Vanguard Roundtable #1: Tailoring Performance Training to Female Physiology

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ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS INCLUDE:

  • Molly Binetti – Director of Women’s Basketball Performance | University of South Carolina
  • Julian Haigh – Sport Scientist | NWSL & Women’s National Team
  • Sam Moore – Applied Physiology Lab Research Asst. / PhD Student | UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Dr. Dan Turner, PhD – Owner & Human Performance Specialist | Silicea Labs
  • Dr. Sue Robson – COO | Fusion Sport
  • Moderator: Emma Ostermann – Human Performance Consultant | Fusion Sport

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Emma Ostermann 0:06
Hello, and welcome to our very first episode of the Vanguard roundtable, where we discuss topics that we believe need more attention in order to drive the human performance industry forward. Today’s topic, we’re gonna be diving into tailoring performance to the athlete or female athlete physiology. We have some great participants with us today. First up, we have Molly Binetti. from University of South Carolina, Julian ha from NWSL, and women’s national team, Sam Moore. She is an applied physio lab research assistant at UNC Chapel Hill, Dr. Dan Turner, from silicea labs, and then Dr. Sue Robson from Fusion Sport. A few things before we get into our lovely conversation today, views expressed by the individuals participating in today’s roundtable do not necessarily reflect the position of using sport, or the panelists, institutions. There won’t be a dedicated q&a At the end of this roundtable and said, Please use the q&a chat function within the Zoom chat. And then you have the opportunity to upscale or essentially upscale a question so that we are able to see it and insert that into the conversation as well. To kick us off today, I am more than excited to get this conversation started. Sam Moore will lead us off with why is tailoring performance training to the female physiology necessary?

Sam Moore 1:42
Awesome, thank you, Emma, and thank you fusion for taking the time to put this on. I think anytime that we you know collect a range of practitioners in different fields, it gives us an opportunity to to expand our reach. I think this question is a good one. It’s one that I used to at the beginning of my career not addressed at all, because it didn’t, it didn’t really cross my mind to be quite honest. It was just my own ignorance. And I think that limited a lot of connection and in like communication of information. But I think once I started to realize that this was a hurdle that I wasn’t seeing, I started to ask the coaches around me, like why do you coach, right? Why do we coach and one of my favorite answers actually came from my mom, who’s coached volleyball for upwards of 20 years. And she said that we coach the purpose of coaching is a teacher athletes about life using sport as the medium. And so with that in mind, I started to ask myself, what does it teach our athletes about themselves and about life, if we aren’t tailoring the training to their physiology, if we aren’t considering, you know, the athlete that’s in front of us. And I think we can go rounds into the research of, of all the hot topics right now, right of you know, variables of assessment and GPS and ForcePlates, this wild wild west of ForcePlates. And the list goes on, right? But tailoring training to the female physiology is quite literally understanding the foundation of the athlete that’s in front of you. And honestly, it’s a lot more than performance, right? It’s about equity. It’s about validation, it tells this woman in front of you that she’s enough that she belongs here, in this world of sport that was created by men and is still overwhelmingly dominated by men, even in women’s sports, right? When we watch WNBA games, the commentary is about the NBA. And it’s so common that we don’t even think to question it. And so while you know, data shows us in research, consistently, that adaptation to training is greater when it’s tailored to the hormonal landscape. It just it tells our athletes themselves that they are so much more than that, that they are enough in this space. And so I think understanding that obviously our potential and our ceiling for performance is going to be higher. At the end of the day, there’s there’s that component of equity and personally in my experience, we talked about creating buy in all the time with your athletes and I have never experienced by an immediate and just unfiltered buy in then when I told my female athletes, you know, this is the purpose of my career. This is the purpose of of everything. I have no desire to work with male athletes, this is you are enough for me for the rest of my career. And so I think it’s it’s, you know, multifaceted, obviously there’s performance, but the validation of being a female athlete is something that we really we just don’t get enough

Dr. Dan Turner 4:34
man I love that Sam, I’m, like, hyped up after you after you spoke there. It’s such a powerful message. And and I totally agree it is it is all a part of training and performances is a part of life. And for these athletes they they put on everything on the line to perform. And, and what really came up for me when you spoke there was just I think we know when I look back to when I was in the earlier days of working with athletes, from a from a female athlete perspective, oh, it was not intuitive to consider the female athlete. And I think we really, really kind of failed, like, from the science side of things like we really didn’t do well. We didn’t do well from equality in sport, as you mentioned, you know, we have very male dominated sports, and we really didn’t do well, from a quality of understanding the female. And, and I think what’s really important part of this question that came up for me, when you when you were talking was just this, this idea that we train for a purpose, and the purpose is to improve, and we improve through learning and creativity, creative problem solving, and we improve through communication with others, and building the right environment around us. And it’s, it’s this huge, holistic, kind of like lifestyle, we have to build in order to improve on and and the physiology itself. Is really is really our say like, your physiology is trying to give its best attempt to adapt to whatever your mind desires. And, and so so if you’re, if you’re desiring to be number one, your physiology is trying to keep up with that. It’s trying to adapt to the stresses and strains. And so a lot of times, we can get in the way of ourselves, right? We can kind of have like, a psychological resistance within ourself. And I think that, at least, you know, from, from my humble, male opinion, or body image is a really big thing in female sport. And, and, and it’s and it’s been set up that way, unfortunately. And, and so, so it’s, it’s hard to stay on top of that. So from a physiological point of view from a from tailoring for a female athlete, I think it’s really important to identify, what is it that we want their physiology to adapt to? And then how do we eliminate all the other things that we don’t, they don’t need to adapt to? They don’t, they don’t need to figure out all these other things, what are the what are like the three most important things that you need to adapt to right now. And that can be inner work, psychological point of things, or it can be like, we need to get you adapted to hitting this three kilometer time, whatever that is. And so how do we look at the the athlete from a holistic point of view to help them adapt to that? So? Yeah.

