Female Athletes

Women are not Small Men

  • Strength and Conditioning Training
  • Training Through Menopause-Peri and Post
  • Nutrition Support
  • How TTT adapt training plans for female athletes
  • Top tips-apps, chammy cream, sports bras….
  • Interesting books to read
  • Podcasts

Strength and conditioning Training

The importance of not skipping your strength sessions for females!

We have been working really hard within TTT to provide the stimulation and content to help make S&C a regular part of our athletes weekly training because we feel it is integral to improving athletic performance.

Strength training often gets neglected by all athletes not just females, it can be seen as a “nice to get done if there’s time” rather than a key session for the week. I want to highlight in this article some of the reasons why us females should nail these sessions each week in order to keep our bodies in tip top condition at all ages.

There are the obvious benefits of strength training that apply to both males and females:

● Increased muscle fibre recruitment leading to greater strength and power production

● Improved joint stability and mobility

● Better movement patterns & co ordination

● Improved resistance to fatigue

● Injury prevention

● Improved overall efficiency & performance

But what makes females different and why is it even more important to make sure you include S&C in your training schedule?

Lets start with hormones

We have a menstrual cycle which means our hormones are not in a constant level state, they fluctuate during the cycle. These key hormones oestrogen and progesterone also decrease significantly as we age. These changes affect our bodies in lots of different ways particularly from our 30’s onwards.

Here are some of the factors we need to consider:

Reduced muscle mass

From our early 30’s lean muscle starts to decrease by around 3%-8% per per decade depending on our body type and activity levels. With less muscle comes less power and a drop in speed. If we don’t work to maintain and build our muscles our performance will decline. Maintaining and improving your muscular strength leads to greater performance gains.

Reduced bone density

Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis (brittle bones) as we age. Peak bone density happens at around age 30-35, after that it starts to decrease as your oestrogen levels naturally drop off.

Pre menopausal women (45-55) start to lose about 0.5-1% of their bone density every year. Post menopause this accelerates to 2-3% per year.

The more active you are the more your muscles will pull on the bones and stimulate your bones to grow stronger and denser. The key is to stimulate this adaptation with weight bearing activities that force you to work against gravity – lifting weights! The key is to start early, do not wait, build bone density now and this will help prevent problems further down the line. It’s also never too late to start working on your bone health.

Body Shape

Our bodies are shaped differently to men, we have wider hips which creates what is known as the Q-angle. This is the angle between our quadricep muscle and our patellar tendon. This structural difference means we are more susceptible to knee injuries so focusing on strengthening stabilising muscles in the core and hips can help ensure the knees can track correctly when we put them under pressure. Another reason to start to love those squats, lunges and glute activation exercises.

Strong feels good

This may be an obvious one but being able to lift weights and see progression each week feels good! Seeing the muscle definition start to show, gaining watts on the bike, running faster due to better muscle activation, improving balance and co ordination due to a stronger physique is all super rewarding.

So the message is get the S&C work done; lifting Heavy Sh** as a female is a vital component to ensure we continue to race strong at 40+ 50+ 60+ 70+ and beyond! I don’t know about everyone else but I want to be out there performing to the best of my ability for at least another 30years!

by Claire Holliman

Here are some key exercises to help keep you strong and injury free.

KB Forward lunge
Kettlebell lunge walks
Squat with kettlebell
Split squat2
Split squat with leg raise and kettlebell
Weights lunge dips
Split squat, back leg raise-with weights
Step up
Weighted step-ups
chin up
Chin ups

Claire's Technique Tips.

Lower body strength work is important for creating a strong foundation from which to swim/bike/run and help prevent injury as training loads intensifies.

General notes: Ensure your form is correct – posture first, shoulders back and down, chest open, head over spine. Start with the movement pattern with bodyweight only to ensure you have the correct alignment and can control the movement.

Once good form is established add in light weights and increase to progress and make the exercises more challenging.

Kettle Bell Lunge walks

Kettle bell lunge walks – 2-3 sets of 12 lunge walks per side.

This can be done with both arms in the air with no weight to start with to challenge balance. Progress to holding kettle bell or dumbbell in one hand above head. Shoulders over hips, back in neutral do not lean backwards, Core engaged. Arm straight up above shoulder, hold still during the walk. Step forward bending front knee to 90* and dropping rear knee down to 90* maintaining level hips and shoulders. Switch weight to other hand for 2nd set.

Squat with Kettlebell

Start with bodyweight squats and progress to adding weights.

Feet shoulder width apart, toes turned out slightly if this is your natural stance. Kettle bell held at chest or dumbbell by sides. Bend knees and squat down keeping knees behind toes and weight evenly distributed through feet. Watch out for your knees wanting to drift inwards. Back remains in neutral so only drop down as low as you can maintain neutral spine. Chest is forward. Drive up through the heels to start position.

Split squat back leg raise

Great for working on balance and core stability Same position as forward lunge but requires you to maintain balance. Think about activating glute muscles to stabilise hip complex.

Weighted Step ups

During these focus on level hips and shoulders and driving up through the top leg rather than pushing off the back leg.


Start with low weight and correct form and progress by adding weights.

Claire is a BTF Level 3 qualified coach, L3 personal trainer, sports massage therapist and has been coaching triathlon since 2009. Claire has an approachable and enthusiastic manner. She thrives on supporting and encouraging her athletes to reach their potential be that their first ever triathlon, qualification for age group racing with Team GB or completing an Xtri full distance event.

Claire understands the commitment and dedication that is required to juggle training with home life, and works closely with her athletes to ensure they find a happy balance!

Claire Holliman.

Triathlon Coach.

Flourish in your Menopause, follow Up – Nutrition

by Jules from Total Endurance Nutrition


Everyone’s experience of (peri)menopause will be different but there are many considerations and actions that can be taken to minimise or improve symptoms and training quality over time. Some of the key nutrition considerations are outlined below:

1. Protein intake – in our experience very few athletes consume enough protein. An endurance athlete should aim to consume 1.5-2.0g of protein per kg of body weight each day. This is important for any endurance athlete but even more so as we age.

Muscle mass naturally declines with age, but ensuring adequate dietary protein will ensure you can maintain your muscle mass as much as possible. You can’t escape the decline with age – but eating enough protein alongside regular training (aim for 30g at every meal plus 1-2 high protein snacks) can slow the decline with age.

2. Bone Health – as we hit the menopause and our hormones begin to change our bone quality tends to decline. Our bones become more porous. Many people often associate calcium with bone health and indeed calcium demands increase after the menopause however vitamin D3 is just as important as it supports the absorption of calcium that is required to keep our bones healthy.

3. Fuelling Your Training and Recovery – during the menopause the way the body uses its internal fuel supplies (fat and glycogen (stored carbohydrate)) changes. After the menopause, for the same bout of exercise, we rely more heavily on carbohydrate. However, it’s also important to consider how the menopause effects recovery from training. After the menopause it is likely that your ability to replenish glycogen stores is dampened as the body’s response to insulin becomes slightly reduced. So, this means you are going to use more carbohydrate during training but also find it harder to replenish those stores than you might have done previously. This can be worth considering if you are finding yourself feeling more fatigued from training than usual or feeling inadequately recovered.

Overall, the most important message is don’t suffer in silence. At TTT we are really fortunate to have highly knowledgeable coaches who can adapt your training to your needs as well as links to companies like Flourish and Total Endurance Nutrition.

Speak to you coach if you would like any more information or you feel the symptoms of (peri)menopause are effecting you.

For more information on nutrition, please get in touch