Haley is a 30-year-old kayaker from Calgary, Alberta, who is headed to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics as one of the first-ever women who will compete in Olympic canoe slalom. She spoke candidly to Ovry about her experiences with her period, how her cycle affects her training, and what it’s like to be a woman in the sport (and in general!). You can follow her journey on social media and cheer her on this summer as she represents Canada in the Olympics! Go Haley Go!
My family is quite outdoorsy and so we did a lot of paddling when I was a kid. I grew up on Invermere Lake, so I did lots of kayaking out there. And then I got invited to a kayak camp on whitewater so I went to that and then after that they were like, “Oh, nationals are at the Kananaskis,” so I went to that so it was kind of a series of events, getting me into it. But I really fell in love with paddling because it was something different, and it allowed me to be outside, and it was just a rush. Being able to go down whitewater is one of the scariest and coolest things I've ever done.
The relationship with my period throughout my life has changed throughout the years for sure. I actually have an IUD so I don't get a period. Often, I get it only when I'm really stressed out, and I have some like jetlag, or my body is not really feeling so good. And I still get the symptoms of a period. So I get tired, crampy, and all these things, but to me I think I would like to take my IUD out at some point because I would like to have a natural flow. But I think that having your period is an indicator that you're human and that you're a girl and that you should own what it is that's happening to your body.
My period has definitely affected me in my athletic career. I used to get a really heavy period where I would be completely exhausted. And I would just want to eat everything in sight. And I would push and push and train, but I would just not be able to fire up the same way—so I try and track that now. I don't know the exact phases but I know if I'm in the week before my period, I try and sleep a little more and be a little bit more gentle with my body, just so I don't push it too much because there's a lot going on. And as females, we have the reproductive system that's working pretty hard for us and we don't need to put more stress on our body.
I will add a little bit more carbs into my diet at that time, knowing that my body needs more of that energy conversion. Eating things like rice or sweet potatoes. Chocolate. I'm just making sure that I'm being gentle with my body. Not overeating, but allowing myself to put that fuel into my body and and feel good while I'm doing it.
I really love being a woman. I feel like there's a lot of struggle, as a woman, because there are so many expectations of us. We have to be thin. We have to be careful with what we eat. We have to be careful what we say. We have to be careful what parts of our body we show and how we show them and (we’re) sexualized. I think that the one thing I would change maybe is that I would own who I am a little bit more and be more comfortable with who I am because I definitely have my moments where I'm feeling totally out of my element and I wish that I could just be present and be who I am as a woman.