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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Mary Cain video

in: Orienteering; News

Nov 9, 2019 3:52 PM # 
This is a pretty sad story, which may hopefully spur some changes. Also could be something of an apology by the NY Times for getting it wrong the first time around.
Nov 9, 2019 7:08 PM # 
Wow. I remember reading about her when she was a high school phenom.
I've never been an Alberto Salazar fan, nor do I care for Nike stuff. Glad they're getting some oversight but it's too late for Mary (and perhaps other young women). Very sad stuff.
Dec 3, 2019 1:39 AM # 
I am honestly shocked that this hasn't been getting more discussion on Attackpoint.

Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, what Mary has suffered through, without her own control, is a serious disorder. Surprisingly, it doesn't just happen to professional athletes like Mary who have been pushed to her absolute limit against their own free will.

It can happen to anyone.

Yes, anyone. Males and females alike. Professional athletes, to recreational joggers, gymnastic pros or people who just walk to and from the store every day. Anyone.

This whole disorder has been kind of pushed aside, and the light has been put on Nike and Salazar - shaming them and "I can't believe they did that"-ing them. But is this actually helping the real issue here? No.

This is because people do not know what RED-S is. It isn't just the "yeah, I run, and I don't get my period. But that's okay because I'm performing well" issue. This is a whole body, multi-system disorder that can affect every type of person in very different ways. RED-S was recently rebranded from the "Female Athlete Triad" in 2014 to encompass the more broad implications that this disorder has on a wide range of populations. Even with this, not many people truly understand the core issue about what Mary has been through or understand themselves if they may be at risk.

A project from McMaster University done by one of my friends and teammates sheds some light on this disorder with the aims of helping raise awareness about RED-S, and how to help someone you may know who could be going through similar symptoms to what Mary had over the past years. I highly recommend you watch this video to learn more about RED-S, share it with your friends, and get talking.
Dec 3, 2019 3:06 AM # 
Thank you, Emma.
Dec 3, 2019 7:13 AM # 
Thanks for the info, AG.
Dec 3, 2019 3:58 PM # 
Great to see this here on Attackpoint, as AG says, it should part of a discussion by coaches and athletes in this sport also.
I am somewhat surprised, although perhaps naively on my part, that this is going on. When my daughters first started competing, and I became a coach, I took a course on the female triad. That was over 20 years ago. I always questioned my daughters, and if they felt comfortable, any athlete, about their menstrual cycle.
As the videos communicate, there can be other symptoms, and obviously will not work for males, but it is certainly an obvious red flag for women.
I suspect it will be very difficult to rid the sport of the attitudes on weight and performance. Coaches and athletes will always be driven to perform better and win, many times at any cost to themselves or others.
Dec 4, 2019 3:03 PM # 
Dec 4, 2019 5:35 PM # 
Most of what's said in these videos/comments and article is a good start - I'm glad AG rehashed it.

Unfortunately the current understanding of RED-S is extremely basic, and the issue goes far beyond what the acronym suggests. In fact the recovery strategies suggested to athletes by most "leading" professionals, especially nutritionists will make the issue even worse, and the athlete may never come back to their prior level. There is a whole other concept to consider, that doctors, let alone athletes, aren't being taught. Chronic symptoms, such as persistent injuries, no matter how small, are a good tell-tale sign, for example; which many athletes deal with, and aren't cutting calories or seemingly training too hard.

The psychological part described on behalf of the athlete, leading up to the serious issue, is spot-on though. Very characteristic of Type A, competitive individuals, whose ambition and persistence might get them the medals, but can make them keep digging a deep hole, as they're standing in it. For starters, it's a good idea for coaches (and athletes themselves) to recognize who these individuals are, and have lots of open conversation with different perspectives, instead of only praise and encouragement, which can be dangerous. Up-and-coming young athletes are at the greatest risk, especially the "rising stars", who have a lot of trouble controlling their great capabilities and stubborn nature. They will usually push the boundaries with their own experience, and by the time they capitulate to the idea that they've gone too far - it's usually too late.

Coaches - it is your responsibility to recognize when these young, inexperienced athletes are testing thin ice. Like mentioned, chronic pain of any kind, or injuries are a big one, as well as mood and overall perspective on life. Periodic blood work (while has a lot of flaws and fluctuation, can still give some insight. Don't do full panels all at once - do them gradually, so as no more than a couple of viles are drawn at a time - any more lowers the immune system substantially). Make sure the athlete has other meaningful things going on in his/her life aside from sport. Get a HRM for your phone, and have your athlete get a reading of their HRV "morning readiness" every morning with an app like Elite HRV. On the topic of phones - educate yourself and your athlete on all of the sources of EMF, their effects on the mitochondria, and try to minimize them. Sleep, is of course critical. Educate yourselves on whether barbell squats, deadlifts, stretching really translate to improvements in the forest, or will cause more problems down the road. Just scratching the surface here, with a few basic ideas.

It's likely that someone who's gone through the whole extent of the most serious consequences pertaining to the topic, will share their story, and their real, permanent solutions ;)
Dec 4, 2019 6:36 PM # 
I guess most of us have seen this happen. Actually, I found the Mary Cain video quite atypical and potentially unhelpful. The "all downhill with the evil coach" trope is an easy NYT sell, and no doubt is true here, given everything we know about theOregon Project.

But far more often the decision to undereat comes from the athlete not the coach. Indeed, often there is no coach - as AG says - it's not just a professional athlete thing.

The other inconvenient truth is that excessive weight loss helps you (especially girls) run faster, in the short term, until your body needs to recover from an injury and can't. It leads to a mentality that "what I'm doing must be right, because I'm getting faster".
Jul 30, 2020 7:03 PM # 

This discussion thread is closed.