Today, I want to talk about hormone poisoning. No, not my broke-ass thyroid induced "sometimes I'm energetic, sometimes I'm sleepy" thing. We're tackling the once...Read More
Estrogen And Performance
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less content with the idea of thinking “that’s just how I am” and more curious about why I do and think and feel the things I do. In particular, trying to understand the many hormonal changes I go through during each month (a.k.a., hormone poisoning ) is endlessly fascinating.
A few years ago, I read a book called 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals About Your Love Life, Moods, and Potential, which is basically like a hormone horoscope, designed to help us predict how we might feel and behave on a particular day based on where we are in our hormone cycle. It’s the book that prompted Dave to say something like, “So… when you have a relationship with a woman, you actually have a relationship with roughly 28 different women in the same package.” Exactly! And it’s no piece of cake on this end of the experience, either.
The NYTimes has a good read today on recent research into athletic performance and female monthly cycles. Overall, athletic performance wasn’t hampered by estrogen levels (hooray!), but there were some other interesting findings. Here are a few quotes to get you started; read the whole piece here.
A study published this year by scientists at the University of Melbourne in Australia, for instance, found that when women’s estrogen levels were at their highest, around the time of ovulation, they landed subtly differently while hopping than at other times of the month.
The women also seemed, to a small degree, wobblier. “We contend that the changes in foot biomechanics may be due to the effects of estrogen on soft tissue and/or the brain,” said Adam Leigh Bryant, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne and lead author of the study.
I’ve noticed definite patterns in my abilities and emotions each month. I try not to use them as an excuse for bad behavior – it’s not a free pass to be a bitch on wheels every three weeks – but knowing why an otherwise sunny day turns black or understanding a sudden slap of sluggishness goes a long way toward a peaceful mind.
On days 23, 24, and 25 of my cycle, I get the dropsies. It’s why I can’t use glass storage containers in the refrigerator. On my way to reaching for the jicama, I inevitably knock the grilled chicken, sauteed cabbage, and homemade mayo to the floor. I also often bash shins against table corners and drive shoulders into doorframes. (I also, somewhat oddly, become obsessed with the need to cut my bangs, which explains the jiggy-jaggy fringe brushing my eyebrows right now.) It’s all part of the wonder of being a girl and why I keep an eye on the calendar when planning adventures, big project deliverables, and other stress-inducing milestones.
Happily, on days 26 and 27, my strength seems to increase. Two months in a row now, I’ve hit PRs on those days. I’ve also discovered that I have a rush of feel-good hormones on those days, too. I find myself laughing and singing along to the radio and saying in happy wonder, Man! I feel great today. It’s short-lived, however, because it’s usually a sure indicator that on days 28 and 29, I’ll be visiting Tired Town and Camp Cramps.
The Times piece also said this, which I love:
None of which should suggest that female athletes are in some indefinable way more fragile than their male counterparts. Quite the reverse may in fact be true… after they reduced or stopped their workouts, women did not, in subsequent studies, lose their training benefits as quickly as men did.
Estrogen makes women stronger in adverse conditions, [a researcher at the Institute of Sports Medicine in Copenhagen] concluded.
The next time the hormone roller coaster takes me for a ride, I’ll try to remember that estrogen is making me tougher. And if you can’t get enough of stories about me getting snippy and bashing into walls, you can read more about my adventures in Hormone Poisoning here.
Have you ladies – or men who live with/love/train with ladies – noticed that your strength or stamina is increased/diminished during different parts of your cycle?