• Educating and Inspiring Female Runners

    Here, We're All About Health, Happiness, and Running

  • My Mission

    This site was created by a runner, for runners using scientific research to educate young female runners about safe and effective training. I want to debunk the myth of “thin = fast”
    and help runners understand the importance of taking care of their bodies so
    they may enjoy a long life of healthy running. My mission is to educate, inspire, and empower female runners of all shapes and sizes to run confident in their own skin.

     

    About Me...

    Hello, and welcome to my site!

    My name is Miranda DiBiasio and I am a senior at The George Washington University. I am an Exercise Science major within the Milken Institute School of Public Health. This website was created for my senior capstone project, but has been a dream of mine since I began college.

     

    As a competitive runner for nearly eleven years, I have been through a lot. During my years of collegiate running I struggled with disordered eating, amenorrhea, and lowered bone density; the classic Female Athlete Triad (learn much more on this site!!), as well as numerous running injuries.

    My passion is to use my experience to teach and inspire others. This site was created using current research to educate and guide female runners so they can be the healthiest, happiest, version of themselves. This site is specifically tailored towards young female runners looking to optimize their performance through health, smart training, adequate nutrition and of course, balance!

    My hope and goal of this site is to educate and inspire young female runners!

    Want to see where my inspiration comes from? Click here for Strong Runner Chicks webpage! #StrongRunnerChicks

  • Media

    My Story

    My story is the story of so many others. I'm here to share that story and speak up to make a change.

  • Training Considerations

    Fundamentals of Training & Special Considerations

    This section will begin by laying the basis for training distance running in young girls and will address various training considerations.

     

    Limit Training Before Puberty

     

    To begin, we must take into consideration that youth girls are NOT mini adults and should not be trained the same way female adult runners are trained!

     

    Scientific research is lacking on determining what exactly the right age is to begin training and racing distance events, however research favors that children should not begin regular and specialized training for distance running until at least the early stages of puberty (~11-13 years old).

     

    Why wait?

    • Research does not show that distance runners must start heavy training at a young age to excel.

    • Rapid growth means the growth plates of young girls are weaker making their bones more susceptible to fractures under heavy repetitive stressors. Joints and muscles are susceptible to injury because muscle mass and strength develop more slowly than bone. Children who train intensely for distance running are at a higher risk for muscular and skeletal injury until these critical growth processes are complete.

    • Excessive training before puberty can affect hormones in ways that interfere with normal maturation and optimal health.

    • Estrogen is a hormone that ensures healthy growth and development in girls. It plays a major role in menstruation, which is a NORMAL process of maturation and critical for female health. Under conditions of overtraining and suboptimal nutrition, estrogen is not produced at regular levels during puberty in female runners. As a result they may experience delayed menarche or irregular menstrual cycles.

    • Why do we care? This site will explore in detail the various health issues associated with overtraining and the absence of menstruation!

     

    Benefits of Puberty

    Normal pubertal development is necessary for optimal health as well as improving running performance!

    • Growth spurts of the lungs and the heart boost delivery of oxygen rich blood to the muscles, naturally increasing VO2 max.

    • Elevated growth hormones during puberty enables stronger muscle contractions which can lead to increase in running speed and efficiency.

    Training is Individual

     

    Each young female runner is different, and therefore their training must be individualized for best performance. Basing one's training on someone else's plan is a recipe for poor performance and injuries. To properly train young female runners we must consider their training age; how many years have they been training. Those with younger training ages should not train the same way as those with older training ages.

     

    Proper Training for Skilled Distance Running

     

    Optimal performance is the product of developing many physiological and psychological capacities.

     

    Physiological capacities include: Cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, endurance, proper technique, and speed.

    Psychological capacities include: Motivation, self-confidence, concentration, pacing and tactical skills.

     

    Research shows that skilled distance running comes not out of long, slow, mileage training, but from methods such as circuit training, technique drills, and cross training.

     

    Programs for young runners should emphasize general fitness capacities because they form a fitness base that will help them undertake more specialized, intense training in the future.

     

    Designing Quality Programs

     

    Designing quality training programs requires determining appropriate workloads, which are defined by volume, intensity and frequency (amount, effort exerted, and how often).

     

    There is no simple formula for determining optimal increases in training loads, but one must weigh factors including a young runners developmental status, their history and response to training, as well as their potential for handling training loads over a career.

     

    Young runners should gradually increase their training loads! Doing too much too soon limits athletes potential for advancing training.

     

    It is a good idea for beginners to compete in shorter distances and slowly work their way up. Why? Successful racing means running as fast as you can over a given distance without slowing down and losing form. It is very difficult for beginners to do this over longer races such as the 5k. This is because beginners have not necessarily developed pacing skills, which is a key psychological capacity in running.

     

    Emphasize Proper Technique

     

    When it comes to running economy, compared to adults, children are very inefficient. A Study done on aerobic fitness in children and adults shows that young runners use much more oxygen than adults when running at comparable speeds. A major cause is flawed technique. These flaws waste energy by slowing the runners forward progression and divert muscle forces to counterproductive movements.

     

    Technique training is essential for breaking bad habits and preventing new ones in beginners! This is done through drills, weights, circuits, flexibility, and mobility training, which are critical to developing efficient running form.

     

    Never Compromise Health!

     

    Here, we are all about the health of the young female runner! Given the physical demands of running, a fine line separates peak performance from injury and illness. There must be an emphasis on healthy training practices such as increasing training loads gradually, using technique and strength training methods geared toward injury prevention, optimal nutrition, awareness of the signs of overtraining, as well as resting and recovering when injured or ill.

     

    Make Training FUN!

     

    Above all else, make training FUN! We want girls to be healthy, happy, and foster love for the sport of running.

  • Training

    Training SMARTER Starts Here.

    Training. It's what us runners do to get better. But how can we do it in a way that our bodies respond well and don't leave us over-worked, injured, or burnt out? In my own experience, and in my research, training smarter is the key.

    To reach optimal potential, distance runners need to perform high-intensity and high-volume training. That means they have to train to cover long distances at fast paces. The ability to do this in the correct way that limits injury risk and optimizes health depends on a strong foundation of fitness.

     

    The main capacities that form this foundation are flexibility, mobility, strength endurance, neuromuscular fitness, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Building this base will support advanced, race specific training, and reduce injury risk. To prevent injury, loads should be adapted to the individuals specific abilities, needs, and training response.

    Flexibility and Mobility

    Distance running strengthens an tightens different muscle groups, causing imbalances on opposing sides of limbs and joints. These imbalances and tightness can cause injuries. These capacities (flexibility and mobility) are essential for young runners for preventing injury.

     

    The focus of these exercises are on muscle groups that are particularly tight in runners (ex: hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors).

     

    Dynamic Stretching

     

    Dynamic stretching involves continuous movement of the limbs through sweeping ranges of motion around a joint. Research favors dynamic stretching over static stretching before running because they better loosen up the joints and prepare the muscles for running. Young female runners should always stretch before and after running!

