Real Stories: Professional Sports and Periods with Nat Segal

Real Stories: Professional Sports and Periods with Nat Segal

Nat Segal is a professional skier, producer and writer from Melbourne, Australia now based in Revelstoke, BC. She lives and plays on the traditional unceded territory of the Sinixt, Ktunaxa, Sylix, and Secwépemc Nations. Following six years competing on Freeride and Freeskiing World Tours, Nat traded in her competition bibs and since 2014 has been both in front of the camera and producing ski content including ski expedition Shifting Ice and Changing Tides and PURE. In 2016 she teamed up with her sister, Anna Segal and adventure filmmaker, Bjarne Salén to produce Finding The Line (2018), a documentary film that uses skiing as a vehicle to explore fear and how we as humans deal with this emotion. Nat is currently working on a short documentary film in Revelstoke.

1) How did you get into big mountain and freestyle skiing?

I grew up skiing at Mount Buller, a hill of a mountain, three hours from Melbourne. As a teenager I started skiing moguls and competed until I was 17. While I had opportunities to continue to pursue the sport, I was more interested in following an education in Fine Arts and focused on graduation and university. I kept up my stoke for skiing coaching freestyle on the weekends with my local club. In 2010 I took a year off university and by a few coincidences found myself in Chamonix Mont-Blanc working as an au-pere for a mountain guide and head of communications for the Freeride World Tour. The family, my ski buddies and the mountains opened my mind to a whole new world of skiing and the following winter I returned to compete in the Freeride World Qualifiers. Three years later I was in Revelstoke competing in the Freeride World Tour.

2) What has your relationship been with your period throughout your life, and how has it changed over the years?

For a long time I ignored my period, it was a thing that happened. Sometimes I had cramps and I would stay home but I never tried to work with my period. In my early 20s I started taking the contraceptive pill to help improve my PMS symptoms that included migraines, nausea and cramps that left me in bed for two days. Since then I have consistently been on contraceptives (pill and IUD). Over the last few years I have started to pay more attention. I use an app called FITR to help me track my cycle and train with my period and not against it. I also started to question my use of contraceptives and recently removed my IUD as I was concerned it may be having an affect on my chronic back injury. I think being aware of the different contraceptive options is important and is an amazing tool we have as women but one glove doesn't fit all. It's integral to see what works for you and question each method you try.

3) How has your period affected you in your athletic career?

I've found it difficult to draw concrete correlations between my period and injuries and my performance but there is research to show that different stages of your cycle can have a huge effect. This includes a higher likelihood of tearing ligaments during ovulation. As I said I often ignored my period and loved the pill and IUD as I no longer had to think about it. I saw my period as detrimental to my career.  In retrospect I can pinpoint lots of times when my period has affected my performance and while I have only circumstantial proof, I believe it also has an effect on my back injury as it often flares up just before my period. In saying that, it wasn't my period's fault, it was how I was working with it.

4) When it comes to training and competing, do you do anything differently depending on where you are in your cycle?

Nowadays, I track my period and use the information in my hands to make good training decisions. Some mornings I wake up and don't want to train, I check FITR and realize I am ovulating and I need to focus on training smart with lots of recovery and fueling correctly. I believe we can use our cycle to our benefit if we pay attention. I am also trying to be much more mindful of rest. Living in Revelstoke the FOMO is real and I have always found it hard to rest. My current goal is to make sure I have a good balance of training hard and resting hard. In saying that, there are plenty of days when I am not feeling 100% and have to pony up for a film or photo shoot. On those days it's hard to focus and connect with the task at hand. I try to be mindful of where my body is at and ski within my limits of that day. 99% of my injuries have occured when I am tired and not paying attention because my body does not feel 100%.

5) If you could change one thing about having ovaries, what would it be?

I've never thought of this wish! My first thought is having a way to turn my ovaries on and off but the hormonal systems that are connected with them are so important for so many of our health systems that it feels wrong. I think it would be best if I could talk to them, kind of like the Vagina in 'Big Mouth'. Imagine if your ovaries would wake up in the morning and be like 'Hey girl, HEEEY, we're ovulating today so make sure you do some type of training, work on your flexibility and have longer recovery times. Cool, have a great day!"

Photo by Laura Szanto

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