Emma Ostermann 7:42
Dan, and Sam, those are all really great points. Molly, I know working in collegiate setting. Do you have any, any input on that as well?

Molly Binetti 7:49
Yeah, I mean, there’s, I feel like there’s so many things that both Sam and Dan just said that I want to elaborate on. And I think, Sam, you started off by talking about, you know, going back to why we coach in the first place. And, you know, this is even a question that you and I have talked about before, but really thinking about the answer to you know, what is the consequence of my coaching, and for me being in a collegiate environment, I work with female athletes. And I think about that all the time, because I think we have such a unique opportunity and such a unique role in that landscape to not only train them to be strong, powerful, badass women that are capable of playing their sport at the highest level, but we have such a unique opportunity to help them grow and develop as women. And I think even listening to you, Sam, like early, early on in my career, I never really thought about the actual science behind training women, it was more so Okay, we have the shared experience, both being females, and both going through similar experiences and viewing the world through a similar lens. And it wasn’t until later on in my career that I really thought about the importance of the physiology, but I think even more so now. I think about the environment that I’m trying to create for them. And the experience that I’m trying to create for them as a female athlete, and I think about the question is how do these people and how do these women experience themselves when they are around me? What type of environment Am I creating for them to be themselves in a world that is really trying to tell women to be and look a certain way and I think I think about that question every single day when I have that opportunity to coaches how are they experiencing themselves and how am I growing helping them grow and develop into a woman that is a strong enough to be herself again in a world that’s not tailored for them and there’s so many so many rabbit holes and tangents to go down on the on that route but I think in the collegiate setting, being in that 18 to 22 year old age range we have such we have a such bigger impact than we give ourselves credit for at times and I think we get so caught up as strength coaches in the X’s and O’s in the training and programming in the excitement of collegiate athletics when we are literally shaping them every single day, and ultimately, what’s the, you know, they’re in the most moldable timeframe of their lives right now. So I think it’s just if we want it, we can really take this role that we have and do something really special with it, if we’re choosing to kind of go that far ground and really dig deep and do the work of being that type of coach and having that type of impact.

Emma Ostermann 10:28
That’s awesome. Thank you, Molly. Sue, I think I saw you on mute, you have something to add to that as well.

Dr. Sue Robson 10:34
I just really welcome all the voices in there. And it kind of sounds intro, Dan and Molly. And I think for me, where this really underpins it’s through the time that I’ve worked at whether it’s across the ski team, large volumes of athletes, Scottish Institute of Sport, when we’ve gone in and delved into this particular area, it’s about the fact that there’s a lot of power and knowledge. And when we’ve asked the female athletes would you like to know more about like, kind of, you almost get run down by the response, yes. And more of that, and 100%. And so the other thing is, is like kind of some of what Dan talked about is that understanding the athlete as a whole, and then them understanding themselves as a whole. And some of this area can become distracting, like kind of it can come an area that you don’t want them to focus on. And it can also become incredibly empowering when they understand their own selves, and then take ownership of that and drive forward with that and take it into places where you wouldn’t expect them to take it in. And I think the individuality in this area, and also the lack of information of true knowledge in the science in this area, and being open to all of those things and empowering our athletes to be informed and then make decisions themselves is so important. Like kind of they own themselves, they own the pieces of information around it. And it’s incumbent on us to provide as much information as possible. That’s, that’s true, and the bad that we know in at the moment, and then for them to be able to really make good use of that information.

Sam Moore 12:20
So yeah,

Dr. Sue Robson 12:21
I think I think I think that’s that’s what I wanted to add in this. So that doesn’t become a distraction, it doesn’t become a narrowing of focus. But actually, it becomes a widening of focus about the all female athlete.

Emma Ostermann 12:36
I love it. All of these are great responses. And to keep this conversation going. Molly, I’m going to kick off to you with this next question. First, what are the key factors that matter? When tailoring to female athletes? For example, going into the psychology, your training style? What are the what are some of those components that you use? From a day to day?

