Episode 137 | Caroline MacManus and Christel Dunshea-Mooij – LEA in Rowing

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Rowing was the most successful sport at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics for New Zealand. Competing in 14 events and winning five medals, four in women’s events including Silver in the Women’s 2x, Silver in the W8+, Gold in the W2-, Gold in the W1x, and Gold in the M8+.

However, three years before the Olympics only one female rower was eating enough to fuel their training. Many athletes were underfueling and showing symptoms of RED-S.

I sit down with Caroline MacManus, Head of Athletic Performance for Rowing New Zealand and Christel Dunshea-Mooij Head of Performance Nutrition at High Performance Sport NZ to discuss LEA, RED-S, and how they work with athletes and coaches within a high performance unit to optimize performance.

Part 1 – Changing the Conversation around the menstrual cycle, RED-S, and proper fueling

  1. What markers or testing did you conduct to identify athletes at risk?
    1. Questionnaire initially, then food records, smart watches, and DEXA scans
    2. Conversation around many female rowers not menstruating
    3. Was lack of menstruation caused by RED-S or oral contraception? Why would oral contraception interfere?
  2. How did you both begin to change the conversation around female health, eating and nutrition, and adjustments to the training program?
  3. “Being lean isn’t a priority, being strong is.” – Brook Donoghue
    1. As support staff how did you help work with coaches and athletes to change behaviour through positive communication?
  4. What changes were made to the training program?
  5. Are their red flags or markers we can look for in an athlete’s performance that may clue us into potential risk?

Part 2 – Pairing periodized nutrition with the training programme (sport + S&C)

  1. How do you both work together and with coaches and athletes to adjust the training program?
  2. How do you do this at an individual level for each athlete but also at the team level with a highly competitive and large roster that Rowing NZ has.
  3. Caroline, are their specific aspects of the menstrual cycle we should be considering when training female athletes?
  4. How has this change affected the day to day training and future outlook at Rowing New Zealand as we move into the next quadrennium?
  5. What advice do you both have for male coaches working with female athletes?

Show Notes: