Video interview: Dr Jess Piasecki, Dr Georgie Bruinvels and Lucy Lomax give an introduction to the Female Athlete Podcast and discuss the importance of shining light on topics that usually go under the radar

Understanding our body is key if we are to get the most out of it, but some natural functions still don’t get discussed – so how do we know if what we’re experiencing is ‘normal’ and use it to our advantage?

Athletes Dr Jess Piasecki and Dr Georgie Bruinvels have come together with journalist Lucy Lomax to launch the Female Athlete Podcast – a place for conversation and education on topics relating to the female body, sport and exercise.

As well as being a lecturer in exercise physiology at Nottingham Trent University, Piasecki is one of the UK’s top marathon runners, having stormed to a 2:25:28 Florence Marathon win last November.

The 30-year-old has spoken openly about her struggles with injuries related to RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport) in the past and is passionate about passing on her knowledge and experience.

“I just want to raise awareness and enhance that communication amongst all females,” says Piasecki. “We’ve called it the Female Athlete Podcast but for me a female athlete is anyone who is female and who exercises and the majority of those will have some kind of menstrual cycle, whether it’s through an oral contraceptive or not, and they will have their own stories and experiences.

“If we can open up that conversation then hopefully we can keep more women in sport and promote females competing at recreational right the way through to elite level.”

READ MORE | RED-S: Jessica Piasecki shares her story

Bruinvels is an applied physiologist and research scientist for sport science and data analytics company Orreco and is also an accomplished marathoner with a PB of 2:37:03 and Greater Manchester Marathon wins on her CV.

“My real aim and passion is to drive education, drive awareness and break down barriers across the board,” says Bruinvels. “That was a massive motivation for doing this.

“I really feel that a lot of the reasons why people don’t want to talk about it and feel embarrassed to talk about it is because they don’t really understand. I think that is because the education that you might get in schools around this is relatively limited.

“Some work I have done has found that 82% of exercising women have never been educated around their menstrual cycle. If they don’t have the understanding about it, they don’t know why they might feel as they do, why are they going to suddenly start talking to their coach or other people about it if they feel almost embarrassed, they are almost internalising it.

“I think there’s a large part of us as women who just think it’s normal and think ‘okay, I’m a really heavy bleeder, that’s normal’ or ‘I experience loads of pain, well it’s my period, that’s just me’. Because we don’t share that information, we don’t know that it might be abnormal.

“I definitely think the education side is so important to help break those taboos.”

Lomax is a journalist and commentator who is also on her own running journey as she prepares for an autumn marathon.

“It’s so embarrassing how little research there is out there and how little female athletes actually know about their own bodies,” she says. “This is a great platform to be able to talk about things and have a question time at the end for people to ask questions.

“Our mantra is breaking down the taboos and opening up conversation and helping women learn more about their bodies. But we want to have males learn about what we’re talking about as well and have an awareness.”

On her own experiences, Piasecki adds: “I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through in terms of athletics and I want people to have a healthy, successful career. By just making my story available and also through the means of this podcast, we just again raise the awareness.

“I didn’t know at a younger age that never having started a period from the age of 12 to 18 naturally was not a normal thing. There are other things that could have been addressed perhaps at that time but we didn’t have that education.”

The full 40-minute interview is available to watch below and via the AW YouTube channel, as Piasecki, Bruinvels and Lomax give an introduction to the Female Athlete Podcast and discuss the importance of shining light on topics that usually go under the radar.

They highlight the biggest misconceptions they have needed to address, the impact of stress and other factors, the key lessons learned and how athletes can use the menstrual cycle to their advantage, as well as sharing insight into their own running journeys and how they are coping given the current coronavirus restrictions.

» Find the Female Athlete Podcast at femaleathletepodcast.buzzsprout.com as well as via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. Follow @female_pod on Twitter and femaleathletepod on Instagram for updates

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