Molly Binetti 12:55
Yeah, I think you gave me the most vague, the most vague and all encompassing question ever. So I’m going to go a lot of different directions with I think I want to kind of touch on what we’ve already been talking about and talk about the the psychosocial and psycho emotional aspects of the training environment, I think, you know, it took a long time for me to really develop it into the coach that I am and really realize, you know, what’s most important, and I think, ultimately, Su, what you just talked about is more than anything else, I if when my athlete leaves, after, you know, however many years they have with me, I want them to take ownership of who they are as a person and, and that is going into a deep dive of understanding who they are, and who they want to be. I want them to take ownership of their development not only from a physical sense, but I want them to have the tools to navigate, how to be healthy, and how to train and how to understand their bodies and what feels good, and what they’d like the most and how to carry with them those skills, the rest of their lives. But really, I want to equip equip them with the skills to navigate the world at a higher level, I want them to be able to solve problems at a greater rate, I want them to be able to think for themselves to have opinions, to have a voice and again to create this environment where it’s really based off this self determination theory, right. I think as coaches more than I think we complain about developing motivation in our athletes, but and I think, you know, the more I research the self self determination theory, the more I research psychological safety and realize the importance of creating an environment where they really feel connected to not only who they are, but they feel connected to me as a coach, they feel connected to their teammates, this environment where they’re learning to be competent in what they do from a movement standpoint, from a training standpoint, but just feeling good about what they’re doing. And also, again, just having having a voice and having a say in their development. And I think that’s one of the most empowering things you can give anyone, especially young women, because for you know most of society’s history, right women haven’t had a voice They haven’t had a very loud one or hasn’t been listened to. And so I’m always thinking about how I tailor training in a way that’s really creating those things, it takes a lot of work on the front end of education of allowing for things to be really messy as they figure things out for themselves. But that’s honestly, you know, aside from the train like that is the number one thing that’s always on my mind, I maybe spent 3% of my time spent, you know, thinking about the training that we’re doing and 97% of my time on, what type of environment Am I creating? And what are they actually learning? And I think, Dan, you might have said it learning is through exploration and through creativity, and how am I finding ways for them to really just explore in a space that is safe for them to be who they are without judgment, allow for mistakes, allow for them to really figure things out, and to figure out what they like and don’t like and what they think helps them the best. In addition to everything that we’re doing, obviously, for, you know, preparing them to play their sport at a high level, that’s obviously the goal, what you know, at the end of the end of the day, as well, but being able to really tune in and connect with them on on a psychosocial and psycho emotional level is key in helping them have just the courage. I think that’s, you know, when I think about the guiding principles of who I am, as a coach, and the environment I want to create is really, you know, courage, trumping confidence. You know, confidence is a lagging indicator, Confidence comes, you know, we rely on things for it, I want them to have courage in any situation, I want them to have courage, no matter what that outcome or result is going to be, there at least have the courage to try and maybe it doesn’t, you know, confidence always comes from a positive result. Courage is a skill that is, regardless of what’s going to happen, I’m still having the ability to be myself. You know, I think about progress, you know, looking at progress versus perfection in a world that women are told to be perfect, they’re looking at social media, we’re looking at, you know, I think Danny says, well, body image, all these different factors of them feeling like they need to live up to these certain standards in our world. So really making the focus on progress versus having them having to, you know, be afraid of making mistakes, or now looking perfect, you know, exploration and play and fun is a key component to that as well, too. And, you know, Sam and I, we’ve had really good conversations about this, and you open my eyes to things I didn’t even realize about what the power of play and the power of fun in a learning environment, you know, coming from women, especially going through puberty, coming from a time where they’re really afraid of what people think about them, and they’re in their thinking about how they look, they’re thinking about what they’re doing, and getting them into this place where they’re not thinking about or caring about what other people think. And they’re just losing themselves in that, in that space and being able to explore,

you know, there’s, this is something that I get really excited about and can talk about for the next hour. But, you know, I think, besides that some other considerations, you know, from a physical standpoint, from a physiological standpoint, to kind of shift gears is, you know, things that females have to deal with that their male counterparts don’t not, at least not the same likelihood, arrayed. Obviously, quad dominance is, is a huge thing, more evidence of anterior pelvic tilt, more lax ligaments, especially at different times of the menstrual cycle, and I’m going to leave that to Sam at a later time. But and also just the fact that they’re nine times more likely to tear their ACL so like, those are all factors that I’m always considering when programming, I have a lot more program, posterior chain work, got, you know, thinking about a lot from a motor control and neuromuscular coordination standpoint. You know, women in general respond better to volume rather than intensity compared to males. And, you know, from a physiological standpoint, like they’re able to, you know, they have a higher glucose uptake than men, there’s more energy readily available, they’re able to recover faster, they’re able to tolerate a higher volume of training load and and estrogen plays a role in that too. And aids in boosts glucose intake as well. And also looking at they do have a greater proportion of type one fibers than males do, you know, like a four to one scale. So understanding that they are able to tolerate things from a volume standpoint a little bit better and have a harder time making bigger jumps in intensity and usually respond better to increasing volume over time and so a lot of different components there but a lot a lot of factors to think about when when programming and when just thinking about coaching style in general. But we’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on any of those aspects and in a little bit more, more detail.

Emma Ostermann 19:51
I love it. Julie, I’m gonna actually kick it over to you. You know, especially with your work in the NWSL and US Soccer. Do you have any thoughts to add on to that?

Julian Haigh 19:59
Yeah, Yeah, no, I mean, absolutely. Like, I’ve loved all the points. And I guess, for me being in a setting with with some of the leading women, if you will, who aren’t afraid to unashamedly be themselves and put that image out there. And, as I’m sure everybody’s seen sort of fight for what they deserve. So it’s it’s interesting, again, like hearing different ends of the spectrum. But a lot of the same things are true. Again, sort of, I’ve been very fortunate enough to be in the environment, with these incredible badass women, watching them day in day out that ultimately a lot of the things like keeping things fun, like, even with players who I have been doing this for 20 years, they still want it to be fun. That doesn’t, that doesn’t change. But, again, I think the big thing is, is, is recognizing what these players need to be successful. And, and to jump on the back of some of Sue’s point is the bit, the biggest thing for me is being just that, that education, and that understanding in providing with that support that the what research may have been carried out previously and women may have been excluded from because it’s difficult to understand these things that isn’t good enough. That needs to be understand. But now we’re starting to understand, okay, how can we take this understanding and apply it at a high level? How can we skill these athletes, even if it’s just 1%? Or one small thing that they can then take away and implement themselves in that environment? They’re already at a very high level? And how do you build that framework around them, to give them that level of support that that’s going to help them to be successful?

