‘Roar’ by Stacy T. Sims: fitness and female physiology

Why did I choose to read this?

There are so many books out there giving advice on training that I normally choose to read purely those recommended by runners I know. “Roar”, by Stacy T. Sims, however, was a Christmas gift. My husband had seen female time-triallists giving it rave reviews on their online forum and thought it might be useful for me, both as a runner and a coach. With a sub-title of "How to match your food and fitness to your female physiology for optimum performance, great health, and a strong, lean body for life", it certainly sounded promising.

What's in the book?

The introduction nicely summarises in just two short sentences the key message of the book. "You are not a small man. Stop eating and training like one". That’s common sense, surely? Yet how many of us women do train as if we were men? I suspected (knew!) I was guilty and looked forward to reading more.

Organised into three clearly defined sections, the book delves initially into "What it means to be a woman on the move". Covering topics such as female versus male physiology, hormones, the menstrual cycle, menopause and pregnancy, Sims talks through the science of these. Most importantly, she explains the potential impact on training and racing. Throughout, she provides practical suggestions as to how to work with your physiology, rather than against it.

Weight management, building core strength, stability and power are the focus of part two. Again, there is a useful balance of theory, research and practical ideas. Gut and bone health are also covered.

In part three, Sims moves onto to eating; both on a day-to-day basis, as well as eating around and during sport. Useful sample plans give ideas of exactly what to eat in the run up to, during, and after an event. There is also a section on how and when to hydrate. For those seeking to train and race in extreme climates, there’s some specific advice on how to train and prepare as a female. The book finishes with chapters on effective recovery, the use of supplements and training your brain for success.

What did I think?

All in all, this is a really useful book for any female athlete or coach. Whilst it’s easy to read, it’s so packed with theory, research and practical ideas that it’s one to dip in and out of. If it has any downsides, it’s that it is, in parts, quite American. Some of the terminology used is slightly different than we use in the UK. The recipes are measured in cups, and there are also some assumptions made that don’t fit with UK regulations. For example, Sims suggests insomniac menopausal athletes might use melatonin. In the US it’s easy to buy; in the UK, it’s prescription-only. These are, however, only slight niggles in what is otherwise a really useful and thought-provoking book. I’ll definitely be using it as a tool to support my own training and when coaching the many women that I do.