Ailie Blunnie

Songwriter :: Singer :: Musician

Olympics, women, the impact of hormone fluctuations and menstruation ..and other musings.

Posted by on Aug 13, 2016

Olympics, women, the impact of hormone fluctuations and menstruation ..and other musings.


I’ve been glued to the Olympic gymnastics this week. The power, strength, speed, flexibility, balance, stamina, coordination, control, determination, grace, resilience, fearlessness.. Such full and complete athleticism. It would take your breath away.

Brought back how mad I was about gymnastics when I did it too. God.. when I think of it.. I was tiny. But powerful. We all were. I remember.. when you’d say you were a gymnast back then, you’d sometimes get an ‘aw that’s lovely’ sort of response, and I remember.. my mam used to laugh and tell them not to be fooled – we were strong as horses. And we were. It’s a fantastic sport.. with benefits from the earliest stages. (I was only competing at a very local level)

And then I remembered something else – the dread of the big THING coming.

Your period. Aunt Flow. Your monthly visitor. The week of doom.. Christ, what were we going to do when all that happened? ..and us in leotards. Would I be able to wear pads?.. Tampons were scary things and caused Toxic Shock Syndrome according to the label – was I willing to die for my sport? ..what if the string thing popped out..? Aaagh, I’m eleven – I don’t like this!

The very idea struck terror into me.

This was pre-Google, so we couldn’t really look stuff up, and as for asking anyone – not a chance!   #Morto

So I think most of us kept quiet and just hoped we’d be among those lucky late-starters. I remember once hearing that one of the Ballina girls had started, and the response was like the girl had just been given hours to live. Horror!

The poor thing. Career over! She was, maybe, 13.

Sure we hadn’t a clue.

Anyway, I took some time this morning to look up how people were dealing with this now, and how female athletes at all levels were managing their monthly cycles. The main thing I wanted to find out was if and how hormone fluctuations were affecting their mental health and physical performance, and also, the practical question of how to deal with periods with a million cameras on you.

This isn’t an area I’ve any great insight into, so it’s amateur dabbling at its best, but from what I could gather, the subject hasn’t been that widely discussed or studied yet – something I’m sure will start changing very soon.*

A few amateur dabbly bits I did gather were that: some elite female athletes don’t menstruate, or do so irregularly, due to a combination of factors (e.g. lean-muscle to fat ratio, high energy expenditure, intensive training, restricted diet). Some control their cycles using medication, birth control pills, IUDs etc. Some, like Heather Watson, and Paula Radcliffe, have spoken about the detrimental effects the stage they’re at in their cycle has had on their performance levels (the latter of whom quite amazingly still managed to break a world record in 2002 while suffering cramps during the last third of the race).

It makes you think about things though, doesn’t it? Like, how well the sports world is currently set up to accommodate these sorts of considerations? Or indeed, the world in general?

Anyway, on a different note, while watching the Olympics I noticed a few areas that could be streamlined. This is a draft of a letter I’m writing to the International Olympic Committee.


Dear Olympic Committee,

I am writing because I think some of the sports in your event could be streamlined, or, at the very least, changed.

The first thing I would consider is that the synchronised paradigm could be made more use of.

For example: Synchronised Rugby, or:

Synchronised Tabletennis.

The Horseracing is good, however, it is very like other Horseracing.

Pommel-Horseracing would I think, be a further idea.

My friends and I think as well that the Cycling has room for improvements.

We agree it’s long. We think the cyclists could have targets to hit along the way with an arrow, and then you could also delete Archery from your register.

Or else we agree that the Cycling could take place on the Athletics track and the race could be 100 metres.

These ideas, we think, would save you economically as well as being more interesting.

Yours faithfully,


What ya think?…

The other bit of news I should definitely include, is that I’ve decided to push the album release date back by a few weeks.

It’s funny, because, even though I barely brush my hair half the time, I’m a complete perfectionist when it comes to things like this. I want it to be as absolutely good as it can be before releasing it, and it’s not yet, but it’s getting there. I won’t take much longer though.. I promise! And thank you for your patience.

Hope you’re having a nice August so far,

Get in touch if you’ve any craic!

Ailie x

Cool things to click on:

– this beautiful museum under the sea

– this really funny gif of Simone Biles straight-back-somersaulting to the universe

* some sources are calling it ‘the last taboo’. If you know of any good studies or ongoing debates, please send me links, I’d love to read them.

– This story about female Chinese swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, has just come up in Rio. Very interesting read –




  1. Hi Ailie… fascinating, I’d never thought about “red days” vis-a-vis gymnastics. And your suggestions for the IOC? Priceless!

    • Going to pop the letter in the post now this week and all should be sorted by Tokyo :-)

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