Your Period Has A Pretty Big Effect On Your Fitness — Here’s How To Work It To Your Advantage
Menstrual cycle phases really can mess with your routine, right? Bloated, tired, moany and lacking serious motivation – that’s how I feel during PMS. And many of you out there can relate. 73% of Women’s Health readers said that PMS symptoms make them less likely to exercise. Plus, 72% of WH readers said that their periods actually stop them from exercising (according to social media polls).
Changing the conversation around periods and exercise
Funny enough, while I’m on my period, even though I might be bloated and crampy, I perform pretty well and I find exercise actually helps relieve menstrual pain. The post-exercise endorphins also help lift my mood, which is more crucial for me during PMS. I can get quite depressive and teary during this time.
But this isn’t something I’d really speak about openly with my triathlon coach or running club crew. Well, it wasn’t. Until recently. I’m tired of period talk being taboo and now I don’t stop myself from mentioning it. For example: I’m on a cycling training ride with the guys and I’m quieter than usual and not feeling as strong. One of them might chirp me something like: “What’s up Amz, you in the pain cave there?” Yes. But not the pain cave you might know. “Yes I have bad period cramps today, but I’m still pushing through.” Or: “Guys we need to do another bathroom stop for Amy.” And I’ll say something like: “Sorry about the delay guys, but my period really upsets my stomach.” The response ranges from awkward silence to very caring, but never negative. Male gym buddies, trainers and coaches all need to be aware that our bodies (and emotions) change throughout the month. Some days I can give extra and some I just want to curl into a ball and cry.
These are truths that so many of us women struggle with, but are often ashamed to talk about. Or we might feel it makes us look weak. Rather suffer in silence.
Apps that track menstrual cycle phases and fitness
Fitness apps like STRAVA (a social media platform for runners, cyclists and swimmers) have started creating content with female athletes and coaches around exercising and menstrual cycles. They teamed up with another app called FitRwoman, which tracks your menstrual cycle and links to your training. Over time you can get a good idea of how your performance changes during your menstrual cycle.
What’s great about it? FitR also has a lot of informative content around menstrual cycles and fitness. How does it work? Log your last period and cycle length and it tells you where you’re at and what training is recommended for you. So if I log into the app now, it will show me what my hormones are doing on a graph and how that affects recovery and exercise. So, for example, if you’re PMSing, the graph will show how your oestrogen and progesterone levels decline to their lowest point.
And this means the following (according to FitR): You’re experiencing inflammation, your recovery is slower and so you should be doing something more like yoga today than sprint interval training (for example).
How to make training easier on our periods
So there are a few ways to make training less stressful on your body and mind when you’re menstruating:
1/ Know where the bathrooms are! Or if you’re doing a long cycle or run, make sure there are petrol stations or bathroom stops along the route.
2/ Because most of our stomachs are a little extra sensitive around PMS or period time, be aware of what you eat before you train (including the day before). You know your body – so if chickpeas make you extra bloated, but you love hummus, maybe lay off it for two days and have guacamole instead.
3/ Wear comfortable clothing. I have running and yoga tights for period “fat” days and sports bras too! My breasts tend to swell slightly around this time, so having a slightly bigger or more forgiving bra really helps.
4/ Use a sanitary product you trust and know will last you for the amount of time you need it. If you have a heavy flow, be mindful of taking something extra with you in a little ziplock bag and place it in a pocket.
Comfitex has a range of sanitary products to suit everyone. Try the scented or unscented Cotton Soft Pantyliners for days when you’re nearing the end of your period. They’re thin, but really absorbent.
And for exercise during regular to heavy flow, try the scented or unscented Maxi Thick Pads. They offer extra security with channels on the pad for more effective protection. They’re also affordable and comfortable.