Sam Moore 21:53
Julian, I think that’s I think it’s really great. And I think one of the things that you touched on menstrual cycle research and female physiology and performance outcomes, that research is relatively new, but a body of work that’s even newer than that is his perceptions, right? So when we’re talking about key factors, and how to tailor training, I think one of the biggest and most frequently things that I see recently that’s missed is, is their perception. And I think, Molly, you know, we’ve talked about it before, you touched on it again. But there was a great longitudinal research study that came out of Canada, it’s called the rally report. And it talks about female athletes and girls playing sport and why they saw you know, since Title Nine, in the 70s, why we’ve seen such a decline. And it was something like 60, over 60% of girls drop out of sport by age 16. And the most common reasons are low confidence, negative body image, poor perceptions of feeling welcome, you know, perception of a lack of skill. And so, you know, one of the biggest things that would affect the volume and the intensity, in my training, when I was at NC State was, was their perceptions of how they felt that day and their own motivation levels. And we know that perception is reality, but we don’t you know, strength coaches, we love black and white, we love X’s and O’s, we love if I give, you know, five sets of five, at this percentage of intensity, I’m gonna see this kind of change, right. And that’s just that’s built on this male physiology, this understanding that of a stable hormonal state. And that’s not the case. And so I think, you know, the factors of physiology are, we’re learning more, but they’re, they’re pretty, you know, available in the science, but making sure that we’re also tracking and considering and making decisions off of the athletes perception, and the feedback from the athletes is super important.

Emma Ostermann 23:52
So I think I saw you unmute there for a second. Do you have anything to add to that?

Dr. Sue Robson 23:56
Yeah, that ties into some marketing, I think really, really well. And some of the comments that have been made earlier. This whole area is really messy. I heard that said by Molly is it’s really messy. And often, coaches are looking for what’s normal. Tell me what’s normal, like kind of how do I deal with that the same way for everybody in like Canada thing, and I’m sorry, but there is no normal way really good in this environment when you go into, like pregnancy and childbirth in females. And every childbirth is different. We expect it to be different. We expect the response to be different. And we expect the outcomes to be different. Except in training. We want to normalize it always to this almost male model. And I’m sorry, but that’s not the thing. And yes, we all have or some variant of a menstrual cycle. Some of them were on sides at scale, some on the other side of the scale, but understanding at a deep physiology level. It’s not just Stop, it’s about how many estrogen receptors you have in your kidney, how many you have in your tendons, ligaments, and like kind of the liver and function. And so when you put all those pieces in, you aren’t gonna, as we get better in the research, and we’re nowhere near there, we’re gonna understand types, we’re going to be able to tag we’re going to be able to model scenarios. But right now, the best scenario we have to model is actually, this objective data and the objective data that an athlete can bring to themselves herself, and taking the power of that the other piece, or putting the power into it, I should say, is about finding positive outcomes. So it’s about finding that I’m a half full person, that’s how I live. That’s how I live my life. And when I first got really involved with this, which was when I was myself in 100, meter athlete, when look to the research, because my background Neurofen is, is figuring out what’s going on behind the scenes, how can I how can I manage with this, and then figuring out that I actually needed to just understand myself and let go of some of the detail, and then figure out what my body was doing, which led me into the research of it. And it’s a really fun place to be. And it’s a really empowering place to find things out about yourself that are repeatable. And the athletes that I’ve worked with all the time, really enjoy it, too. And when you’re looking for the, oh, this time, I’m better in the gym, now I can do this, this and this and harness that and harness that excitement, and harness where the volumes really powerful. And I can load into that, when they become intelligent in that space. And to control all of that space, it becomes a really enlightening plus to be like kind of so yeah, just to sort of share in that.

Emma Ostermann 26:58
I love it. And I do want to hear your thoughts as well, because you do work with a very diverse clientele. Do you have anything to add to this? Yeah,

Dr. Dan Turner 27:07
um, Sue, you just reminded me of when I first ever did a salivary progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and a melatonin sampling for a female athlete over the course of a month. And, and I turn up with my chart where the menstrual cycle is this perfect lines, you know, and then we get the data bag for and I’m like, this looks nothing like my chart. And so after a moment of panic, I was like, oh, ECG is the same. It’s nothing like the textbook. Um, and yeah, and I think you’re right, like, I think I think it’s having this I was like to put my astronaut hat on, right. It’s like exploration and curiosity, not seeking destroy. Um, and, and I think I think that’s really important to like, keep that mindset of explore. And one of the key factors for me as a coach to bring it right back to basics is if we consider the menstrual cycle alone is what what day of the menstrual cycle is the female athlete on. And if they if they know, I’m, then great, because that helps me start to look for that repeatability that you spoke about. See, it’s like there is it’s a cycle for a reason. And in my experience, there is some repeatability, regardless of that chart that is all up and down. And, and if you can start finding one thing that’s repeatable, that creates a real sense of control and like predictability in that I know that generally, it this time of the month, I experience X, Y, and Zed, you know, and that is, that’s been so powerful for me as a coach. And that’s been so empowering, to kind of help that athlete or that performer, or that surgeon kind of go and kind of like feel that they can prepare for what might come and that’s empowering to do that. So anyway, it’s kind of bring it back to basics, but that’s something that that’s really helped me is I’m just yeah, what what day of the cycle are you on? And that’s the such a great data point that I’ve that I’ve had this really gone a long way for me more. More than that all the saliva testing and everything.

Emma Ostermann 29:36
I love it. I probably should have let our panelists or sorry, our not our panelists, but our attendees know that this conversation was gonna be great because I am learning so much from each of you and I am just excited to keep diving into this. But I do want to keep moving things along and Julian I am going to tap you in for this next question. Can you share a specific example of how you have tailored training to female athletes? What did you learn? And Did anything surprise you out of it?