     

    Click here for a sample dynamic stretch routine!

     

    Active Isolated Stretching

     

    AIS is a method of stretching that promotes muscle lengthening and fascial release. It is a type of athletic stretching that provides effective, dynamic, facilitated stretching of major muscle groups. AIS helps the body to repair itself by providing functional and physiological restoration of superficial and deep fascia. This method of stretching is also known to work with the body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints and fascia. The AIS technique is now one of the methods of stretching most used by athletes, massage therapists, personal/athletic trainers, and other fitness professionals.

     

    AIS is a preferred method of stretching pre and post running, because it allows the muscles and joints to move in their full range of motion, prepares the body for activity, and provides a dynamic warm up of major muscles. The AIS technique involves the method of holding each stretch for only two seconds. This should then be repeated 5-10 times on each side.

     

    Click here for more information and a sample AIS routine!

     

    Hurdle Drills

     

    Hurdle drills are dynamic exercises done using hurdles. Distance runners can benefit a great deal from doing hurdle drills as part of their dynamic stretching routine. Hurdle drills are a great way to open up the hip and groin region, which tends to be one of the tightest areas on runners. This area is critical because it is a pivotal point for running efficiency.

     

    Hurdle drills increase a runner's flexibility, range of motion, and core strength. Consistency is key when it comes to a dynamic warm up routine that includes these drills. Runners should try to do these drills two to three times a week. A great time to do them is when cooling down and stretching after a workout.

     

    Click here for more information and a sample hurdle drill routine!

    Strength Endurance

    This foundational area of focus is explored in depth under the "Strength" section of this site!

    Neuromuscular Fitness and Technical Skill

    Good running form is a key to healthy running. It is the product of precisely timed patterns of muscle activity and limb movement, which are controlled by the nervous system.

     

    These two foundational components of fitness can be developed through speed training as well as technique drills and strides. Technique training can be fit into training sessions as part of an active warm up routine.

     

    Technique Drills
     

    Technique drill training can have many positive effects on young girls running performance. Priming the neuromuscular system helps runners develop key characteristics of sound technique including correct posture of the upper body, high knee lift, powerful extension of the driving leg, good dorsiflexion in the ankle joint and efficient arm action.

     

    Too often these kinds of drills are done incorrectly and can reinforce inefficient movement patterns that put young girls at risk for injury.

     

    Tips to remember when doing technique drills

    • Keep upper body squared at the shoulders and bent slightly forward at the hips

    • Stand tall and engage the core muscles, keeping the spine in alignment

    • Eyes stay focused ahead with chin parallel to the ground

    • Emphasize coordinated pumping of the arms

    Click here for a research based sample drills table (Table 6.4)

     

    Speed Development Technique-Strides

     

    Strides are a speed development technique where the athlete runs repeated distances of 100-150 meters. The strides are fast, controlled runs at race pace or faster. The key is to have a heavy emphasis on proper form when completing strides.

    Developing Cardiorespiratory Fitness

    Cardiorespiratory fitness is the capacity of the heart and blood vessels to supply the working muscles with oxygen rich blood. This foundation of fitness is essential for endurance, which is the capacity to sustain moderate-intensity activity for a long duration (AKA distance running!)

     

    Continuous Aerobic Running

     

    This is the main training method for developing cardiorespiratory fitness in distance runners. This method includes running continuously at a moderate intensity. Target pace shouldn't feel necessarily fast, but shouldn't feel like a jog. Duration of this run varies based off the young female runners chronological and training age. In the table below, runs are shown in minutes and not miles because the goal is on time spent running at moderate intensity.

     

    Click here for a sample sessions table (Table 7.6)


    The pace for continuous aerobic running should elevate the heart rate to moderately high levels. Based on studies that investigate cardiorespiratory adaptations to training in young athletes the target HR range for these training sessions should be between 70-80% HR max. Young girls can calculate their heart rate (HR) max by using the age predicted HRmax formula: 220-age=HR max (beats/min)

     

    The key is to gradually build up to longer sessions! The duration of continuous aerobic running should increase from year to year. Over single training seasons the pace required to keep the heart rate within 70-80% of max HR may be lowered by 30 seconds per mile or more. This is due to the cardiovascular system getting stronger and more efficient.

     

    Non-Running Aerobic Activities

     

    As long as runners sustain a heart rate of 70-80% of HR max, they can improve their cardiorespiratory fitness by cycling, swimming, cross country skiing, in line skating, etc.

     

    It is a great idea to include non running aerobic activities into young female runners training programs because it adds variety and gives the joints, muscles, and bones active recovery necessary to rebuild and repair tissue. Studies show that cross training can be incredibly beneficial for youth female runners when it comes to injury prevention. It is also a great way to maintain aerobic fitness while injured! Engaging in other forms of exercise can also be incredibly beneficial for young runners as it gives them the opportunity to try new things and cultivate other passions!

    Race Specific Training

    Above, we discussed general training modes. Here, we will explore race specific training.

    Race Specific Training For Young Female Distance Runners

     

    This site uses research to form training plans for races between 800 meters and 5,000 meters that stimulate the physiological and psychological demands of training.

     

    Training methods include tempo running, aerobic intervals, anaerobic intervals, race specific intervals, and time trials.

     

    Race specific training methods are guided by the principle of specificity, which states that physiological adaptations to training depend on the specific methods runners use.

     

    General training methods don’t completely prepare runners for the physiological demands of racing. Race specific training must be included for optimal performance!

    To Race Fast, Runners Must Train Fast!

    Race specific training is more physically demanding than general training methods, so they can pose greater risk of injury and burnout. Beginners, especially those who have not puberty should start out with a low volume of race specific training and slowly increase loads over time.

     

    For runners at all levels, volume of race specific methods should increase gradually through successive phases within a single season and across seasons.

     

    It is also incredibly important to note that more intense training requires adequate recovery to be sustained and to improve performance. Recovery runs, cross training days, and days off should be included in every young runners training program! Adequate nutrition also plays a key role in recovery (more on that later)!

    Developing Aerobic Power

     

    The most important, physiological determinant of distance running performance is an aspect of cardiorespiratory fitness called Aerobic Power. This is the body’s highest capacity to deliver oxygen to the working muscles and process it rapidly to form ATP (or energy for the muscles).

     

    Three research based training methods for developing aerobic power include:

    - Tempo running (interval and continuous tempo running)

    - Aerobic interval training

    - Fartlek

    Tempo Running

     

    Young female runners build aerobic power through training that raises the threshold at which lactic acid production begins to exceed its clearance in the muscles. In young runners this threshold typically occurs at a pace that corresponds to 80-85% of max heart rate.

