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Influence of menstruation on training schedules in female mountain bike athletes

Aitkenhead, Robyn; Kirkwood, Lewis; Florida-James, Geraint; Ingram-Sills, Lesley


Robyn Aitkenhead

Lewis Kirkwood


Female participation in elite sport is rising, the most recent Olympic games, Tokyo 2020, was the most gender-balanced games in history but research within female athletes is lacking. This study investigated if different phases of the menstrual cycle (MC) influenced training schedules, sleep quality, arousal, and alertness in elite female mountain bike, road and cyclocross athletes. Methodological approach was coherent with Edinburgh Napier University’s ethics committee. Fifteen athletes (age: 29 ± 7.4 years, height: 1.7 ± 0.1m, body mass: 61.9 ± 7.7kg) from 9 countries, were part of the three-month study. The MC was split into two phases; follicular (FP) and luteal (LP), and participants were provided ovulation kits to identify the phases. As well as uploading training data over the three months, athletes tracked their MC symptoms, basal body temperature (BBT), body mass, perceived sleep, and psychological measures daily. BBT was significantly higher (p<0.05) in the LP (0.21, p=0.00, d=0.4), body mass was greater in the FP (0.3kg, p=0.54, d=0.04) but not significant. Perceived sleep quality (FP; 7.1 ± 1.7 LP; 7.0 ± 1.8, p=0.6, d= 0.04) and length (FP; 8.0 ± 1 LP; 8.0 ± 1 hrs, p=0.32, d=0.06), alertness (FP; 6.4 ± 1.9, LP; 6.5 ± 2.0, p=0.78, d=0.07) and arousal (FP; 3.4 ± 1.8, LP; 3.4 ± 1.8, p=0.28, d=0.03) did not significantly change between the phases (p>0.05). Further, no differences (p>0.05) between phases for the training variables such as average heart rate (FP; 126 ± 36, LP; 126 ± 38 bpm, p=0.85, d=3.82), training load (bTRIMP) (FP; 160 ± 155, LP; 170 ± 168 A.U, p=0.71, d=1.45), average speed (FP; 160 ± 155, LP; 170 ± 168, p=0.75, d=1.52) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) (FP; 14 ± 3, LP; 14 ± 3, p=0.87, d=5.87) were observed. The MC phases did not appear to influence training schedules, sleep, or psychological changes. However, due to the online nature of the research, future studies are required for more controlled, lab-based research to determine the effects of MC in elite female athletes.

Presentation Conference Type Poster
Conference Name The Biomedical Basis of Elite Performance 2022 (The Physiological Society)
Start Date Apr 12, 2022
End Date Apr 13, 2022
Deposit Date Jun 2, 2022
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