Julian Haigh 30:04
Yeah, absolutely, I think I think my answer hopefully will tie tie together a lot of what’s already been sort of discussed so far. I think one thing one of our big focuses in within the league within the NWSL is no longer having the menstrual cycle as this taboo topic that people aren’t comfortable speaking with, like that first step of creating that invite environment where people feel comfortable to share that information, male or female, but having that trust and that understanding with your athletes, that I am just bridging that gap, because ultimately, as I see, use the terminologies, it’s when you say, Fine, it’s a mess, I mean, but but by that what I mean is that every athlete is different. Every woman experiences different symptoms at different times of the month, ultimately, sort of within the environment. With the senior team, our goal is performance, which means we have to try and prepare these players to perform regardless of what they that the fixtures don’t wait for the cycle, the cycle is going to occur regardless. So for us, then it becomes a factor of how can we best understand each of these athletes for who they are as an individual, what symptoms they’re going to face. Because ultimately, we can’t change the training and the games for every individual, because it’s just not possible. Because if people are in different places, people experience the same things. But what we can do is create an environment where we can support those players provide the education to them, to help them manage what it is that they’re experiencing. But again, creating that safety that they’re okay to come tell us like, Hey, I’m really struggling today, is there something we can do to try and help this and again, like so working, whether it’s working with the nutritional green nutritionist, Lindsay Langford, who did a fantastic job on edge came to play on hay, whether it’s high antioxidant foods, or what it might be that again, can either help them exacerbate symptoms at different stages of the of the menstrual cycle, just as one example, or whether it’s like, hey, let’s put the cards on these days, because this is where you’re going to need it the most. Or just as just as one example. So like, it might not be in a specific example of tailoring training. But the the way we tailor the training was to try to create that environment that individualizes and provides the opportunity for those athletes that to access what they needed in order to be successful every single day.

Emma Ostermann 32:37
And that’s fantastic. Sam, I know you’re doing a lot of research on the menstrual cycle. Do you have anything to add to that?

Sam Moore 32:44
Yeah, I mean, I think I think Julian hit it hit the nail on the head, and to reference it earlier. But ultimately, the you know, the only way we can really give athletes the ability to have that ownership over their bodies, is to educate them. And through that process, it absolutely removes to taboos, because then you get to start navigating things that are myths and things, you know, that society has told them. In terms of of the application side, I think what surprised me the most was just the sometimes like the the amount of time that it would take and I’d be like, I guess like I would give it an educational session. And then I mean, that really didn’t land like I don’t I don’t really think they like got a grasp what I was trying to communicate. And then two months later, I’ll have an athlete like, oh, Sam, I’m loving this tart cherry juice in my luteal phase. I’m like, Oh my gosh, right? Or, you know, like, how do you feel about sending a training Max today, and I’m like, I just started my period, this is great, couldn’t be better. And you’ll get those little tiny comments, you’re like, Oh, this is real. This is this is landing. And so I think the education part of the ownership is it’s absolutely necessary. And that was one question that I got from a head coach that I had approached about the process of it, and what it you know, ideally, what this entire environment would look like, and and I think, you know, a question that I’ll get back sometimes, and sometimes it’s actually more common from female coaches, is like, don’t want them to use this as an excuse, right? And I think the the best way to navigate that is to educate them. Because once we’ve educated our athletes, now they know what’s happening in their body. Now they’re more connected to their body. We’re teaching those skills like Sue mentioned about self awareness, and then, you know, the attunement to biofeedback and being able to kind of bring how they’re feeling into harmony with their training and with their lives. And really, ultimately, that can only be accomplished through the educational aspect. So even though you know not really in an applied setting anymore, the ability to be now on the research side of things. It’s incredible because it it is a mess. It’s absolutely a mess. I couldn’t have said it better myself. And even you know, like navigating trial. To get participants for different studies, and well, are you including birth control? And what types, right? So when you’re on the research side, there’s so many things to produce quality research, and you can understand why things have taken as long as they have.

Emma Ostermann 35:15
I love it. Sam. Molly, I’m going to turn to you for this just kind of piggybacking off with what Sam said is, how do you bridge the gap? Especially in your setting? With the research in the application of it? What do you what are some of the things that you do in your setting with your coaching staff, or your athletes to bridge that gap?

Molly Binetti 35:32
Are you talking specifically regarding menstrual cycle,

Emma Ostermann 35:35
menstrual cycle or any of the any of the research that has been spoken about? You know, I think, especially with a bunch of our coaches, we talk about, hey, the research says this, the research says this, and then you now have to get to the application side of things where the coach may not necessarily agree with the research. How do you bridge that gap in your study?

Molly Binetti 35:54
So great question. You know, I think as a young coach, right, we’re always so quick to, we want to show how much we know. And I think those were mistakes that I made early on to about we could be you know, so well researched, and so well educated, and we know everything there is about training and what’s best, and then you learn really quickly that a lot of that goes out the window, because it’s completely dependent on your situation, your environment and what they’re ready for. And I think that was, that’s something I’ve learned more now is I’m far less eager to share what I know and more eager to ask better questions, and really find out what our team and what our coaches need more than anything and what they want, what is the information that they are most curious about. And I think there are opportunities to add little pockets where you can interject your wisdom and what you know, and speak less from a research standpoint and speak more from a connection standpoint. And I think that’s been my approach, you know, you know, specifically in my environment the last three years where, you know, I made those mistakes my first year, and I really had to take a step back and figure out a better approach because nobody really cares how smart you are, or what the research says if it’s not applicable to what we’re trying to accomplish. And so I think my approach is I try to find windows of opportunity. And I’ve really just made a more conscious effort to ask better questions and observe the environment around me and what’s happening and figure out what my head coach cares about the most, and ask her better questions to figure out how I can do my job better. And then also, when it comes to our athletes, it’s observation, it is understanding them on an individual level, like everybody’s already talked about before. And again, that comes from asking better questions. And then finding opportunities where you can share what you know, and find little ways where you can help them in that moment. And then the more results that they see. And the more that information helps them in that moment, that just builds equity, for you to take more opportunities to share with them, you know, in other situations into, you know, take bigger risks when it comes to making bigger changes and developing, you know, or changing behaviors on a deeper level. And so I think that’s, that’s my my process of application and really just trying to find, you know, observe, ask better questions, find ways where you can make an immediate impact with what you know, and ways to apply, apply that research. And then that, again, gives you more opportunities down the road to continue to make make changes, but it starts on a really small scale. And it’s not about hey, I’m going to take this time to educate USA, I’m going to get to know you as a person and try to really figure out what you need in that moment. And then let’s go from there.