     

    Tempo Running Guidelines

     

    - The pace should elevate the HR to roughly 80-85% of max

    - The pace should stimulate vigorous, but not labored breathing

    - Should be an intensity that doesn’t allow the runners to carry on a conversation

    - Optimal pace is approximately one minute per mile slower than their current race pace for the mile, and 30 seconds slower than their race pace for the 5,000 meter run

     

    Interval Tempo Running

     

    - Involves repetitions lasting from 3-10 mins

    - Depending on the duration of each run the number of reps ranges from 2-10

    - Great for beginner runners who need to develop pacing and concentration skills

     

    Continuous Tempo Running

     

    - At the start of training season 12-24 minutes of continuous running is recommended for tempos, depending of the athlete’s development level and event specialty

    - From season to season and year to year volume (time or distance) and intensity of continuous tempo running should increase. Because tempo running improves aerobic power by increasing the lactate threshold, target paces naturally get faster over time.

    - The duration and speed of tempo running should increase gradually throughout a single season

    Aerobic Intervals

     

    Although interval and continuous tempo running are intense methods of building aerobic power, they do not maximally stress the aerobic system.

     

    To develop aerobic power to its fullest, runners must train at paces at which their muscles consume oxygen at a near-maximum rate. Aerobic interval training is the best method to do this by allowing the body to experience and intense training stimulus for a longer duration.

     

    With Aerobic Intervals...

     

    - Runners can accumulate more minutes of running at high intensities through aerobic interval training

    - Recommended intensity of running is close to 3,000 meter or 5,000-meter race pace, eliciting a HR that is 85-95% of HRmax

    - The longer repetitions are especially good for developing pacing skills along with aerobic power

    - Recovery periods in aerobic interval sessions are expressed as a ratio of run to recovery duration.

    - Recommended ratios are 1:0.5, 1:1, and 1:1.5 for aerobic interval training

    - If runners are so fatigued that they cannot achieve goal pace on a repetition their recovery period should be lengthened

    - Jog recovery- speeds up recovery because these light muscle contractions move lactic acid from the muscles into the blood stream

    - Gradually increase the duration of repetitions and the total volume per session. Progression requires running at faster paces over a single season.

    Developing Anaerobic Power

     

    All distance races require anaerobic energy to fuel mid-race surges, uphill climbs, and finishing sprints. Under these conditions lactic acid accumulates rapidly, and unless the runner has trained her body to clear and buffer the lactic acid, she will fatigue and slow at critical points in the race.

     

    Anaerobic interval training conditions the body and mind to defy fatigue during maximal effort and emphasize running fast while tired. The physiological effects of this method help the body buffer and clear lactic acid from the muscles.

     

    Anaerobic Training Includes...

     

    - Repetitions rage from 200-800 meters and range between 2-8 repetitions per session. Total volume is relatively short, ranging from 600-3200 meters. Recommended to run each repetition 5-15% faster than race pace 1600 meters.

    - General run to rest ratios range from 1:2 to 1:4

    - Repetitions should be exhausting, but shouldn’t cause the runner to lose their form. Increasing recovery time is essential if form breaks down

    - From season to season and year to year repetition distance and session volume should increase gradually. The most important element of progression is to run the repetitions at faster speeds.

    Race Specific Interval Training

     

    Race specific interval training involves running at goal race pace over total distances similar to the event a girl will be competing in.

     

    This training includes...

     

    - Relatively long repetitions, at least one third of the race distance

    - Short recovery between reps (20-60 seconds)

     

    Times Trials

    As a competitive season approaches there is no better way for runners to develop and test their competitive fitness than to do time trials, or practice races! Time trials are a great way to develop mental fitness through practicing strategies and race tactics. These runs can boost confidence as well as motivation, and can make girls more comfortable and less nervous in competitions.

    Training and the "10% Rule"

    Many times I have alluded to the importance of gradually increasing training loads to optimize performance. This can be different for every young female runner, as we know each runner responds differently to training and requires individualized training plans. However, research shows that optimal performance, injury prevention, and overall smarter training comes from runners increasing their weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week. This has become known as the "10% Rule" in distance running. Increasing mileage by more than 10% each week puts runners at higher risk for injury as well as other negative consequences associated with overtraining.

  • Program Building

    Not Sure How To Start Building Your Program? Start Here!

    Four Components of Program Building

    1. Asses starting fitness level, training, racing, and health history

    2. Set racing and training goals

    3. Map out training in a season (Macrocycle)

    4. Plan daily and weekly training sessions (Microcycle)

    Asses Starting Fitness Level, Training, Racing, and Health History

    This component is essential for setting appropriate goals, choosing training methods, and determining how to best progress loads for safe and effective improvement. That being said, it requires a very good record keeping system!

     

    A key factor for program planning is a young girls developmental status and training age. Girls develop at different ages and so programs must be adapted to meet the girl where they currently are. Research shows that overtraining or improper training at a young age can be detrimental to the health of the female in the long run (pun intended).

     

    Keeping good record of training history is pertinent for healthy advancement of all female runners. Below are some things to consider when creating training plans. Athletes should use previous season training logs to determine these factors.

    • Average running volume and intensity per week: add up miles, kilometers, or minutes of running done each week, then divide by number of training weeks.

    • Average loads lifted in weight training sessions per week: calculate load lifted in a single session by multiplying the number of reps done by the amount of weight used (ex: 12 reps using 15 lbs = 180 lbs). Add up all exercise loads then divide by the number of training weeks.

    The record keeping involved in training programs takes time and detailed work, but they are incredibly beneficial for creating future training plans that are safe and effective. Keeping written logs and training journals can be fun too! Check out this awesome training journal created by professional runners Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. Seeing written records of training is not only incredibly beneficial to a young runner’s development, but is inspiring to look back on and see how much improvement has been made and how much has been accomplished!

     

    Racing History: Two Reasons to Keep Record of Racing History

    1. To set performance goals for the upcoming season

    2. To reveal performance patterns and reasons for both good and bad performances

    This can be as simple as logging race events, times, and how the runner felt both physically and emotionally during and after the race.

     

    Health History: when developing training programs it is very important to take into consideration a young female runners health history. This should include any illnesses, injuries, and other health concerns. This should be done for injury prevention purposes. If a young female runner knows she has a history of hamstring strains, future programs should include specific strengthening work of the hamstrings, hips, and glutes, as well as more focused flexibility and mobility training.

    Setting Racing and Training Goals

    Goals are a powerful tool for building motivation and confidence and are essential to guiding training programs!

     

    Racing Goals

     

    - Ideally begins with long term goals (end of high school career) with shorter term goals created to help girls succeed at their long term goal.

    - Goals should be realistic based off previous race times and workout history. This is why logging training is so important and can come in handy!

    - Young female runners should NEVER overtrain to meet their racing goals! Research shows that for long term improvement and injury prevention girls should actually do the least stressful training to achieve their yearly goals!

    - If reaching her goals means increasing training loads to levels that might cause injury, then it is best to make the goal time a bit slower for that season. Training smarter is more important than training harder!

     

    Important note about training and racing goals: they only work when female runners understand what it takes to achieve them!

