As a female athlete it has become abundantly clear, over many years of trial and error, that there are some areas of my training that I have to pay extra attention to.
Otherwise, I end up risking any progress I’ve made or even injury.
1) Take care of our knees!
Women by nature have weaker hamstrings (back of the thigh) compared to their quads (front of the thigh). So we must depend on our stronger quad muscles during activity. Unfortunately, the weaker hamstring muscle, is what protects our knee, particularly the stabilizing ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), while the lack of power in the quad actually puts more stress on our knees. We also have wider-set hips in relation to our knees. This combination creates a pressure point that pushes on the outside of our knees making them more vulnerable to injury.
Know any female friends with torn ACL’s or “bad knees”? This is most likely the reason.
2) Be consistent.
Women generally have less muscle mass than men and because of this we are more prone to de-conditioning (losing strength and stamina). Long breaks between activity can lead to a loss in muscle mass and performance. It’s important to maintain activity levels all year round.
In order to stay active and keep things interesting try changing up your routine or adding in seasonal sports as the weather changes.
3) Pump iron.
According to Sports Medicine, women need more iron in their diets as it is but as athletes we really need to be on top of our iron intake. Without it our performance drops, we feel exhausted, suffer from low power, frequent injury and our immune systems become compromised!
Dried beans, dark, green leafy vegetables, tofu, chickpeas and raisins are great sources of iron. If it feels like you’re still not getting enough have your blood levels checked. You may need to talk to your doctor about supplementing.
4) Fat is our friend.
As athletes it’s assumed that a decrease in body fat will lead to higher performance levels, however the decrease in available energy this produces leads to an immediate decrease in performance. Not to mention fat cells promote proper functioning of the nervous and endocrine systems, which are responsible for hormone regulation. So, make friends with fat!
Coconut oil, avocado, and nuts are great sources of high-quality fats for athletes!
5) Trade in your milk for a set of weights!
With recent spikes in the incidence of osteoporosis, which can cause a decrease in bone mass and density, and lead to fractures, female athletes have major cause for concern. The good news is, sources like WebMD state that weight-bearing exercises help to increase bone density and reduce the incidence of fractures. And according to Vivian Goldschmidt, MA and Save Our Bones, weight-bearing exercises more effective than consuming dairy-based milk, which has recently been found to have adverse effects on bone growth and calcium intake.
If weight lifting isn’t your thing, don’t worry! Adding in a simple walk counts as a weight-bearing exercise and can do wonders to promote bone health and calcium retention.
6) Drink more.
The Human Kinetics Experts say performance levels are impaired when the body is dehydrated by just two percent! At five percent or more your performance output can suffer by up to 30 percent! Dehydration also affects cognitive functioning, mood, and energy levels.
Everyone’s hydration needs are different based on lifestyle and activity levels but a good starting place is eight glasses a day.
We thrive when we are part of a community and perform better in all aspects of life when we feel supported. So, let’s make friends with other female athletes who are like-minded and understand us! It helps to promote confidence, motivation and desire, all of which help to promote performance.
If there’s something you’d like to add to the list I’d love to hear from you.
Here’s to healthy knees and happy athletes!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Courtesy of Andy Mckilliam