Natalie Dau, a celebrated ultrarunner originally from Perth, has long grappled with the challenges posed by her menstrual cycle. Recounting the days of being sidelined mid-run due to excruciating period pains, she reflects on her journey from that point to her present status as an internationally recognized athlete.
Now residing in Singapore with her family, Natalie has been a beacon of resilience. Overcoming a deep vein thrombosis diagnosis caused by contraceptive pills and rheumatoid arthritis in her early 30s, she turned her life around with the right diet and training regimen. After her recovery and becoming a mother, she discovered a knack for endurance racing. With the help of expert coaches and advisors, she went on to secure victories in various ultra races and represented Asia at the Spartan World Championships.
Dau’s contributions to fitness don’t stop at personal achievements. As a certified trainer and nutritionist, she developed the Rockstar Fit App, a free platform offering an array of 200 workouts. Her commitment to public health was further highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic when she collaborated with the World Health Organization, using her platform to spread positivity and fitness awareness.
Recently, Dau has delved into the realm of menstrual cycle-based training. By carefully observing and logging her body’s responses during various phases of her cycle, she and her coach formulated a training approach that takes into account the hormonal fluctuations women experience. This resulted in Dau’s co-authored book, “Run Like a Woman: Menstrual Cycle-Based Training For Optimal Performance.”
Dau explains how different phases of the menstrual cycle, influenced by varying levels of oestrogen and progesterone, affect numerous variables from oxygen consumption to carbohydrate metabolism. The follicular phase, characterized by increasing oestrogen levels, is particularly conducive to endurance exercise, allowing women to push harder. On the flip side, the luteal phase sees an upsurge in progesterone, often resulting in water retention and reduced energy. Dau’s insights emphasize adjusting training volumes according to these phases, advocating for more intensive workouts during the follicular phase and reduced activity during the luteal phase.
For those grappling with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), Dau suggests boxing as a release valve. She also turns to swimming when hormonal changes make her restless. Nutritionally, she follows a predominantly “clean” diet comprising whole foods but adjusts her carbohydrate intake during her period. Despite her disciplined eating habits, weekends are reserved for little indulgences like chocolate caramel buttons or an occasional gin and tonic.
Having made numerous sacrifices, including her social life, to reach the pinnacle of her athletic career, Dau is acutely aware of the impending challenges of menopause. Prepping for this phase, she’s ramping up strength training, focusing on recovery, and ensuring adequate protein intake. Above all, Dau believes in the importance of understanding one’s body, advocating for personal responsibility in health and wellness.