Professional runner Tina Muir decided two months ago that she would stop running and veer away from her usually clean diet in order to gain enough weight to get her period back after not menstruating for nine years.
Now, Muir has penned an emotional letter to other runners suffering from amenorrhea, or period loss, about her personal struggles and her advice to anyone in the same situation.
Muir explained that when doctors first told her that she would need to stop running and start eating more, they promised it would be for the best — but she initially had trouble coming to terms with their advice.
“How could I possibly feel more comfortable with who I am, more confident, when you remove the thing that I love to do, remove the success and rewards that come from pushing myself?” she wrote in an open letter for SELF. “Telling me to ‘get fat’ when I have worked so hard to get my body to a place where I love the way I look and feel strong? How could I possibly be happier with that?”
Despite her initial hesitation, Muir decided to stop running when she turned 28 to focus on getting her period back on track so she would eventually be able to start a family.
“It wasn’t easy,” she said of deciding to quit running. “And if you’re going through what I went through, it won’t be easy for you, either. You are going against the grain in every possible way. Like a salmon swimming upstream, I am fighting against a culture that is telling me to lose weight.”
But Muir knew that it was the best decision for her, even though it felt extreme at first.
“If I was going to do this, I was going to really do it — do everything I could in one go to get my period back,” she said. “Rather than channeling my competitiveness into being the best runner I could be, instead I would channel it into being the best damn woman I could be.”
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Even though Muir hasn’t run for eight weeks, she still hasn’t had her period yet.
“Had I not pushed it out of my mind for the last nine years, maybe I would have gotten it back in a few weeks, maybe even with a slightly less extreme approach,” she said.
Muir advises her fellow runners that if they are also struggling with amenorrhea, it’s okay to take a step back from running.
“I know it feels like running or fitness goals are more important, that you are only young once, and you have to make the most of this opportunity,” she said. “I felt that way, too. But remember this: Your running is only something you do, it is not who you are.”
“You will struggle a bit with your identity — I sure have — but then you will gain so much more back,” she continued. “You will realize that you are more than the way you look, you are more than the activities you do. Your body will have more to offer this world, more love to give. You will be more confident in who you are, not what you are. And that my friends, will make it all worthwhile. (Plus the added goodies — how can you complain about a few extra servings of ice cream?) You can do this.”