Emma Ostermann 38:46
Love it. That’s great. Thank you, Molly. Just to keep this conversation moving. I was going to go on to the next question. Dan, I’m going to turn to you for this next one. What are some differences when working with everyday female athletes versus collegiate or pro athletes?

Dr. Dan Turner 39:04
Alrighty, um, yeah. So, and I really, really had to think about this one. Um, I think some of the some of the things that I’ve noticed, you know, from from I spent a long time working with individual athletes. So I’m an individual performers. So a lot of and a lot of my experiences are based on that. I’m just kind of like a few main things that I’ve picked up in from a professional athlete versus like your, your, your weekend warrior or your, your average sort of athlete that’s really just trying to squeeze in training whenever they can, and they got some iron man coming up at some point in time, but it’s not professional. I’m really like the three main things that I’ve noticed are control over your schedule, ability to sleep. Um, and and How how black and white it is to be a professional athlete versus a female, who is an athlete and also working in the corporate world, for example. So just to kind of touch on each one of those control over your schedule is something that I see professional athletes have a lot of, in the individual sports world, we can sit down and periodized their year, down to the weeks, and we know roughly when the competitions are, with the exception of COVID. But but we really know we can really like kind of micro manage that year very specifically. And, and that’s a real, that’s a real strength, and a real kind of, like, advantage of being a professional athlete, that we don’t necessarily get on, you know, as, as a as a general female athlete. So, you know, I think I think what’s, um, you know, like, what’s really important, like, as an action item that comes out of that, for me is, if you’re a female athlete, that’s not if that’s not a professional athlete, can any part of your schedule be adjusted around your cycle. Um, and, and that’s, and I think, I think that is what I find, like, a huge benefit is any part any part of your schedule, um, and so if you’re working nine to five, or in the corporate world in America 20 hours a day, and you’re trying to squeeze in training, if you can really try and figure out the phases you are in your cycle. And then you can kind of like, try and adjust your training around that in the best way you can, I think, I think that’s really helpful. Um, the sleep part is also a big thing. So most athletes that I work with, really have many opportunities to sleep. And so it’s really a case of like building good sleep hygiene in terms of like, are you allowing yourself to sleep and making time to sleep, etc. But that’s something that the kind of average non professional athlete that day to day athlete, I don’t think they get to choose when they sleep, and they’re often working under a boss or someone else like that that’s dictating their schedule, and you have deadlines. And, you know, I was I, at least in my experience of like blood testing, generally women higher in progesterone, so more dominant progesterone, really suffer more effects of sleep deprivation, sleep lots than women that don’t have such high progesterone. And that’s, I don’t have any research on that other than my own data. And, and then, in the studies that I’ve done with individual athletes, it’s like, typically, what happens when we’re under huge amounts of high progesterone, is we become way more reactive to to noticing emotions on other people, especially like negative emotions, so like sadness and anger. And there was actually a study that I managed to dig out about this. And it was kind of looking at, like how receptive and reactive brain activity is in response to women that are in the luteal phase and have that higher progesterone, and they are more reactive at that particular time. So it’s just a trend. And again, like I think that needs to be individualized. So so when I sort of think about that is like a practical strategy, out of the comes out of that for the day to day athlete versus professional athlete is, what can if you know that you’re not going to get good sleep, can you really look after something else. And that typically involves putting more emphasis into nutrition. And that that’s kind of like my major go to is like, if you’re not getting good sleep, then go to nutrition. And if then you’re not getting good sleep, and you’re not getting nutrition because you’re on the road, then social tribe interaction like that, like building that social connectivity with other people is really, really important.

And then really, lastly, just kind of wrap up that like, yeah, life for a female athlete and life or professional athlete in general is is very results based. We and I see this a lot of athletes that transition from their career to post post athleticism and into their regular career. The biggest challenges is, they don’t have this black and white, did you win your race? Did you get did your performance improve? Did it did it? Did it regress from the last time that you did this particular performance test? When we go outside of that world and you’re in the day to day world? There’s a lot more gray zone. And so psychologically, it’s really really hard to get reference points like humans love reference points. Am I getting better and athletes love that too, is one of my metrics of success. So I really when I work with the day to day athletes that aren’t professional athletes, or any other kind of females in different industries, I really want to try and get markers of success, get metrics of success. And try and have some repeatability in that, because that can really kind of like take away a lot of uncertainty just knowing that your progress and I think, Sam, maybe you mentioned earlier about like looking for progression. Like that is something that I think is really, really important. So yeah, so that’s kind of like my three, three cents on that one

Emma Ostermann 45:28
of it. Sam, I know you’re actively researching within your PhD right now. Do you have anything to add on to that, especially in terms of what Dan just spoke about with sleep and nutrition? Yeah,

