Running is hard no matter how you look at it, however, being a woman in the sport poses additional barriers and challenges that are not always properly acknowledged. That makes it even more inspiring that women are continuously breaking incredible barriers in all track and field, trail, and road running events. Their participation in road racing has grown exponentially - even faster than the growth seen in male participants.
From my experience through running in high school and college, one of the biggest challenges for athletes, specifically women, is struggles with body image and proper fueling throughout training blocks. One of the most common stereotypes about runners is that “they are all so skinny”. This is an incredibly damaging idea that has caused countless sleepless nights for female athletes around the world. Skinny does not equal fast, in fact, strength and adequate fueling are what keep athletes uninjured and able to recover from taxing workouts.
Maintaining a weight that is healthy and sustainable for you is so important for long-term success in the sport! So drink that beer, or eat that tub of ice cream in the fridge, your body will thank you later.
Another factor that I believe is not discussed enough is the changes women face with hormones throughout a training block. This is something that is invisible, but definitely has a huge impact on the way that certain workouts feel, and can even have an effect on overall health, body temperature, heart rate, and motivation levels. Although this will always be a factor, there are ways to use this information to your advantage. It is valuable to be in tune with your body, and keep a record of how training feels throughout each month. When you understand how your body functions, it makes planning for harder efforts and rest days much more successful. Be easy on yourself when your body is needing some recovery, and work hard on those days when you feel you could run 100 miles!
Finally, (and arguably less importantly) make sure that you are purchasing clothing and equipment that makes you comfortable. For example, buying proper-fitting sports bras can ease future back pain, buying well-fitting shorts can ease the pain of chafing, and buying shoes that fit well can prevent blisters and foot pain. Plus, most of us can agree that motivation for training increases slightly when you have a nice new running outfit or a shiny pair of shoes. Look good, feel good!