That's exactly the situation pro runner Tina Muir is in. In the past year the British runner (and Saucony rep) competed in the Half Marathon World Championships and nabbed a personal record at the London Marathon (finishing in 2:37, a whopping six-minute-per-mile pace).
But she recently announced, at the peak of her career, that she would be quitting running for a while. Her reason? She wants to focus on her health and fertility—and her heart-pumping passion was actually making things worse.
"I knew the time was coming where I wanted to focus on starting a family, but I can’t—I have not had a period in nine years."
"I am 28 years old, and although I have not yet reached the point of it being all I wanted, I knew the time was coming where I wanted to focus on starting a family," Muir wrote on her blog. "But I can’t. I have amenorrhea. I have not had a period in nine years."
The runner, who now lives in Lexington, KY, may have been in the fastest, fittest shape of her life—and when she visited countless doctors and specialists, they all agreed that she was "fine"—but she felt she had to make a change to start a family.
While runners may be open about many things (mid-marathon bathroom runs, anyone?), losing their period is something that often goes unmentioned. (Which isn't to say it's not prevalent—it's estimated that as many as 69 percent of female athletes have dealt with amenorrhea.) Even in this era of menstrual realness, for someone of Muir's caliber to speak out—all while putting a pause on the pavement-pounding—was striking.
So what's it like for pro runner to just stop racking up miles? And, seven weeks in, how is she feeling? Here, Muir opens up about her sweaty struggles.
It's been a while since your last run! How are you feeling?
It’s amazing how I’ve already gone through this huge transformation. I've experienced so many emotions—kind of like the stages of grief. It's been full of ups and downs, moments of doubt and joy. But I feel so much more content in who I am. I've realized how distorted my image of myself was before. I realized how much happiness I based on my running performance and ability, and over the past few weeks I've learned I have so much more to offer.
Everyone I see keeps commenting that I look healthy and happy, and that I'm glowing. All very positive words—which is surprising, because if I'd told myself a year ago I would stop running, I'd imagine that seven weeks in I would've felt depressed, miserable, sad, frustrated, and guilty. All negative words.
What physical changes have you noticed so far?
I've gained weight—around 15 pounds. It's all been in the areas you'd expect—my boobs, hips, and belly. I've noticed that the definition in my legs has faded away, and I feel a bit softer. There's not as much muscle tone on my body, but I can look in the mirror and mostly feel pretty confident because I know I'm doing this for a reason and am putting my health first.
It's such a relief. Before, my life revolved around running—I had to be in bed at a certain hour and had a stricter diet, and now it's so liberating to be able to live a little. I'm finding joy in other areas. I do miss the endorphin rush you get from running, and sometimes I feel a bit lazy, but for the most part I'm more calm and relaxed.
"I was just scared about what people would say about me, so I buried my head in the sand for nine years and pretended nothing was going on."
You mentioned being nervous to share your experience with amenorrhea. What has the response been like?
People always assumed that if you have amenorrhea, it's because you aren't eating enough, and if you aren't eating enough, you probably have an eating disorder. I've always prided myself on eating very well, and didn't want people jumping to conclusions, saying I wasn't looking after my body. I've always made sure not to restrict or cut things from my diet, and didn't want to be accused of that.
I didn't feel like I was strong enough to handle any criticism when it came to that, and I knew that mental side would affect my running performance. I was just scared about what people would say about me, so I buried my head in the sand for nine years and pretended nothing was going on.
Would you say you're officially retired from running now?
No, I would call it a hiatus. I’ve always had a feeling I’d be that mother runner someday—that I'd be 37 or 38, running better than ever. After I reached my goal of running for Great Britain, I struggled with finding a long-term goal for myself. Now I believe it’s to someday come back after having children, and to come back stronger than ever. I don’t know when that will be. I don’t want to rush it. It won't be in six months, but I don’t think this is the end.
"Don't be afraid to keep asking your doctors to find out if something is wrong! A lot of women go through this."
Am I allowed to ask if you've gotten your period yet?
I have not gotten it yet—but I'll share when I do! I'll admit that it's frustrating that I haven't gotten it yet. It's hard for me to accept that—that's the competitor in me. My doctor said it would take two or three months to come back, so I wanted to do it in six weeks. My endocrinologist said weight gain would help, so I've continued to gain weight. I've gone all-in—giving up running, doing acupuncture, everything the doctors have recommended. And I thought I'd be the exception to the rule. But it goes to show that you have to be patient, as with everything in life. There will be moments you think you can control, but you can't. It's a waiting game.
Any advice for people going through a similar situation?
Don't be afraid to keep asking your doctors to find out if something is wrong! A lot of women go through this. Even one month of a missing period is worth getting checked out, because it starts with just one, then it's been a year, then seven years go by. Don't be afraid to push for blood tests, second opinions, or third opinions. Keep searching for answers. And I highly recommend the book No Period. Now What?
If you're having other period problems (AKA pain), try this easy, cramps-relieving vinyasa flow. And here's what to do if you want to go off of birth control pills and get your cycle back the natural way.
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