It’s time for another hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery story. I hope you find these stories inspiring and that they help you to stay on track with your own recovery.
The goal of these stories is to keep you on your recovery track and working towards your prize – your period and your health! If you missed the earlier amenorrhea recovery stories, you can find them here:
Today’s story is from someone you may know.
In fact, you cannot not know her if you have ever typed the words “hypotahalamic amenorrhea” into YouTube.
That’s her – Jill of acaseofthejills!
Jill is an ultrarunner who lost her period for 4.5 years. She has some good stuff to share with you, everything related to running and hypothalamic amenorrhea and women’s health.
Before we dive into Jill’s story, here are some facts about her recovery:
- She had hypothalamic amenorrhea for 4.5 years
- Time it took to recover: 2 months. Her period returned in June 2016
- She has cycled since then – she hasn’t skipped a single period!
- Her BMI before and after the recovery: She doesn’t know, because she didn’t weigh herself before, during, or after. She doesn’t believe that BMI is an indicator of anything at all. However, her guess is that she gained 12-15lbs since she jumped up 2 sizes in jeans, but she can’t tell exactly.
Jill’s motto is, Every athlete should get her period. Period.
I couldn’t agree more. Here’s what she has to say about athletes and periods.
Jill, you’ve been an ultrarunner for years. In 2014, you started seeing some overtraining symptoms. What were they? Were missing periods one of them?
I started seeing mental symptoms of overtraining way back in 2014 when I was training for a race called The West Virginia Trilogy. I trained hard all summer, but by the time I got close to the race, I could feel my focus and excitement just slipping away.
Training became a job and lost its joy. I was so confused by my absolute lack of desire to do the race at the time, but looking back… I know it was the beginning of the end.
I had lost my period way before that, but I believe that was a result of increasing my running mileage quite a bit.
More overtraining symptoms came when I moved to California in 2015. That’s when I had terrible insomnia, depression, blood sugar problems, hair loss, GI issues, leg pains, fatigue/exhaustion, weight gain, terrible leg swelling, and overall water retention.
Of course the mental burnout was there, but I was so used to it at that point that I just kept going on autopilot.
What did you do to overcome this situation? How did you change your workouts?
Along the years that I did not get a period, my weekly running mileage ranged from 50-80, but hovered mostly around 70 miles per week in the last year. In the first few years I was going to 90 minutes of heated power yoga 4-5 times per week as well. This eventually shifted to 75 minutes of non-heated vinyasa yoga once a week. In short, this was WAY too much for me.
During the recovery phase, I was trying to run under 30 miles per week and went to a very relaxed yoga class 2 times per week. Because I was suffering massive overtraining symptoms even at that mileage, I eventually cut out all running and began walking about an hour per day instead. This walking was very relaxed, no fast stuff and no hills. I switched to a home yoga practice during this time for no more than 40 minutes, twice a week.
Currently, through much trial and error, I am running between 18-24 miles per week. I only run 3-4 days and I will go for walks if I don’t run. I go to non-heated vinyasa yoga 3 times per week. I did train for and race in a 50K post-recovery, in December. But, since it did not make me feel good physically, I am settling right where I am for a while. It doesn’t feel like too much or too little and I am happy.
Is it possible for an ultrarunner to make a full comeback after hypothalamic amenorrhea?
I think that this depends on the definition of “a comeback”.
When we are talking about ultrarunners, we have to factor in the aspect of Overtraining Syndrome since it is quite common in our camp. Overtraining and amenorrhea both greatly affect the endocrine system, but they don’t always go hand-in-hand. If the runner was heading down a path of overtraining and lost her period in the process, she may find that she can recover from one before the other.
Overtraining and amenorrhea both affect the endocrine system, but they don’t always go hand-in-hand.Click to tweet
In my personal experience, I have been able to get my period back, but my endocrine system is definitely limiting how much running I can do. For me, “a comeback” means that I can get out and run moderate mileage per week without major overtraining symptoms or of course, without losing my period again.
If an ultrarunner does not have a problem with overtraining, but she did lose her period, I think the chances of her being able to get back to training are much better.
Of course, it is imperative that she is mindful of her food intake and attention to rest, as well as adhering to a conservative training plan. It’s going to be an uphill battle to keep hormones even and cortisol low, but I don’t think a full comeback is impossible at all.
I don’t think a full comeback to running after hypothalamic amenorrhea is impossible at all.Click to tweet
What advice would you give to your 5 years younger self?
My goodness, where do I start?? This is totally not advice for everyone, but this is what would have been good for ME.
I would tell myself the following, although I really could add to this list:
It’s ok to take more rest days and rest means not doing anything. “Active recovery” is still exercise.
Salad is not a good post-run recovery meal. It’s a good side dish, but you need starchy carbohydrates, fats, and good sources of protein in there.
You’re better off running after work than getting up at 4:00am and destroying your sleep patterns.
Did I mention how bad it is to limit carbohydrates if you want to get your period back, Jill? Also, please eat more carbohydrates. 🙂
Running 50+ miles over every weekend in addition to weekly mileage is NOT SMART.
When Krissy Moehl said that she keeps her weekly mileage in the 50s you should probably PAY ATTENTION since she’s been at this ultrarunning thing for like, decades.
You look like a skeleton; a bitchy, bitchy skeleton.
When you would prefer to have a broken leg over running that day, maybe go see a movie.
If you are bigger than a size 000, it doesn’t mean you failed.
What can we all do to prevent women from getting HA, instead of having to recover from it later? How can we raise awareness about it?
I think that we have to go way back to how we educate young girls about menstruation. We talk to girls about getting a period as though it’s a given, but we don’t talk to them about the fact that it can go away as well.
Many women are confused when they lose their periods because they didn’t understand that it was a possibility in the first place.
Awareness really requires a paradigm shift in so many ways. There needs to be more discussion of healthy habits on sports teams, in the media, in doctor’s offices, and in the home.
I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to go to a gynecologist who actually had a clue about hypothalamic amenorrhea. I am sure they exist, but I just don’t have that experience.
Of course, in a perfect world, the media would not glamorize certain body types over others. This is particularly important for athletes because the message is not only about aesthetics, but also performance.
It’s all BS, of course, but women of all ages can fall into thinking that they will actually be better athletes if they are in a smaller body. I would love to see this association diminish.
Women tend to think that they will be better athletes if they had a smaller body. This is BS.Click to tweet
Thank you Jill!
PS: If you too are suffering from hypothalamic amenorrhea and want to beat it (you should!), the 5-Step Overtraining Rehab Program can help you.