Kelly McNulty is a PhD student at Northumbria University investigating the effect of the menstrual cycle and the use of hormonal contraceptives on athletic performance and recovery.
In this interview Kelly shares what the existing research tells us about women’s training performance and the menstrual cycle. She explains how our two predominant sex hormones impact us and encourages us to become body-literate and data-driven with our own experience.
Women’s participation in sport
In order to understand the existing research, we have to consider the background of women’s participation in sport and how that correlates with the research. In the 1800s women were encouraged not to exercise because it might damage their reproductive organs and fertility. That was echoed in the elite sport environment and women couldn’t participate in the Olympic Games.
In the 60s and 70s things started to change. Today there is increased participation of women in sport - from recreational to the elite level. This means we need to know more about what is going on in women’s physiology. It is likely that we are failing to optimise women’s performance due to a lack of knowledge.
What’s next for Kelly?
Kelly's research project is looking at training and recovery and how that’s impacted across the menstrual cycle. COVID-19 has impacted data collection, but she is working out a way to make this home-based.
Kelly has created a platform called The Period of the Period, to raise awareness and provide evidence-based education on women’s health. You can find her on Instagram or Twitter, and look out for her upcoming podcast discussing women-specific topics.