This epic 500+ page volume comprehensively synthesizes the latest science around optimising women’s health and performance in sport. The wide range of topics explored span physiology, hormones, nutrition, injury prevention, mental health, sexuality, sports equipment design, policy reform and much more.
As Christine dug into many hundreds of studies and interviews over 18 months of intensive research for the book, some clear and concerning themes emerged:
Up until only 2014, women were outright banned from competing in Olympic ski jumping events over baseless myths and fears that their uterus would somehow “burst” or prolapse on landing. The levels of utterly absurd nonsense used to constrain women’s athletic participation over the years is truly mind-boggling!
We take the concept of sports bras for granted now, but they only first emerged in the 1970’s alongside the boom in women’s running participation.
Yet beyond compression, critical considerations around breast biomechanics and muscle/skin/tissue support remain overlooked regarding impacts on performance, comfort and injury risk. Well-fitted, supportive bras can help many females avoid needless breast pain and embarrassment that discourages ongoing sports participation.
Innate differences in neck strength architecture alongside brain matter distribution patterns leave women up to 10 times more susceptible to debilitating concussions compared to men.
Even more, women metabolise drugs used in treatment plans differently by sex. Yet typical guidance on concussion identification and management protocols fails to take this into account.
Use of oral contraceptives or hormonal implants often conveniently masks underlying dysfunction occurring in a woman’s delicate reproductive axis.
When properly screened off such medications, up to half of physically active women can display bloodwork and symptom irregularities strongly suggesting a state of Low Energy Availability Reducing or halting ovulation and menstruation. This demands far more careful and consistent screening of athletes than current practice.
The biggest lightbulb moment reading “Up to Speed” was grasping just how thoroughly for decades we have encouraged - even forced - women to essentially leave our intrinsic “femaleness” behind in order to prove ourselves as legitimate athletes. Yet actively rejecting and denying one’s innate biology and hiding individual needs is ultimately self-sabotage!
While enormous gains are steadily being made to provide women equitable opportunities to participate in sport as well as supply them training and healthcare support structures that nurture long-term wellbeing and excellence, glaring gaps remain.
Christine hopes her book “Up to Speed” continues opening eyes and provoking thought around how much scope we have left to promote greater research investment, coach education, media coverage, and provision of tailored protocols, equipment and environments aligned to optimise female athletic physiology.
Critically, she passionately advocates that all girls and women urgently reconnect with and chart what is occurring in their own bodies as a first step.
Gain an understanding of your menstrual cycle variations and learn how this impacts your health, hormones and training adaptations.
Then conduct mindful self-experiments to determine what strategies work best for you as a uniquely complex system.
For too long, female athletes have endured dismissal, exclusion and silence. But momentum continues building strongly.