Losing your period as a runner (or as anyone) is not normal.

It’s not something to brag about.  It’s not something to strive for during training and it’s not something that is going to help your health, your times or overall wellness.

In fact, losing your period is only going to harm you. 

Last month while attending Fitblog, a speaker said a quote that resonated with me.  “Eating disorders are a relevant topic in the sub elite and college level.  Eating disorders almost don’t exist in the elite level”.

Why is that?

An elite female cannot afford to have an eating disorder or missed period because she won’t perform at her best.  If an elite female isn’t performing well then she will not stay (or move into) the elite field.

It’s a very harsh but true statement. 

I’m not an elite runner and probably never will be. I do however have a passion in public health and wellness.   My major in college was public health. While I don’t work in the field at the moment, I do volunteer in the field.  I also did a series earlier this year raising money and awareness for eating disorders. It’s important to note that I’m not an expert and that if you are missing your period, the first thing you should do is see your doctor.

Why does your period stop?

This can be a combination of reasons (that your doctor can tell your personal reasons).  Often times the training level is too high.  You are training too hard, too much or too long.  The other major reason is you aren’t getting enough food for your exercise.

Say for instance (like myself), you enjoy ten mile runs. I weigh 130 pounds and need about 1800 calories to survive daily.  When I combine that with a 10 mile run, I need 2800 calories.  Without 2800 calories, my body is not getting enough energy.  Certain things can (and will) shut down. That is just a rough example but when you are running high mileage (or easy or not) you need to be mindful of your calorie intake. I am proud to say I’ve never lost my period.

Consequences of missed periods:  

While your times can drop for a few races, eventually you will become too tired to withstand the training.  This can lead to any or all of the following (just from loss of period):

Your times drop all season but when your goal race happens you are too tired and end up running your slowest times.  Even worse is that you run the risk of getting injured much easier.

Important: Repetitive stress fractures.  One stress fracture stinks but then imagine getting one…being healthy for a few months and getting another…then another…thus it continues to hinder your training.  Ultimately your bone density is too low.  This can lead to irreversible damage.   With a loss of period, your body is much more susceptible to injury (especially bone damage).

You become unable to have children.  You might not want children now but you can remain infertile forever.  The reproductive system is the first thing to shut down when your body is not taking in enough calories…Could you imagine if your heart, brain or lungs were the first thing to shut down?

There are many more in depth articles about loss of period.

 Is it normal to lose your period? 

Running and Your Menstrual Cycle 


Please if you have lost your period, see your doctor.  It is not healthy and only going to hinder your health in the long run.


29 responses

  1. Great info! It’s hard for younger women to think ahead to how they might be damaging their bodies longterm, but it’s real and essential to understand how bad losing your period is for your health, and not JUST fertility. It is definitely not only about fertility when you consider that your bones are at serious risk as well as so many other systems. Important for all women to understand it because we deserve to be as healthy as we can be.

  2. A great post, really straightforward and to the point. I have struggled with my period since I got it when I was 11. As a runner and someone who doesn’t have a normal period, I get a lot of looks from the peanut gallery (as it were): they automatically begin to make assumptions. But I have to remember that I didn’t have a normal cycle before, and I’ve actually had MORE success with it since I’ve started running because of the care that I take of myself and the help with regulating my hormones! Good old chronic illness, always upsetting the curve…

  3. Good post – I have always been told, especially in winter, it is best to have some added weight to avoid stress fractures etc, then trim down for the major race. You would be miserable if you trained so much every day and then limited your caloric needs.

  4. I agree that amenorrhea indicates that something is not right – however, the knee-jerk response in the endurance athletics community to “eat more” is not right for everybody. I don’t have a period because I am too heavy, which causes me to have PCOS, so the recommendation to “eat more” is dead wrong. I don’t have an energy deficiency, I’m just fat, which causes hormone balance problems. So the real key is your closing line – go see a doctor.

  5. Great post, Hollie!! It’s sad to know that amenorrhea is so prevalent in running culture for women. I feel like it’s a taboo topic, and I’m glad you brought it up!

  6. Such a great post! As women, it is so important for us to focus on eating enough of the right foods and not worrying about cutting calories when training hard. As you said, it can have serious long term effects, not just on running times but on our overall health and ability to have children.

  7. hi Hollie, i quietly follow your blog and your progress and really appreciate your posts on your recovery and healing and just well, everything in general. basically, i’m a fan and love your attitude. coming from a history of many injuries and major surgery, i view recovery as serious business now and you’re proof that taking care of our bodies truly works wonders. love it!
    so back to the point, well i’ve struggled with keep my period ever since i was anorexic in junior high. it was a long time ago, but it has just been so iffy ever since. i have a hard time keeping it regular and especially now that i’m off birth control – the birth control helped me keep it regulated, but now i have to let my body do it’s thang, and well it’s super slow! i’m sure i could do some things to help, like take more rest days or eat more of ‘x’ but i’m happy when i’m exercising, and i’m talking things like walking, not just running. i’ve seen a doctor about this before, but it might be worth checking out again if i don’t get my period in the next month. thanks for helping me think about this, it’s so easy to ignore sometimes.