    Mapping Out Training In A Season (Macrocycle)

    Planning training uses a technique called periodization. This involves dividing an entire training program into shorter periods. For each period methods and loads are assigned to meet a runner's training and racing goals.

     

    A training macrocycle is divided into three major periods:

    • Preparation

    • Competition

    • Transition

    Preparation & Competition: This is divided into shorter three-four week cycles called mesocycles. Even smaller cycles can be created, called microcycles, which focus on one to two weeks of training. Within Microcycles are sessions, or single workouts. Each training session consists of units, which are training methods used that day, including flexibility, continuous aerobic running, and weight training.

     

    A periodization chart can be a useful tool for providing a framework for designing a training program.

     

    Preparation can be separated into a General Preparation Phase and a Specific Preparation Phase.

     

    General Preparation Phase

    - The focus of this phase is on building base fitness. It emphasizes technical skill, strength endurance, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

    - 30% of training load should focus on continuous aerobic work (running, cycling, and swimming)

    - 20% of training should focus on strength endurance

     

    Specific Preparation Phase

    - Race specific methods are the focus.

    - 20% of training load focuses on aerobic work, while increasing the amount of training devoted to developing aerobic power and anaerobic fitness

     

    Table 9.1: General Preparation Phase Versus Specific Preparation Phase

     

    Competition Phase can be separated into Pre Competition Phase and Main Competition Phase.

     

    Pre Competition Phase:

    - This is comprised of regular season racing. This phase emphasizes methods that progressively build race-specific fitness by stimulating the physical and mental demands of competition. Runners fain high levels of fitness and tactical skill through racing.

    - Increase in contribution of race specific training, including race specific intervals and time trials or practice races. Other high intensity methods, such as aerobic intervals and anaerobic intervals continue to make up relatively large portion of the training load. Because of the higher intensity more time must be spent in recovery.

     

    Main Competition Phase:

    - This is comprised of important races at the end of the season and championship racing season. The focus is on maintaining race-specific fitness and form. This phase requires training at speeds close to race pace. Recommended to devoting a large portion of training time to advanced methods for sharpening aerobic power, anaerobic fitness, and race specific fitness.

    - Although fast running is a staple of training during this phase, sessions should not be too exhausting. Ample recovery time is very important during this phase. Another important method for maintaining race specific fitness and form is technique strides. There is more emphasis on warming up and stretching as well as vital recovery.

     

    Transition: Recovering, Regenerating, and Reflecting:

    - This is the period between the last race of the season and the first day of training for the next season.

    - This is a critical part of a young female runners program and development. The objective is to recover from the stress of training and racing and to regenerate physical and mental energy for the upcoming season (macrocycle).

    - This phase gives young female runners a break from serious training. This time should be used for low intensity running, or participating in other sports and activities for fun.

    Planning Daily And Weekly Training Sessions

    Planning daily and weekly training sessions are organized by microcycles (one - two week periods) and mesocycles (three - four week periods).

     

    Sample microcycles (one for each phase of the preparation and competition periods for intermediate runners focusing on 3k-5k races).

     

    Table 9.3-9.6: Sample Training Sessions

     

    Organizing a single training session

     

    The following principles and guidelines are based in research as the best ways to order training units in a single session. As stated before, each training session consists of units, which are training methods used that day, including flexibility, continuous aerobic running, and weight training.

     

    • Low intensity units should proceed high intensity units: The first unit should not cause severe muscular fatigue. It should warm up the muscles and prime the cardiovascular system for burst of anaerobic training that will be done later in the training session. Runners who do intense aerobic interval sessions before continuous aerobic run the risk of overtraining and injury.

    • Runners should not do technique drills when overly fatigued. Technique training should be done early in the session following warm up and stretching. If done while fatigued, runners may not execute them correctly and will not benefit from them.

    • Units of continuous aerobic running should precede units of strength training. In sessions that include both running and strength training, running should be done first. Muscle fatigue caused by strength training could lead to injury if followed by a run.

    Organizing training sessions in a microcycle

     

    It is convenient to think of training plans on a weekly basis (7 days). For new runners more recovery days may be necessary after high intensity training sessions. To account for the increased amount of recovery days the microcycle can be lengthened to 9-10 days.

     

    Research based principles and guidelines for organizing training sessions in a microcycle:

    • Repeat key training methods for a given phase regularly in one microcycle. To reach higher levels of fitness, runners must consistently repeat key training methods while steadily increasing the loads. A general rule of thumb is in a 7 day microcycle to repeat a key training method at least once (ex. 2 aerobic power workouts, one on Tuesday (interval tempo), and one on Saturday (aerobic intervals). If these workouts are spread too far apart the runner would not benefit as much because their system would not be stressed enough for positive adaptations to occur.

    • Avoid using the same training method two days in a row. Developing fitness is not a matter of training, training, and training. As a general rule at least one day should separate the repetition of a demanding training method. This allows the stressed muscles to restore energy, and undergo physiological adaptation that improve strength endurance. Low intensity recovery days should both precede and follow high intensity days. Some runners may need more recovery time in between harder sessions, especially for beginners.

    • Do race specific training work on days of the week when competition is usually held. These workouts should closely simulate the physical and mental demands of competition.

    • Race weeks should include sessions with low volume of fast running as well as sessions of recovery. The objective of units of fast running is to activate neuromuscular pathways that will be used in the race. These sessions boost runners confidence running at race pace. They should not be so intense that they drain energy. Avoid overly fatiguing by shortening repetitions and lengthening recovery time.

  • Fueling

    Food is FUEL.

    Optimal nutrition is SO important for young female runners!

    This section will include research based guidelines for a healthy, performance enhancing diet.

    Young Female Runner Daily Calorie Needs

    One of the most important nutrition goals for young female distance runners is to ensure they are eating enough food to replenish the calories they burn through training, daily activities, and basic metabolic processes (the body’s energy making systems).

     

    When energy intake falls short of a female athletes energy needs, she is at risk for unhealthy weight loss, illness, injury, and poor performance. Negative energy balance (burning more calories in a day than you consume) is especially dangerous for youth runners because of their high energy needs for normal growth and maturation.

     

    Research that studied youth distance runners ages 10-19 found that average total daily energy expenditure for females was 2,467 calories. Young female values ranged from 2,041-2893. This study shows that young female runner burn and need a lot of calories each day!

    Macronutrient Intake

    The three macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat. They are considered macronutrients because we require them in large amounts and they provide us with calories, or energy for physiologic functioning. Each of these nutrients are essential parts of our diet.

    Carbohydrate Intake

    • Carbohydrate (CHO) is a key source of energy for ATP (energy) production in 800-5,000 meter events.

    • The body stores CHO as blood glucose as well as liver and muscle glycogen. However, these stores are limited, especially in youth runners.

    • Muscle glycogen stores can decrease over several days of intense training if they are not replace through CHO rich foods.