Sam Moore 45:39
so Dan, you’re definitely on the right track with progesterone and sleep. We can see in research that when progesterone is present in high quantities, that it creates a more catabolic state, and that your basal metabolic rate is higher, so you’re burning more calories because of the inflammatory processes that happen in the luteal phase. And that makes you run two to three degrees hotter, so your basal body temperature is elevated. And that makes it more difficult to get into REM in deep sleep. So really commonly, we’ll see it too at the beginning of the luteal phase, when you can see estrogen decreasing and progesterone increasing. More, we’ll see, you know, women sleep for eight, nine hours, and they’ll wake up feeling exhausted. And, and so progesterone has very a lot of anti estrogenic effects. So then when you’re talking about the emotional side of things, we can see that progesterone effect on the hypothalamus can create some fluctuation in serotonin production. So a lot of times we’ll see a decrease in serotonin production in that mid to late luteal phase. And that can cause some some brain fog and some emotional fatigue. And, you know, we talk about PMS. And that’s, you know, something different, specifically, but progesterone does have those anti estrogenic effects it overall in the global state, but then also on this on the hypothalamus. And so nutrition wise, you know, we can see that specifically leucine will help cross that blood brain barrier. It’s the only amino acid that does that can help modify and correct some of those changes in the serotonin production of the hypothalamus. And I think anecdotally, when you’re speaking, I was just thinking about myself and my own experience as a collegiate athlete. And I think my experience was, was kind of opposite. So as a collegiate athlete, you know, every part of my day was structured. And you know, where you eat, and when you eat and what shirt you’re wearing, when you’re there down to your socks that you’re wearing. It’s all your, you know, you’re told exactly what to do and when to do it. And, and all all of the things for four years. And when I graduated, I really struggled with a lot of very common concepts that other people learned a long time ago, like how to go to the grocery store. I didn’t know how to do that I had never had to do that for myself, or this is so silly. But when to shower. I worked out every day for you know how 18 years, I didn’t know that one verse was a shot. Do I have to do it when I wake up? Or can I do it at night? I don’t know. Right, like, and so when I finished playing and retired it at 21, there was there was this newfound freedom that was overwhelming. And exercise was really difficult for me at first I had a medical retirement. And so I couldn’t play volleyball, like I used to. And so I didn’t really want to play it at all right. And so I did walk away from it, and then I’d be in the weight room. And I’m like, well, this isn’t fun. Like, I realize that I don’t actually love deadlift that much. I just loved it because it helped me in volleyball. And so the the amount of freedom that I had, as you know, Gen pop was really overwhelming. And it just revealed this disconnect that I had between my body and my training for so long as an athlete you’re taught to ignore, right, ignore the pain, you know, we’re doing things now that are horrible, and they suck and they hurt so that you know, in three months in a five set match, I’ll be able to have the endurance to get a swing block or something. And so as an athlete, like you’re constantly you have this futuristic lens and you’re not looking at right now you’re looking at the future. And so then when I graduated, and I was done, and I had, you know, right now, I had to start learning how to assess how I feel self awareness. We’re not taught those things, right. And so that freedom that I experienced coming from the collegiate sector was really, really difficult for me. And I think the more structure that I would give myself, it helped at the beginning, but then I realized, well, I don’t actually have to do this really, not super fun Prowler conditioning like I don’t No one’s making me do this. Right. And so then I started to learn over the years and it’s been quite a long process, as most female athletes experience going back into the world, because you know, the type of person that you develop as an athlete is not what the world wants. They don’t want you to be strong. and loud and opinionated and a leader and decisive and demanding, they want you to be quiet and, you know, follow up complicit and kind and in all these things that I was not really a lot of those things, right. And so that transition for me was, it was really difficult. But I felt like I experienced it kind of in the opposite that when I was done, I had all this freedom that I had never experienced before. And I think that might be coming from the collegiate sector, rather than the professional sector. Because professional athletes obviously have a lot more say over everything. But in collegiate athletics, you know, you don’t really have a whole lot to say. And so that experience for me was was really difficult.

Emma Ostermann 50:43
Fan, that’s awesome. So I do want to turn to you, and especially with your experience, based off what Dan and Sam have just spoken on, do you have anything to add on to this

Dr. Sue Robson 50:52
just to sum, be decisive, be demanding, strong be powerful, like don’t ignore the you know, what we expect of women and what women are and what women can be, what they should be, is in their control, like, I don’t think anybody should say what they should be like, kind of, but what they’re able to be, they can be all of those things, and they can be kind and caring. And you know, there are lots of different women out there. And we need to embrace and empower all of them. I’ve had a new, very powerful member of our team joined recently, and my comments been quite enlightening to me, because she joined a little bit associated with me, which I’m kind of getting over that, like, kind of okay, that’s, that’s, um, but she, she, she’s, she’s, when I’m in meetings that are all men. And I’m about to walk into another one. It’s interesting, and what people expect of you. And what I’ve come to expect of myself is basically to be honest, true. Yes, caring, and yes, listening. But to have a voice and to on and actually just shout up for the female side, not because that’s me, that never has been me, I’ve had brothers and just grown to be me organically through I have a brother on either side of me. And I’ve been the balancer in that mix, and I find them the balancer in my career mix. And when I find myself, almost thrust into this place of making sure that the female team in our organization is empowered SCADA. It’s not, it’s not a place I asked for, but I now I’m entirely willing to take on with where I am. And it transfers just as much in the business world as it is in the athlete world. And when I think back to the days when I was initially training, I was a late starter was in my early 20s, before I became an elite athlete, Mike kind of was training fully and properly and even that was considered not normal. And then trying to learn all these things, like kind of about because I was a physiologist anywhere. So I knew that when trying to find that find the mount and couldn’t find the information, it was very frustrating. And then figuring out how to deal with that. I think in the end. It’s it’s, it’s, it’s about striking a new normal, right and about and enabling that to be whatever’s right for you and, and encouraging others to be whatever’s right for them. I mean, my daughter’s quite enlightening, too. So she’s, she’s 15. And at the age of, I think seven and skill, like we’re asking, they still keep asking kids, what do you want to be when you grew up? You know, and curves just like, I want to be me would not be drawn on the question. I just want to be me. And she still is her. You know, I kind of so yeah, in these places, whether external and in. It’s like, be that right, the bee bee and breast and being that and all of us. I think I heard just recently they’ve got a show going on at the moment is Why are women so angry on Australian Broadcasting what they say? But some of what I took from that was that women just want to be who they are, like, kind of and they want to stop being put into a box like kind of and there’s just all sorts of women out there. And as women we need to embrace all those other comings of women like kind of not not ask them to model in the male pathway or not actually them to model in the female pathway that just allow everyone to be who they are, please and not not do the other. So yeah, if we fight for that we’re in a good place. I think.

