It’s Time to Talk About The Lane 9 Project

There isn’t a ninth lane on the track. There isn’t a well-defined path to eating disorder recovery. There isn’t enough known about the impacts of under-fueling and over-excising the female body. There isn’t one way to have an eating disorder, amenorrhea, or the female athlete triad.

The Lane 9 Project came together by active ladies who strive to be lady (health) activists. The co-founders: Alexis FairbanksHeather Caplan, and Samantha Strong.

We are runners, we have personal histories with eating disorders, we have been amenorrheic. We believe recovery is ongoing, and running is part of it.We want a loud, strong, evolving conversation about the prevalence of eating disorders and amenorrhea amongst female athletes — girls and women of all ages and at any level of endurance or competitive running. We want to bring a voice, a movement, education, and hope to active women. We’re happy to be talking.

There isn’t one way to have an eating disorder, amenorrhea, or the female athlete triad.

We’re navigating our way through Lane 9 — the unspoken but very present mindset in which many active girls and women exist.

The Lane 9 Project Mission

With this project, we aim to empower women struggling in the ninth lane. If you’re an active woman with disordered eating and/or amenorrhea, we want you to know you’re not alone, you’re not stuck, and you’re not done. This project will be your community, and hopefully the start of your recovery. If you’ve been there, these are your people.

We will work to bring coaches, teachers, parents, and female runners together to increase awareness of eating disorder signs and symptoms, along with the risks and long-term effects of missed periods and under-fueling for our bodies’ needs.

Photo: Kelci Alane Photography
What is the Female Athlete Triad?

Female Athlete Triad (the triad) is a syndrome of three interrelated conditions: energy deficiency, menstrual irregularity/amenorrhea, and bone loss. Energy deficiency, often via food restriction or obsessive exercising, typically precedes the other conditions. A lack of fuel leads to amenorrhea, irregular (or nonexistent) periods. Menstrual and hormonal irregularity leads to bone loss. Bone loss leads to injury. Injury leads to less running, mental anguish, and a desire for control. At least, this has been our experience.

What is amenorrhea?

For this project, we are focusing on secondary amenorrhea. Secondary amenorrhea is when a woman who has been having normal menstrual cycles stops getting her periods for six months or longer. While amenorrhea may be caused by a variety of issues, including medications, pregnancy, menopause, PCOS, stress, and adrenal issues, among active women it is often due to a combination of under-fueling and over-training. Missing your period is not a normal symptom of exercise. Your period is necessary for hormonal health, bone health, and to recover from training.

What is disordered eating?

The primary symptom of the Female Athlete Triad, which leads to amenorrhea and bone loss is energy deficiency. Energy deficiency occurs when a person consumes less energy (calories) than they expend. Energy deficiency can occur with or without disordered eating, but for many female athletes disordered eating, or full-blown eating disorders, are present.

Disordered eating is a spectrum of abnormal eating behaviors such as skipping meals, restricting certain foods, and obsessive calorie counting. Disordered eating is differentiated from eating disorders by its level of severity, but it often leads to a clinically diagnosable eating disorder. Disordered eating may lead to a range of health issues from fatigue and lack of concentration to more serious problems such as malnutrition, extreme weight loss, and mental illness, including eating disorders.

Get involved with the Lane 9 Project

We’re launching this project during the National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week, under the theme “It’s Time to Talk About It.” So, we’re going to start by talking about our stories—of running, disordered eating, and amenorrhea—on this publication.

If you’re an active lady or lady health activist, coach, mentor, parent, or healthcare provider, let us know through our community form. If you want to share your story, get in touch with us through the form or by emailing Lane9Project@gmail dot com. If you just want to follow along, stay tuned hereand say hi 👋 on Twitter.


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