    Because CHO are a main source of energy for middle-long distance runners it is recommended that these athletes eat a high CHO diet. A research based guideline for youth runners recommends they eat 6-9 grams per kilogram of body weight in CHO each day. To calculate weight in kilograms take weight in pounds and divide by 2.2.


    Table 3.1: Ranges of suggested CHO intake for runners ages 12-18. Keep in mind that these values are only suggested ranges and are not the same for every athlete!

    Complex CHO vs. Simple CHO

    Complex CHO are named for their long chains of glucose molecules. They are found in starchy foods, grain products, and most vegetables.

     

    Simple CHO are named for their short chains of glucose molecules and make up sugary foods and fruits.

     

    Both forms provide glucose (energy) for muscle activity, but complex CHO sources and fruits are considered more nutrient dense because they are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

     

    Tables 3.2 & 3.3: High CHO foods from complex CHO and simple CHO.

    Fat Intake

    Fat provides us humans energy at rest and during low intensity activity. The contribution of fat to total energy needs during running increases as the pace slows. That means that fat plays a major role in fueling low to moderate intensity training runs as well as longer races.

     

    But isn't fat bad?

     

    The answer: absolutely not!

     

    The human body cannot function without fat. It is an essential nutrient for the normal process of growth and maturation, including the development of growth hormones. Fats are necessary for transporting fat soluble vitamins and provide essential fatty acids that the body cannot make. Estrogen production also requires fat (see Female Athlete Triad for more info on why this is so important!) For running, fat is important because it can be used to spare CHO. This means that when the muscles burn fat, the body’s limited stores of CHO are not being used and are thus “spared”. CHO sparing is important in distance running because it delays the fatigue caused by glycogen (stored glucose) depletion.

     

    Nutrition experts generally suggest that young athletes consume about 25 to 35 percent of their total daily calories from fat.


    Table 3.4: Ranges of suggested fat intake for runners ages 12-18. Again, keep in mind that these values are only suggested ranges and are not the same for every athlete!

    Saturated Fat vs. Unsaturated Fat

    Like CHO, fat comes in various forms, some which are more nutritious than others.

     

    Saturated Fat is primarily found in animal products, such as beef, bacon, and dairy foods. Some Research suggests an association between high saturated fat intake and rates of heart disease and stroke. Athletes can align their own saturated fat intake with public health recommendations by choosing lean animal protein sources and reduced-fat dairy products.

     

    Unsaturated Fat is found in more plant based foods such as vegetable oils, soy, nuts, seeds, and fish. These fats, when eaten in appropriate amounts, are good for the heart, organs, and physiologic functioning. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids found in unsaturated fats can reduce inflammation and promote faster recovery from strenuous training.


    Table 3.5: Fat Content In Common Foods.

    Protein Intake

    When the body has adequate amount of CHO and fat, it uses very little protein for fuel during running. Only in cases of unhealthy glycogen depletion, such as starvation, does protein metabolism occur on a large scale. However, that does not mean that protein does not need to be consumed by young runners!

     

    Protein in the body is constantly being broken down and built back up. Because of this, runners must replenish their protein stores on a daily basis. Protein is needed in the body for the growth and repair of muscle tissue, along with a whole host of other responsibilities. Muscle fibers are made of protein, so athletes require this nutrient to rebuild and strengthen muscle tissue that is broken down during training. Protein also makes up hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are critical to endurance performance because they transport oxygen to muscle cells.

     

    Protein is made up of compounds called amino acids. 20 amino acids are required to build protein. The body can only synthesize 11 of these amino acids, thus they are considered non-essential amino acids. The remaining 9, called essential amino acids, must be consumed in the diet. The best protein sources are animal products such as lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk. Animal protein sources are considered complete because they contain all of the amino acids. Many plant foods are great sources of protein, but they are incomplete, which means they lack one or two of the essential amino acids.

     

    No fear here though!

     

    By combining two or more incomplete plant based sources of protein, runners can create meals that become complete protein sources. That being said, runners who are vegetarians or vegans should consult a registered dietitian for guidance to ensure they are eating a balanced, adequate diet.

     

    Growing female runners are constantly breaking down muscle tissue in training and in maturation so they need slightly more protein than their normally active peers. Sport nutrition experts advise that young runners eat as much as 1.6 g of protein per kg body weight.


    Table 3.6: Protein Content In Common Foods.

    Other Key Nutrients: Vitamins, Minerals, and Water

    In addition to the macronutrients (CHO, Fat, & Protein) food contains other important nutrients: vitamins, minerals, and water. Although these nutrients do not provide calories, and thus do not provide energy, they perform vital physiological functions such as catalyzing reactions in energy pathways, support nutrient and oxygen transport to working muscles, promote growth and healing, and protect against disease.

    Vitamins

    Vitamins are organic compounds found in meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Young female distance runners need to get enough of these nutrients because they play a major role in energy production.

    Minerals

    Minerals are inorganic elements found in water, vegetables, and animal foods. Minerals help build bones, form enzymes, transmit neural signals, and produce muscle contractions. Calcium is an especially important mineral for developing female runners because it promotes bone growth and helps muscle contractions. Calcium is found in dairy products, dark, leafy vegetables (i.e. kale, collard green, etc.), and small oily fish (i.e. sardines). Iron is another important mineral for female runners because it forms hemoglobin in red blood cells. Iron is found in red meats green vegetables, eggs, nuts, and whole grains.


    More on Iron...


    If dietary iron intake is insufficient, young distance runners can easily suffer low iron and hemoglobin levels. This is because iron can be depleted through sweating and hemoglobin can be lost as red blood cells are broken down through the repetitive foot strike during the running stride. Adolescent girls also lose iron through menstruation. Some studies show that 40-45% of young female runners do not consume the recommended daily allowance for dietary iron, which is 15 milligrams per day for those aged 14-18. Extreme iron deficiency can result in anemia, which is a condition in which red blood cells and hemoglobin reach dangerously low levels.

    Staying Hydrated

    Young runners have higher needs for fluid intake due to their active lifestyles and increased sweat rate. Youth in general have higher fluid intake needs than their adult counterparts because they are less efficient at cooling their bodies. Below are research based general guidelines for fluid intake among young runners.

    • Before training or competition: drink 18-24 ounces of water

    • During training: drink 5-9 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes

    • During competition: if runners are sufficiently hydrated before competition they do not need to drink fluids during competition

    • After training or competition: 16-24 ounces of water or sport drink for every pound of weight lost

    Water is generally the best drink for young runners, but in some cases sport drinks that contain 4-8% solution of CHO and electrolytes are advised. These drinks are especially useful for runners who lose their appetite after intense workouts and races so they can quickly begin to replenish glycogen stores.

    Energy for Competition: Pre-race and Post-race Meals

    Young female athletes may underperform and race poorly based off of what they have (or don't have) to eat before competing.

     

    Distance runners should eat a high energy meal about 2-4 hours before competing, in which approximately 60% of the calories come from CHO. For afternoon and evening races, runners should be sure they have eaten enough throughout the day to sustain their activity. Before competition, runners often avoid foods that are high in fat and fiber, as they do not digest as easily.

