Anna Toman is talking about her period, but not as much as she wants to, writes Megan Armitage.
The 30-year-old has been a mainstay in British hockey since 2017. She recently opened up about the barriers she has faced as a woman in sport, often feeling too embarrassed to talk to her teammates and coach about the natural changes her body is experiencing.
Speaking on Team GB’s new series ‘Sporty AF (And Female), the Olympian revealed how elite hockey is starting to break the widespread silence on the challenges of the menstrual cycle but admitted that there’s still more to be done.
“Some of us talk about periods quite a lot because we are really good friends,” said Toman.
“You might not necessarily talk about it with the whole team, but you definitely say it with those you feel comfortable with. We might say on day one that we’re a bit clumsy but we probably don’t really speak about like the in depth and bigger struggles.
“I’ve seen some of the girls on my team have to take painkillers from the doctors because they’re just in so much pain and I think the biggest thing is that we just don’t talk about the intense side of it.
“I’ve never seen or heard of anyone missing training because they’re in so much pain because of their period, but I’m pretty confident that some of the girls have been in agony at times.
“So, as much as it’s definitely not a taboo topic in my team, which is a really good start, I would say they are quite surface level conversations.”
Every individual’s menstrual cycle is different and Toman believes there is plenty more research needed before she can fully understand exactly how to adapt her training and competition needs based on her body’s changes.
“We’ve not been given as much information as we would like,” she said. “It’s quite hard in a team sport because there’s so many of us. How much detail do you go into because we all have to train at the same time.
“If one person is better at training in the morning because of their cycle, and someone’s better training afternoon, we can’t afford those barriers, but we’re starting to change that.”
The change comes from research by the support team at England Hockey and the UK Sports Institute as they begin a new study into how the menstrual cycle affects training.
“I think it’s going to help us tremendously,” added Toman “We’ve had this massive document sent through to us about how to measure symptoms and what specifics they are looking for.
“They’re taking our blood at different time of the month and seeing what contraception we’re on and how that affects us.
“Going forward with this, we’re going to learn so much and I think it’s going to be amazing.
“There might not be huge amount of information that comes out of it, but if we can at least find out that what we’re doing is right or if we need to like tinker things slightly. Everything helps.”
Previously scared of playing hockey on her period as a teenager, Toman is now welcoming the continued conversations around menstrual cycles and the embracing the role that speaking up can play in breaking harmful taboos.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be around similar people in a female sport,” she said.
“I think when we were younger, we were so much more embarrassed about it and we wouldn’t tell each other if we were on our period or if we were struggling, we would just carry on.
“If I knew I had a hockey camp coming up and I knew I was about to be on, I just dreaded it because there was this like taboo that you might not play as well or are going to get tired.
“But now I know I can still compete at the highest level and deal with my period.
“I can still do what I need to do and also feel comfortable having conversations with my teammates, I’ve realised that’s okay.”