Emma Ostermann 55:13
That was awesome, Molly. Yeah,

Molly Binetti 55:15
if I could just piggyback off that, Sue, I think, you know, what you said is spot on. And I think the most literally, the most powerful gift you can give someone is the space to be seen and heard for who they are, without judgment. And I think, no, I look at you know, the four of us women on this, and we’ve all coached in some capacity. And I think the most powerful thing we can do as coaches to is model that to our athletes. And I think I was always kind of brought up in this coaching environment where we weren’t supposed to show vulnerability, or show weakness or really show, you know, who we truly are to our athletes, there’s always supposed to be this, you know, guardrail between us and them. And I think that’s probably the rule, I’m most glad that I’ve broken throughout my career, because it allows you to model that for them and show them what it is like to be a strong, powerful, badass woman who does have opinions and who does, you know, know how to navigate the world and isn’t afraid to be who they are, and be authentic to who they are. And I think, you know, we want our athletes in these women to understand what what strength looks like, and what vulnerability is, and we can’t do that. And they can’t know that unless we help them navigate that and show that for ourselves, too. So I think we have such a unique opportunity as women in this field to help them with that, and to let them know that it’s okay to be who they are.

Emma Ostermann 56:43
Well said, all said, everyone, thank you so much. We are running short on times, we will unfortunately be able to get to all the questions that we had. Does anybody have any last comments they would like to make before we before we close today?

Dr. Sue Robson 56:59
Kind of have a little bit and it’s related to the pieces that were coming in? And a question just to raise an awareness and make sure people are looking like kind of so the peak but the piece that was coming with it was associated with my question was around energy deficiency around what’s been termed like kind of whether it’s red, so whether it’s the female triad, or however that put a knot to focus just on that, but also other things that are medically really important in this. So things like endometriosis, things like amenorrhea, things like dysmenorrhea, they’ve all got big, complicated names. But ignoring the complication of it, it’s just being aware that there is illness and real medical issues going on. And I have worked with so many really strong, powerful athletes that have ignored the pen that have been put down, I think one of the one of the things was not an excuse, like kind of, I have worked with so many elites, male and female. And there are very few elites that find excuses out there, they’re all looking for opportunities. And when somebody raises their hand and says, you know, this, this is this is just or x is happening, it’s usually very real. I’ve worked with 100 meter elite performing athletes that have had undiagnosed endometriosis, at a really extensive level for three years of their lives. And it went ignored, because they put up with the pen. So this side of tracking and understanding and training and, and sharing and getting rid of those taboos that Julian talked about and having that. And if you open those conversations, he will allow the objective that are as well as the subjective data to come through. You’ll find those things, but you have to be open to them. And you have to allow their voices to come through. Because ignoring those things leads to really serious issues. So whether it’s in the energy deficiency space, or whether it’s in endometriosis space or other sides, it’s important that we have our ears on and at all points, whether we’re coaches, athletes, people in like kind of all of those places where you’re improving knowledge and paste it those things are not put aside, and I listened. So I think that’s all just wanted to because we hadn’t touched in that space. And we wanted to touch because it’s so important.

Emma Ostermann 59:38
So I love it. Yes, thank you to everybody for your guys’s thoughts, opinions and conversations for today’s topic. And I think each of you guys touched on this but it was creating conversation and being open. And I think that was the biggest takeaway that I had from this today and just creating the normalcy around it. So from the bottom of our hearts here if you’re in sport with us extend a huge thank you to each of our panelists for for joining us today for the participants. So those of you who are watching in, we do want your feedback. So if you would take the time, you can scan the code that is on your screen, and just tell us what you thought of today’s roundtable. For every survey that is completed, fusion sport will donate $5 to Girls Who Code a global nonprofit working to close the gender gap in tech. So yes, please take that survey. We would love to hear your thoughts, some upcoming events from fusion sport. Today we had our kick off Vanguard round table, but for upcoming events, we do have mental health versus mental toughness, tentatively scheduled for October 13. And then our third one coming up is gender identity, gender identity and new considerations for human performance programs, tentatively scheduled for November 17. Also coming up, we do have our human performance summits. Our North America region is set for November 5 and six at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas. And then our Asia Pacific is scheduled for February 10 and 11th 2022 in Melbourne Cricket Ground. And then are you our Europe region. We have more information coming soon. If you’d like to connect with any of us, any of our panelists today, there is their contact information via LinkedIn, Twitter, and as well as our fusion sport contact information as well. So once again, thank you to each of our panelists for taking the time to join us today. And to all the attendees and participants, thank you for listening in and just creating a great conversation around a topic that we’re trying to bring more awareness to. We’re looking forward to our next one and we’ll see you then. Thank you

 

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