     

    Diet composition plays an important role in recovery, especially after longer races. The primary goal of the post-race meal is to replenish depleted glycogen. This means the meal should be high in CHO. In addition, the meal should include protein to rebuild damaged muscle and reform enzymes in energy pathways.

     

  • Energy Balance & The Female Athlete Triad

    Adequate nutrition is important not only for maintaining good health and nutritional status of young female runners, but also for maximizing their athletic potential! This is potentially the most important section of this site!

    Energy Balance

    As we explored earlier (under "fueling") it is very important for young female runners (all other athletes as well!) to be sure they are fueling themselves appropriately to sustain their training and activities of daily living. This requires maintaining energy balance. When athletes are under-fueling they are in a negative energy balance. This can lead to various negative health consequences which we aim to avoid. The goal of this section is to bring awareness to the extreme importance of proper fueling as well as the risks associated with failure to do so.

     

    Overall, research shows that female runners are more vulnerable to nutrition related issues than their male counterparts, including nutrient deficiencies, eating disorders, body image issues, and weight management problems. This issue is being brought to light to due more and more research addressing the prevalence of nutrition related issues among young female athletes as well as the negative consequences associated with these issues.

     

    Although little is know about dietary intakes, food habits, and overall diet quality of young female runners, researchers are working towards having a better understanding of these things so nutritional issues can be addressed head on.

     

    Female athletes are particularly vulnerable to low energy levels, hypoglycemia, and fatigue in the morning, so pre morning workout race fueling is especially important. Research shows that skipping pre morning session fueling may negatively influence cognitive abilities, and alter metabolism due to reduced availability of CHO to the brain. Athletes are advised to eat breakfast regularly along with 5 meals or snacks in order to maintain energy levels and supply adequate amount of CHO to working muscles during the day, especially when multiple workouts are completed.

     

    A recent study found that 91% of female distance runners studied reported energy intake that was significantly lower than their estimated energy needs. That means the vast majority of all the female athletes in the sample failed to consume enough food to fuel their workouts!

     

    Their findings are alarming because nearly half of the athletes sampled reported intakes of less than 2,000 kcal/day, which represents the amount of energy that is required for a young woman who is at low-moderate activity levels. Most in the study were not meeting the recommendations for protein, CHO, or fluid intake.

     

    Maintaining energy balance is a key to optimizing health and performance for young female runners! The remainder of this section will focus on explaining the risks of under-fueling (negative energy balance) as well as the prevalence of disordered eating and eating disorders in female runners.

    Disordered Eating & Eating Disorders in Female Runners

    The issue of sport, exercise, and eating disorders has received increasing attention the last two decades. The prevalence of disordered eating and eating disorders is high among adolescents athletes, especially those in weight sensitive sports (which sadly includes distance running).

     

    Research points to several port specific risk factors which exist that may increase young female runners susceptibility to disordered eating and eating disorders. Suggested sport specific risk factors include...

     

    - Frequent weight regulation: Often seen in the form of weigh ins or body composition check ins.

     

    - Dieting and experienced pressure to lose weight: Young athletes may feel pressure to look a certain way or weigh a certain amount because of the "thin ideal" expressed not only in our society, but sadly, in our sport as well.

     

    - Personality traits: Some traits desired by coaches in their athletes are similar traits found in individuals with eating disorders, such as excessive exercise, perfectionism, and (over)compliance. Psychological traits such as high achievement orientation and obsessive compulsive tendencies are commonly associated with eating disorders, but are also essential for successful competitions.

     

    - Early start to sport specific training: Socializing athletes to extremely weight preoccupied sports at an early and vulnerable age is suggested to increase risk of eating disorders.

     

    - Injuries: injured athletes may be at higher risk for disordered eating/eating disorders because of undesired weight gain that may occur when sidelined. Also, they experience other negative mental and emotional effects when they are unable to participate in their sport.

     

    - Impact of coaching behaviors: A performance related and body weight pre-occupied coaching style can increase body image anxiety, dieting, and fear of fatness for young athletes. A supportive and caring coaching style may reduce the risk of eating disorders.

     

    It has been suggested that the sport environment can make athletes even more vulnerable to risk factors than non athletes.

    "Thin Ideal" In Running

    Too often, young female runners fall victim to the idea that in order to be fast they must be incredibly thin and light. Female athletes in cross country running often focus not only on skill and endurance, but also on leanness and appearance.

     

    Athletes may say, “I feel the less you weigh, the faster you run.” This thought is absolutely NOT TRUE! This only shows that young runners are susceptible to pressures to maintain an excessively thin body type.

     

    No single body type has been demonstrated to be the most beneficial for performance! Excessive thinness can result in a decrease in performance and increase in fatigue.

     

    For athletes in sports that emphasize leanness, reduction in body fat can be emphasized to enhance performance. Often initial weight loss occurs and may lead to better performance. Athletes may believe then that the key is to continue to lose weight or body fat and slip into restrictive calorie intake and are thus at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder. This may lead to an unfortunate domino effect when other athletes, both team members and competitions observe these initial successes.

    Female Athlete Triad

    The Female Athlete Triad is a risk of running that is very extreme and can have long term negative effects on performance and health.

    What is The Triad?

    The Female Athlete Triad is a medical condition that comprises three interrelated disorders: Insufficient energy availability (with or without an eating disorder), irregular menstrual function, and low bone density.

     

    Insufficient Energy Availability

     

    In the first of these disorders, the body lacks the energy reserves needed for normal functions. This can result from intentional or unintentional calorie restriction, overtraining, or both.

     

    Irregular Menstrual Function

     

    This is categorized in three ways...

     

    1. Primary amenorrhea, or delayed menarche. This is determined by a young female not beginning mensuration before the age of 16.

     

    2. Secondary amenorrhea, in which menstruation stops for three or more consecutive months.

     

    3. Oligomenorrhea, in which menstrual cycles occur more than 35 days apart.

     

    Low Bone Density

     

    This has to do with the mineral composition of the bones being below normal age specific levels.

    Young Female Runners & The Triad

    Studies have revealed high rates of female athlete triad disorders in young distance runners. In women who participate in sports that emphasize leanness, such as ballet or running, the prevalence of secondary amenorrhea can be as high as 69%, compared with 2% to 5% in the general population. Abnormal menstrual function has been reported in approximately 20-50% of adolescent athletes. The female hormone estrogen plays a central role in menstrual function and in bone and cardiovascular health. Estrogen levels are abnormally low in many athletes who are affected by one or more of the triad components. Experts have raised concerns about the potential risks of infertility and CVD associated with the triad.