  8. I love that you’re bringing attention to this, because I don’t think enough women realize how damaging it is not to have a period. I remember losing mine when I was in the depths of my ED, and actually being HAPPY because I didn’t have to deal with PMS and all the nonsense that comes along with it. Stupid, stupid. I lost my period for years, and then had to fight for it big time to get it back. Hormones are SUCH an important part of our health, and I didn’t realize how much better I felt until I got mine in order.

    Great post, Hollie.

  9. I am also proud to say I have never lost my period. 😉

    Seriously – this is a great and very important topic … and I have also seen posts by people who seem to see losing their period as a ‘rite of passage’ or indication that they have hit a training peak or something.

    I don’t get it – my understanding of it is exactly as you state … so when I see women getting loads of stress fractures, especially those with a history of eating ‘issues’ – I try not to make assumptions, but I worry.

    My wife is at the other end of things at this point (just went through the longest non-pregnant no-period time of her life), and that is no fun either …

    Thanks for the great post! Serious topic and really well handled!

  10. This is so great and the point about the elites really drives it home! This happened to me when I very first started running because I wasn’t eating enough iron, and total overall calories, when I trained for my first marathon. It scared the hell out of me and I’ve leaned SO much since then! I wish I knew from the outset how to eat right.

  11. Great post Hollie! The lack of period isn’t what is causing those other symptoms – it’s a symptom of something larger and definitely a warning sign! The human body knows not to create a baby that probably wouldn’t survive. Our bodies are pretty amazing!

  12. I think this can be a huge issue even outside running with people who are addicted to exercise, which can go hand in hand with eating disorders. I hope this post mayve makes even just one person think “hmm.” And reconsider where they are and their health status.

  13. Thank you for this. I was a runner in middle school, high school, and college….and never got my period. I went on birth control to get it and thought I was fine. I am 32 years old now and infertile. I know it’s my fault and I wish I could talk sense into all the young girls who are doing exactly what I did…I wish I had read a post like yours back then.

  14. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this Hollie! Few things aggravate me more than when women think that losing their period due to intense training or weight loss isn’t something to worry about – it is! I had to work damn hard to get mine back after losing it, but knowing that my body is healthy and functioning properly is 100% worth it. I hope there are some girls out there who read this post and decide to look further into why they don’t have a period!

  15. Thank you for writing about this. I lost my periods unexplained three years ago and became iron deficient. It had doctors stumped. This year I suffered a stress fracture. I do know now that some of the fracture was due to not eating enough last year while I was training. I had a stressful year and wasn’t paying attention to my nutrition like I should have. My periods returned a few months ago. I’m convinced my stress fracture was my body’s way of getting itself back on track.

  16. It is great you wrote about women losing their period because I think it is a very slippery slow to go from someone who is dedicated to someone who is restricting their eating too much. Especially someone doing intense training. I went through a weird time with my cycle too and that is when I decided I had enough of the Pill!

  17. great post! Thank you so much! This is something I struggle with. I have stopped running and am tackling my ED full on. I have met with my doctors several times and they did not seem too concerned with my lack of period. However I AM

    I have another appt tomorrow to request hormone level testing. I want to get to the bottom of this and see what I need to do to get it back


    If you HAVE experienced PERIOD LOSS, how did it affect you hormonally?
    I have been having terrible headaches, depression, and many other symptoms. I am curious to see if my hormones are affecting this

  18. I’ve been thinking about writing a post on this topic for a while now so you may have sparked that to happen. Great info and a topic that NEEDS to be addressed more. After dealing with an eating disorder for a span of time I lost my period for about three years, which at the time confused my doctor because I managed to get back up to a “healthy weight” and my hormone levels were all within the “normal” range. It goes to show just how individualized our bodies are and that we require a unique standard that is optimal for our bodies. For me it was allowing my body to no longer feel stressed. To remove it from “flight or flight”. And above all, to nourish it. Definitely a tricky thing in some cases to get it back. That said, I’ll be honest that when I lost it I was thrilled because well who doesn’t want to not have to deal with it?! In retrospect, it annihilated my body and now at 21 my bone density is crap. Life lessons.

  19. Great information and something that NEEDS to be talked about more among fitness bloggers. Especially frightening is the what I ate today posts that clearly highlight some issues. I can’t even read a post with that title anymore. Athletes don’t diet and excercise they eat and train end of story.

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