Dr Holly Thorpe and Maria Bentley are both deeply passionate about educating girls and young women on the importance of understanding their own athletic and exercising bodies. Our interest in this topic stems from both personal and professional experience. During our athletic careers, we both witnessed the normalization of these issues in high performance sporting cultures. We have also observed some confusion among female athletes, exercisers, coaches and family members about this complex health issue. As part of our separate research and teaching projects, we were reading the latest scientific research, but we also noticed that much of this information was not making it out onto the sports field or into the gym.
In response to the social silencing, stigma and mis-understanding about this health issue, this website is our attempt to make the scientific research accessible to wider audiences. Building upon our athletic and professional experiences across various sport and exercise contexts over the years, we are also both actively conducting extensive research projects on energy imbalance as it relates to exercise in girls and women. Drawing upon published evidence, our research and athletic experiences, we hope this website will be useful to girls and women seeking to gain a better understanding of the role of energy balance and exercise to promote their own long-term health and well-being.
Dr Holly Thorpe
Dr Holly Thorpe is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sport and Leisure Studies, at the University of Waikato, where she teaches courses in sport, exercise and health sociology and social psychology. Since completing her PhD in 2007, her research has focused on women’s experiences in sport and physical youth cultures, and she has published broadly from her research, including two sole-authored books, multiple book chapters, and articles in academic journals such as the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Sociology of Sport Journal, and Sport, Education and Society. Dr Thorpe has been an invited guest lecturer at universities in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, and the United States, and regularly presents her work at international conferences.
As a critical sociologist, Dr Thorpe is interested in the social silences surrounding exercise-related amenorrhea. In one of the first in-depth qualitative studies on this topic, she aims to create space for exercising women’s voices—their pleasures, fears, concerns, and confusions—and explain what their experiences tell us about health issues facing women today. In a project distinct from this website, she is conducting semi-structured interviews with a) women who engage in regular, purposeful exercise and have experienced hormonal changes as a result, and b) medical and exercise professionals. Adopting a transdisciplinary approach, this project seeks to reveal the complex socio-cultural, psychological and biological factors influencing women’s experiences of menstrual ‘dysfunction’, and point to changes in the ways women are living in and through their bodies into the twenty-first century. In so doing, she hopes this project will make a valuable contribution to qualitative research on women’s health, and produce key information to help more women experience the benefits of exercise will minimizing unnecessary risks.
Prior to pursuing her career as a university lecturer and researcher, Dr Thorpe was a competitive snowboarder and snowboard instructor. During her youth she spent many years dedicated to ballet, and in high-school found success in competitive aerobics, netball, triple jump, and tennis. Sport and exercise continue to be a central part of Holly’s life. She enjoys yoga and running most days, and recreational snowboarding, mountain biking, and on the (very) odd occasion, surfing.
Maria Bentley completed her physiotherapy and post-graduate sports medicine studies at the University of Otago. She has extensive clinical experience in musculoskeletal and occupational physiotherapy both in New Zealand and in the UK and now practices at The Corrective Clinic in Central Auckland. Maria has a specific interest in preventing and managing injuries generated through running and other endurance sports. At National level, she has also worked with football (the beautiful game!) and internationally with diving and athletes competing at the World Fire Fighter Games.
Outside of physiotherapy practice, Maria has taught anatomy and exercise physiology at tertiary level and is also a PhD candidate with the Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) at AUT University. Through her physiotherapy practice, she became acutely aware of the Female Athlete Triad and related issues in female athletes and exercising women. This sparked her research interest in the topic and her thesis is investigating how low energy availability presents and affects markers of metabolism, menstrual function and exercise in endurance-trained women.
Maria is passionate about sport (especially running), exercise and healthy living and lives by the mantra ‘use it or lose it’. She is nationally ranked in the 10km and half marathon and has represented New Zealand at Oceania Championships. She is otherwise keen on the outdoors, mountain-biking, tramping and even the odd box-fit class.