How Menstruation Affects Your Running
Posted by Tia Patel | AUG-20-2020
Time of the month, on the rag, red tide/army, code red, monthly visitor, lady time, Surfing the crimson wave, bloody mary, the blob, shark week, having the painters in or simply just your period……...
Whether you’ve woken up in a bad mood and you’re feeling grotty, or you spring out of bed and head downstairs for hearty breakfast, we’re all different. Some women hardly notice their periods whilst others find their lives are ruled by their cycle.
Just because we’re menstruating, doesn’t mean that we should put our lives on hold. In 1996, Uta Pippig famously won the Boston Marathon with blood pouring down her leg as she crossed the finish line. And in 2002, Paula Radcliffe broke the world record in Chicago after suffering period cramps throughout the last third of the race.
According to the Office of Women's Health, over 90% of menstruating women experience at least one symptom of PMS ranging from mood swings to cramps. Read our guide below to find out how running can help with your period cycle!
How Your Cycle Affects Your Running
Hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle can have huge impacts to your body regardless of whether you run or not. But having a strategy to use them to your advantage is always beneficial:
Body Temperature - Throughout your cycle, your body temperature continues to change. It peaks during the luteal phase of the cycle, between ovulation and menstruation, in response to the increase in progesterone. Here your body temperature can raise by 0.4 degrees fahrenheit which increases the threshold for heat dissipation; this is the process by which your brain tells your body that it should reach a higher temperature before the temperature control center signals the body to cool itself. This can be extremely dangerous for your body when running in hot and humid conditions. By delaying the body’s natural cooling response you put yourself at risk of heat stroke and exhaustion.
Metabolism and Nutrition - During the luteal phase of your cycle, your body's metabolism increases fat utilisation and decreases the utilisation of stored carbohydrates whilst increasing the breakdown of proteins. This means that you need to fuel your body with carbohydrates to avoid low blood sugar and more protein to promote recovery. We see this as the perfect excuse to indulge in some home baked goods.
Premenstrual Symptoms - PMS is one of the biggest factors affecting menstruating women with symptoms include bloating, abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, food cravings, fatigue, mood swings and insomnia. They start at some point in the luteal phase (days 15 to 28) and generally resolve themselves once menstrual flow starts. However, for a runner PMS can make it extremely difficult to feel physically, emotionally and mentally up for a run.
Here are our top tips for training on your period:
Staying hydrated becomes even more important if you’re running on your period as you lose extra fluids and are more likely to become dehydrated. Whilst running on your period, it's recommended that you drink 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during your runs.
Don’t overdo running on your period and make sure that you rest well. Get plenty of sleep and take at least one rest day after running so that your body has time to recover before you run again.
Perform dynamic stretches before your run as these will help you to warm up for cardio training whilst relieving period cramps.
Plan your period hygiene in advance. Choose the right products, which help you, feel more comfortable. There are products available in the market, which are made for women who want to stay active during their periods.
Menstruation is a naturally occurring part of female life, so make it work for you and remember you can always use your warm gel pack on your abdomen or lower back to relax the muscles of the uterus, increase blood flow and ease pain caused by menstrual cramps.
Be proud to be female!