children, and though she was extremely healthy in every other aspect, she describes her inability to conquer her amenorrhea like carrying around a dirty secret.
While eating disorders are not uncommon among athletes of both sexes (and can be the reason for RED-S), athletes can fall into a caloric deficit gradually and unwittingly over time. Muir, who knew she needed to consume a lot of calories and who ate a healthy and generous diet, had consulted with numerous health professionals, and in the end felt the only thing left was to stop running, in order for her body to recover from being in “panic mode,” as she calls it.
Spoiler alert: Muir’s story has a happy ending. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Bailey Grace, last year. And though it’s taken some time, she has returned to running. Muir won the Walt Disney World Half-Marathon on January 13 in 1:19:45.