     

    Disordered eating, which includes a range of irregular eating behaviors that do not necessarily meet criteria for severe disorders, is also higher in the athletic community than amongst the general population. For athletes the range of those effected is between 16% to 47%, whereas in the general population the range is between 0.5% and 10%. A study revealed a shocking statistic that up to 70% of elite athletes competing in weight class sports (male and female) are dieting and have some type of disordered eating pattern with the goal to reduce weight before competition.

     

    One study found that low bone density was observed in significantly more runners than non runners. They also found that 13-14 year olds in the study had similar bone densities to that of 17-18 year olds. This is especially concerning because it suggests that young runners with the disorder may not accumulate enough bone mass to reach normal levels in late adolescence. This is a serious health problem because approximately 50% of lifetime bone development occurs during adolescence. The low bone density associated with the triad increases risks for bone injuries, including stress fractures as well as bone diseases such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.

     

    Although various factors can contribute to the triad, experts view deficient energy availability as the central culprit. Too often many young runners are in a chronic state of insufficient calorie intake. This may stem from unintentional dietary restriction in runners who are not aware of their daily energy needs or who may skip meals because of their busy schedules. Some female runners however, intentionally limit their calorie intake because they believe that being thinner will improve their performance. My hope is to bring home the message that this is NOT true!

    Prevention

    Prevention is the key to ensuring the health of all female runners is maintained and deemed the most important thing. This begins with knowledge of a nutritious diet that matches the young runners calorie needs. Support for prevention through diet comes from knowing the quantity and quality of food young runners need to reduce the risk of under-fueling.

     

    Leading medical organizations are starting to address these issues head on and are recommending that physicians screen adolescent female athletes to determine whether they are at risk for the triad during yearly pre-participation exams. This is a great way to work towards addressing these issues before it is too late. An organization called the Female Athlete Triad Coalition has developed a screening instrument that is endorsed by organizations including the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the American College of Sports Medicine.

     

    An Eating Disorder Prevention Program has been created called the Female Athlete Body Project (FAB). This program is to be administered to young female athletes at the beginning of the season. This program targets small lifestyle modifications in the prevention of eating disorder onset and in reducing eating disorder risk factors. I have had to great opportunity to administer this specific program to my own team and saw great success. I believe these kinds of prevention programs are the future of health and nutrition education in athletics and the key to preventing eating disorders among female athletes.

  • Strength

    Strong never sounded so good.

    What is Strength Training?

    The term strength refers to the ability to exert maximal muscular force. Strength is largely determined by the cross sectional area and mass of the muscles.

     

    Distance runners do not need extraordinary strength because they do not exert maximal force in every running stride. Runners do not need large, bulky muscles; instead they need a combination of strength and endurance to produce moderately high levels of muscular force over long periods of time. This capacity is essential for delaying fatigue, maintaining good running form, and preventing injuries.

    How To Develop Strength Endurance

    Runners develop strength endurance using relatively light resistive loads and a fairly large number of repetitions. This allows runners to perform an exercise for a long time to gain endurance along with strength. To gain maximal strength, athletes would perform high resistance, low repetition exercises.

     

    There are three recommended forms of strength endurance training for young runners. These include...

     

    - Circuit training

    - Weight Training

    - Hill Running

    Circuit Training

    Circuit training consists of a series of strength endurance exercises organized in a sequential pattern that is called a circuit. It is essential to perform these exercises with proper technique because they can cause injuries if done incorrectly!

     

    Circuit training adds variety to strength training and can be fun! It is challenging, but produces visible results including enhanced muscle tone, improved posture, and better running form. It is a great way to increase strength endurance while simultaneously getting a good cardiovascular workout in as well.

     

    Recommendations for circuit training:

    • Perform 8-12 exercises in a circuit

    • Include compound exercises that strengthen various muscles groups at the same time

    • Vary the exercises each session so different muscle groups are stressed in different ways. It is important to change the exercises done in each circuit training session over time.

    • Do not perform each exercise too quickly, as this can break down form and increase risk of injury

    • Athletes should take 20-30 seconds rest in between each exercise. This is a short enough time where the HR will not drop drastically, so the endurance training effect is not lost

    • At the start of a training season, runners should perform only one circuit per session and gradually work there way up to two or three circuits

    • Many body weight exercises are sufficient for developing strength endurance. This makes circuit training more versatile as it does not always require equipment!

    • As exercises become easier to perform resistance should be added to promote further strength adaptations

    Table 6.1: Sample Sessions: Circuit Training

     

    The exercises in the sample circuit stress the main muscle groups used in running. Each station includes an exercise for the arms, core, and legs. These exercises are ordered in a way that allows the body to recover and does not stress the same muscle group back to back.

    Weight Training

    There is considerable overlap in circuit training and weight training for young runners. The objective of weight training for young runners is also to build strength endurance and improve performance as well as prevent injuries. Weight training loads should also follow the low resistance/high repetition guideline.

     

    Weight training can be done using free weight or weight machines. Weight machines, if sized and used properly, can be advantageous because they isolate specific muscle groups. They can also minimize the risk of injury because movements are controlled by pulleys and mechanical devices. Free weights require more balance and technique to isolate key muscles and stabilize movements.

     

    In weight training there is a concept called repetition maximum, or RM. This can help determine the appropriate load of weight training for each runner. For example, 12RM is the amount of weight a runner can lift 12, but not 13 times successfully without breaking their form.

     

    Recommendations for weight training:

    • It is best to stress large muscle groups before small muscle groups

    • Exercises during each weight training session should target arms, core/trunk, and legs

    • Exercises should be done in an order that does not stress the same muscle group back to back

    • Add variety to exercises to each weight training session

    • Runners should perform 8-15 repetitions of each weight training exercise using a 10-15RM load

    • Runners should never extend a weight training session to the point of compromising good technique

    • As runners develop strength, loads should be increased slowly to enhance muscular adaptations

    • Runners should begin with circuit training and then ease into weight training. This is because circuit training builds a foundation of strength endurance and prepares runners for more intense weight training

    • To start, weight training sessions should only include one set. As the training season progresses and strength improves, athletes can gradually ease into doing 2-3 sets

    • It is very important to keep a detailed record of weight training workouts so athletes know how to best increase their RM loads to enhance performance

    Table 6.2: Sample Sessions - Weight Training

     

    The exercises in the sample session use both free weights and machines.

    Hill Running

    Hill running is a great training method that enhances strength endurance, cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as technique. Uphill running places an extra load on the leg muscles and requires vigorous arm action, making flat ground running easier.

     

    Recommendations for hill running:

    • The slope of the hill should be steep enough to force runners to alter their technique by using more vigorous arm action than running on ground level. The slope should not be so steep that it causes runners to strain or lost proper form.

