First an update: Now that I have included the blogosphere in the timing of my menstrual cycles, I feel compelled to share the fact that I DID get my period last night. Now that I have officially gotten two periods in 3 months, I am more "regular" than I have ever been i my life. You can add me to the category of "runs > than 60 miles/week, below normal BMI and regular periods", well, relatively. And my BMI is right on the cusp of normal.
And now my brief editorial on running and women's reproductive health:
A lot of medical decisions are based on fear. Doctors fear giving the wrong advice. Women fear doing the wrong thing. (I am, of course, referring mostly to women who are trying to conceive and women who are pregnant.) But when was it established that the "safe" thing to do is be sedentary and the "risky" thing to do is exercise? Of course, the exact opposite is true. All women should have regular exercise at every point in their life. If women can't get pregnant, it is not due to the fact that they are running or exercising. If women have complications in their pregnancy, it is not due to the fact that they are running or exercising. And I am not just talking 30 minutes a day 3 days a week. I am talking 60 minutes a day, every day of the week or more. It is the sedentary lifestyle and western diet that leads to health problems and pregnancy complications.
If a woman can't get pregnant, every health problem should be considered and excluded, including stress and nutritional deficiency, but exercise in itself should NOT be discouraged (Brooke, you also gave us a great example of this). Women SHOULD know the risks of NOT exercising, both when they are pregnant and when they are not.
How much is too much? Well, CBurns and I both experienced that we got pregnant when there was in increase in the intensity of our training. I challenge anyone to find a study that shows a direct association between exercise intensity and decreased likelihood of becoming pregnant.
And what about pregnant women? Some of you have asked about those guidelines. Personally, I did not feel the need to read books or follow guidelines when it came to exercising in pregnancy. If I felt like I was getting nauseated or tired or had Braxton Hicks contractions, I of course, slowed down. I avoided ball sports, because who wants a ball whipped at their uterus while pregnant? But don't FEAR exercise! Fear the sedentary life!
Partly because of this blog and the way people attacked the fact that I ran so much while pregnant, I have read many, many, many studies showing how safe and healthy exercise is in pregnancy. And I didn't even need convincing in the first place. There has been ONE study which showed that "high impact sports" can slightly increase the risk of miscarriage in the first trimester. This included ball sports, horseback riding and running. But no one looked at running separately. I have many other critiques of this study. But compare this to the myriad studies which showed benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise and it is no wonder that my recommendations are in line with those of the Danish Ministry of Health.
Oh, boy, I had better get back to work. But challenge me, readers! I love it when you do! Tell me WHY running 80 miles per week while pregnant or otherwise is UNhealthy! Tell me WHY getting your heart rate up is unhealthy!