Celtic Woman’s FC strength and conditioning coach Andrew Wiseman assisted with trialling a new app and the team became the first in the world to use it! The team were recognised in a recent edition of Forbes magazine.
“It seems that of all the words that help define the complexities of the physiologic menstrual cycle, the word “period” often stands out. The word “period” also can define an implication of menstruation for some women. Simply put, period means stop. The impact of a woman’s period on performance is well-established. For example, more than half of elite athletes highlight that their menstrual cycle affects their exercise, training and performance. The science around the hormonal and biochemical changes is clear. However, the contextual perspective around life in general remains a “force fit” of science around lifestyle. Terms like ovulation, luteal and follicular phases are common, but the direct impact on lifestyle, particularly on women athletes, remains less so. The physiologic impact of the menstrual cycle, particularly for the elite athlete, can be significant. And for some, can even be catastrophic.
That’s beginning to change.
Orreco, the sports and data science company that helps athletes optimize their training, accelerate their recovery and prolong their careers, has taken a new look at the menstrual cycle and how it can inform women on athletic training and performance. The implications are far-reaching and offer practical recommendations for all women on day-to-day performance in the stadium, on the field and at home. A team lead by Ph.D. researcher and international long-distance runner Georgie Bruinvels and Orreco’s product development manager, Grainne Conefrey, looked at the physiologic implications of the menstrual cycle and applied these insights to functional aspects of training. These recommendations included information around strength training, aerobic training, injury risk avoidance, nutrition and cognition. The key advantage to these insights is that it now allows training to be designed around different points in the cycle to optimize the underlying physiology. For example, resistance training can be performed at a time when estrogen levels are high and corresponding hormonal-mediated muscle strength is optimized. At other key points in the cycle, a higher relative risk for injury has be identified. For example, recent data suggest that there is a higher incidence of ACL rupture during a discrete, yet fragile, window in the cycle.
Endurance and nutrition information on day 21.
Using a combination of their own scientific research and peer-reviewed work, Orreco has divided the menstrual cycle into five separate zones, each with specific training and nutritional suggestions. Based on these insights, they have created an app, FitrWoman, that gives women personalized, day-by-day recommendations that are tailored to the menstrual cycle. The app also provides a physiological understanding of what is going on in the user’s body and why specific suggestions are provided.
The app is far from many existing products that act as simple period trackers. For example, recent research has highlighted the benefits of establishing specific “zones” for strength training around the menstrual cycle, with increased benefits found in the first half of the cycle when compared to the second. During this “zone,” the risk of soft tissue injury or ACL rupture is increased, which is thought to be due to increased activation of 17-β estradiol receptors on connective tissue. In fact, female soccer and basketball players are 2.78 to 3.6 times more likely to rupture their ACL than men, and this may be a function of changes in their menstrual cycle. This is supported by a recent study in women skiers that found ACL injury risk to be 2.4 times greater pre-ovulation when compared to post-ovulation. Celtic Women’s Football Club was the first team to start using it, and their Strength and Conditioning coach Andrew Wiseman has embraced this tool as a key part of training and lifestyle:
“FitrWoman has given us an important tool when it comes to player wellness and monitoring. It allows us to adapt strength, endurance and flexibility training to underlying physiology. It’s smarter training for better performance.”
The implications for the elite athlete are certainly clear. But the weekend warrior and occasional woman athlete may also benefit from the FitrWoman app. Planned development of the application is focused on integrating artificial intelligence to enable the optimization of a fitness schedule or to help reduce injury risk. It’s another way that digital health is providing real-world solutions to old-world problems.
The app is officially being launched on June 9th at the Female Athlete Conference in Boston, hosted by Harvard Professor and Team USA Olympic Rowing physician Kathryn Ackerman, also a scientific advisor at Orreco.”