    • The distance of the hill should be fairly short (200-400 meters)

    • Short recovery should be taken between each hill. This can be a slow jog or walk back down the hill

    • Runners should not ease up when they get to the top of the hill. They should hold the same pace throughout the whole hill

    • The intensity should not highly stess the anaerobic system and cause fatigue form lactic acid accumulation. The pacing should be similar to that of a 3K or 5K race

    • To start, runners should complete a low number of hill repetitions (5-6 repetitions)

    Table 6.3: Sample Sessions - Hill Running

    Strength Training and Injury Prevention Manual

    I am excited to share with you a great resource for beginner runners to find strength training exercises as well as injury prevention exercises. This manual was created by myself and co-founder of Strong Runner Chicks, Megan Flanagan. We each hold accredited Strength & Conditioning Certifications and have an educational background in Exercise & Sport Science.

     

    Click here for the Strength Training and Injury Prevention Manual!

    Why It Works

    Young athletes can see incredible positive benefits from introducing a strength routine into their current training program. Research shows that young runners make gains in explosive strength and speed primarily by neural adaptations and to a lesser degree by muscle hypertrophy (increase in size of the muscle.) Strength endurance training has a positive effect on running economy and on endurance performance. Neuromuscular improvements related to strength training can be transferred into improved muscular power and improve how efficient young runners are, which can enhance running performance.

  • Inspiration

    We're on your team!

    Below are just a few of my favorite inspirational stories from professional (and non-professional!) runners who are speaking up to advocate for a change of culture within the sport of running. Some have struggled with overtraining, under-fueling, body image issues, or the Female Athlete Triad, while others have not. While we are all different, we share the love to this sport and understand the importance of health above all else!

    Bobby Clay

    On the Mend and On a Mission

    20 year old professional runner for Great Britain, Bobby Clay, was just 20 years young when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis due to overtraining and under-fueling. Now she's speaking up about her experience to help others and advocate for woman's health in the sport. Go Bobby!

    Allie Kieffer

    Size Doesn't Define Her

    Professional runner for Oiselle, Allie Kieffer has often heard people make comments about her weight and size. Despite these comments Kieffer refuses to let size or weight define her as a runner and wants to help others understand that these things do not correlate to running success. We love you, Allie!

    Alexis Fairbanks

    The Discovery That Changed Her Life

    Alexis, a former collegiate runner, never thought she had an eating disorder until she learned more about the Female Athlete Triad, its negative consequences, and unfortunate prevalence in the sport. Alexis learned a lot through her experience and is passionate about helping other female runners through the organization in which she co-founded called Lane 9 project. Thanks for being you, Alexis!

    Lauren Fleshman

    Dear Younger Self...

    Lauren Fleshman, a retired professional runner for Oilselle writes a powerful letter to her younger self. Lauren addresses many of the negative emotions young female runners have about growing up and developing, and how many try to fight puberty in fear that it will hurt their athletic performance. Lauren encourages choosing health above all else and understanding that to be your strongest self, you must grow, change and have a menstrual cycle. She also emphasizes the importance of being more than a runner. Cheers to Lauren!

    Miranda DiBiasio (Me!)

    My Story

    At first I was hesitant about adding myself to this section. It seemed weird to consider myself my own inspiration, sounds kinda cocky, right? Well, I would consider myself far from that. As I thought more about it I realized that in my own recovery and growth as a runner it has been so important for me to remind myself how strong, resilient, and truly inspirational I can be. Whenever I am struggling, I look not only to these other amazing women I have mentioned, but I also look to myself to remind myself how far I have come. So heres to me! 

    Emily Infeld

    Setbacks Are A Set Up For A Come Back

    Emily Infeld has been my running role model since I was a young high school runner. I watched Emily dominate the Cleveland area cross country competition, as she and I come from the same hometown! Early in her professional career Emily struggled with various injuries, but her spirit and determination was unbreakable. She serves as an amazing role model for young distance runners.

    Tina Muir

    An Open Letter To Runners With Amenorrhea

    Tina Muir is a professional runner from Great Britain. Recently, Tina opened up about her experience with amenorrhea and hopes to encourage others to take charge of their health. Tina has a blog and podcast that she uses as a platform to advocate for women's health in running. Way to go Tina!

  • Additional Resources

    Here lie some of the best resources for young female runners which advocate for healthy, happy running!

    Strong Runner Chicks

    As mentioned earlier, this group has been the inspiration for me in creating this site. They have served as motivation and inspiration for me during my own struggle with injury and disordered eating

    ***

    We’re a growing group of girls and women dedicated to fostering strength in the female running community. From high school and collegiate athletes to professional runners and recreational runners, we’re accepting of all body types, shapes and sizes, proving that you don’t have to fit any one-size-fits all mold to be a distance runner.

    ***

    Running in Silence

    Rachel Steil is the author of "Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It " & a contributor to Strong Runner Chicks. She is an inspiration to me as well as many other female runners and athletes.  

    ***

    Rachael speaks publicly about eating disorders to share her recovery story, create awareness, and bring hope to coaches and athletes.

    ***

    Lane 9 Project

    This wonderful group of ladies came to me in a time of need and helped me through some of the toughest moments in my running career. They have also served as inspiration and motivation for me to create this site!

    ***

    The Lane 9 Project is a community of active ladies and lady activists speaking out about women’s health, nutrition, fertility, and running.

    ***

    The Victory Program

    I have had the privilege of knowing many wonderful young athletes who have gone through The Victory Program at McCallum Place and had great success. They are a wonderful resource for those who are struggling and are ready for change! 

    ***

    Despite the fact that eating disorders constitute such a prevalent and serious problem for many athletes, there are no specialized treatment programs for such athletes. The Victory Program is specifically designed to treat eating disorders in athletes with other athletes who are overcoming their eating disorders.

    ***

    A Case of the Jills

    I was introduced to Jill through SRC and my own experience with amenorrhea. Jill is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the health of female runners.

    *** 

    My dream plain and simple is to see a world where all female athletes get their periods and where everyone can learn to recognize the signs that they are pushing too hard before they blow up in epic fashion.

    ***

    National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)

    NEDA is a wonderful organization committed to the health and happiness of those struggling with eating disorders, athletes included! Visit their site to learn more about what they do, and how you can get help.

    ***

    The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. NEDA supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care.

    ***

  • In The News

    People are raising their voices, and change is on the horizon.

    "It cannot be ignored": Runners spread awareness about eating disorders in their sport.

    The Washington Post - June 5th

    What the sedentary life taught me - Lauren Fleshman

    Strava Stories - April 30th

    Obsessed with her weight this NZ runner pushed her body to breaking point.

    Stuff - June 20th

    Health is more important than fast times.

    Fast Running - July 1st

    Female Athletes Face Crazy Expectations. They Can Be Overcome.

    New York Times - September 15th

    4 Things Every Coach, Parent, or Female Athlete Should Know About Running And Puberty.

    Runner's World - September 11th

    To Free Yourself From Toxic Diet Culture, Deconstruct Its Language.

    Quartzy - December 27th

    Why You Shouldn't Be "Running Off" Calories This Christmas.

    Runner's World UK - December 20th

    How I Learned to Love My Strong, Athletic Body.

    Athlete Network Blog - April 5th

  • Contact Me

    We are stronger together. Don't be afraid to reach out!