Menstrual cycle takes huge toll on performance, says Rosie Clarke

Steeplechaser opens up on the impact of the female cycle after retaining her British title and booking her world championships place

Rosie Clarke says she is glad that there is an increasing awareness on the impact of the menstrual cycle on performance after sharing her own experiences following her British 3000m steeplechase title win in Birmingham.

The European and Commonwealth finalist retained her title on Saturday after clocking 9:46.66 ahead of Elizabeth Bird in an exciting finish as both athletes secured their spots on the British team for the IAAF World Championships in Doha.

But it came a week after Clarke was left disappointed with her performance at the Müller Grand Prix on the same Alexander Stadium track, having placed 15th in 9:54.25 in the Diamond League race.

“I’ve been struggling this year with some stuff, menstrual cycle related, and it has been really unpredictable. Luckily, up until Birmingham (Grand Prix), the issues I’ve had have been in training,” she told AW.

“We’re trying different things to try and manage stuff because it’s really not ideal but it wasn’t me out there last weekend, which is tough when you’ve done everything to prepare for it.”

READ MORE: Special report – menstrual cycle impact on athletics performance

On the impact that effects from the menstrual cycle can have, she added: “It’s massive. Every single female athlete I talk to has different problems, which is the other issue. There’s such a minefield of problems. There are brilliant people out there that are working on stuff but it’s so individualised that there isn’t just a one-solution-fits-all type solution.

“For me personally, we thought we’d cracked it and I was actually training and racing really well with the use of a hormonal contraceptive which was managing my side affects but that has recently become unavailable in the UK, hence Birmingham. So we are trying to find another solution. But it is incredibly frustrating and it affects 51% of the population. I’m yet to speak to a female athlete that doesn’t have an issue to do with their hormonal cycle so it’s a massive problem.”

READ MORE: Dr Rebecca Robinson on female athlete health

Clarke’s own experiences include feeling incredibly sluggish – “it feels like you’re running through treacle” – and cramps. While pleased that the topic is being spoken about more widely, the 27-year-old hopes that it will eventually result in more help for those also enduring struggles like her own.

“I’m really glad that people are talking about it,” she said. “I think it’s really, really important. Me running 9:54 trying my absolute hardest is an example of that.

“It’s brilliant that it’s being spoken about, I just hope it translates into actual real life help for women of all different things but especially athletes because you are trying to get that top 100% out of your body and it holds you back.”

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