Monday, November 12, 2012

How Your Period Affects Running

If you are a female between 12 and 51 years old and reading this, you probably have a period (unless of course you're pregnant, nursing or have had body parts removed). If you are a male of any age and are reading this, you might be (negatively?) affected by a female in your life who has a period.

Do you ever wonder how that time of the month affects your (or your girlfriend’s, wife’s, mother’s) running? I was very curious about this so my period and I decided to do some research. I cannot believe I didn’t learn this stuff earlier because it sure explains a lot of shitty and glorious runs.

How Your Period Can Affect Running

  • You Swell and Heat Up. During ovulation (mid-cycle or so) progesterone levels peak. This can cause you to retain water (bloating) and increase your body temperature. So, hell yes we are irritable! If you are running in the heat during this time of the month, you should pay extra attention to hydration and to dressing even cooler than you normally would.

  • You Might Be a Speedy Rock Star Some Days. During the first 13 days of your cycle, estrogen is at its lowest. This means your body uses carbs as the primary fuel source. Typically, tempo and speed workouts will be stronger during this part of your cycle (because your body is quickly breaking down glycogen for fast energy).
  • Days 14-27 Might Feel Sluggish. On day 14, estrogen peaks and remains high until your period starts on day 28. Higher levels of estrogen mean that your body uses fat for fuel and is more efficient when running longer, slower distances. Speed or tempo work may feel more challenging during this time. (Read more info on how estrogen levels affect performance HERE). Heart rates may also be higher during this time.
  • You May Lose Fe (Iron): While in the midst of your period itself, you will be losing iron, because you are losing blood. This can lead to anemia, which causes fatigue. If you can’t kick the feeling of being tired, see your doctor and have your levels checked.
  • Things May Shift. Starting training or a new exercise regimen can change your cycle. This could be due to a lack of body fat (if you get under 12%, your periods can stop – amenorrhea). In addition, “Ghrelin, a hormone that may reduce secretion of other hormones that regulate menstrual function, tends to be higher in athletic women (source).”  If your period becomes very irregular, slows or stops completely, definitely see a doctor (and have a cheeseburger).

How to Minimize the Negative Effects of Your MC While Running

  • Keep It Up. First of all, don’t stop exercising during PMS or your period. If you have side effects such as cramping, back pain, nausea, nastiness and fatigue, running or exercise in general can decrease these conditions. This is because exercise increases blood flow and the release of endorphins, which can lessen physical symptoms as well as your f&%king depressed mood (source).

  • Write It Down. Keep a journal for a few months of your high energy vs. sluggish runs. See if you find a pattern and plan training intensities and races accordingly. Include heart rate stats if you can. Some people may want to plan to run longer races like marathons during the 14-27 day phase and shorter races during the 5-13 day phase given the way that their bodies use fuel during those times.
  • Try the Cup. If you are running a very long race and don’t want to carry a tampon or take the time to change it, consider a Diva Cup.  Great stocking stuffer!
  • Watch the Doritos. PMS symptoms are made worse if you eat a poor diet.  Be sure to ingest foods rich in magnesium, B-Complex and calcium – things like dairy, green leafy veggies, whole grains, nuts, fish, and beans.

  • Hide It. Wear dark colored tights or shorts while you run. Duh. Whoever invented white tights should be shot.
  • Prepare for the Worst. Many times GI distress accompanies a period. Know that you might feel the urge to fart, poop or vomit more while running. Plan accordingly.
  • Dress the Part. If all else fails, just embrace your inner period and run in a tampon costume (by the way, I wouldn't recommend Googling “tampon costumes.” Gross).

 

Seems the string is in the wrong place. Costume probably invented by a man.

{For a more scientific look at all of this, read Running Time’s “How Menstruation Affects Your Running”}.

Do you notice a difference in your running performance at certain times of the month?

What is your best tip for running while you have PMS or your period?

SUAR

PS: The winner of the ring from Sporty Girl Jewelry is #134 Alison. The rings are still for sale, so go HERE to get yours!

60 comments:

  1. During the week of my period, oy vey. Soreness, ickiness, legs made of lead. Nasty!!

    But I run anyway. My boobs may hate me, but they'll get over it.

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    1. They'll get over it. Awesome. Feel exactly the same way.

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  2. Thanks for the info and laughs...this explains a lot!

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  3. I used to have the most awful cramps during that time of the month...to the point where I had to lay in bed in the fetal position with a heating pad. Since I started running, cramps are a thing of the past...my period is now just an annoyance. I have even PR'd a hilly half marathon the day I started...

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  4. Very interesting information, thanks! BTW, is it just me, or is the string on the wrong end of that guy's tampon costume?!

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    1. Steph, I noticed the same thing. I am thinking it's so he doesn't step on the string. I wouldn't want to have to use one like that!

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    2. You are probably right - I have to think that if you are wearing a tampon costume, you are very likely inebriated and don't need the extra tripping hazard :) And "eek!" to the thought of a real tampon being engineered that way!

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  5. If I have bad cramps I run because it always helps shake things around. I'm going to be talking to my doctor about going on the pill so I can control when it comes around (ie: not the day before a big race). I have a few friends who have been doing this for several years with success. Obviously this isn't a good choice for everyone (hence the visit with my doctor).

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    1. Hi, I no this reply is late, but my daughter is an athlete and suffering heavy periods. Has the pill been ok for you? Has it effected your performance in anyway? She may have to go on it but worried about the side effects. Thankyou,

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  6. Love the costume, lmao! I can't wait to go through the change of life some months. I ran like a rock star for a week or so...until today...yep, ovulation. Today sucked. And it was 60* at dawn, after two weeks of 30-40* runs. I would've liked the extra heat then. Man am i hot right now...embarrassed, maybe...ovulating, definitely. Lol.

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  7. How on earth can a menstrual cup help you if you pee yourself??

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  8. OMG, when I read that I realized menopause isn't so bad after all.

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  9. Since this is SUAR, I don't feel that it is inappropriate to say that my, uh, bathroom problems are always worse the first couple days of my period. ::shakes fist:: Exacerbated by tampons that sometimes shift around and seem to, er, press on uncomfortable areas. It sucks. I also tend to have more joint pain and injury issues right around PMS time and first couple of days of cycle. Essentially my running hates my period. Except that it does seem to help with cramps. So it's a love-hate thing.

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  10. Just when I needed to read this you post. Been feeling like crap for this very reason! That Diva Cup thing scares me and I'll never try it!

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    1. Diva cup is AWESOME (awesome, I say) for swimming, because who love a sodden tampon? I don't love it for running, though. Shifts into uncomfortable places.

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    2. Don't knock it til you try it, Laurie. :) I love it for running, swimming... I don't use anything else during my period, and I've been using it for 6? 7? years? It's awesome. (I agree with Mollie on the awesomeness.)

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    3. I'm another DivaCup fan. I've been using it for two years now. I love it for all activities.

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  11. This is great info, never realized there was a correlation! This explains a weekend of crappy runs. Thanks SUAR!

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  12. I'm definitely a fan of the Diva Cup! Give it a try. Not only is it helpful for running, but many many reasons.

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  13. Great post!! I am so effected by my cycle and i can pinpoint every change in it! what the hell is a pee cup though,lol...never heard of it.

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  14. I keep track of mine BC I know I run so much faster/feel better days right after my period... I actually try and plan my big races to coordinate with that time of the month!

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  15. I was just thinking about this the other day. It's been uncanny how many races I've run this year that have coincided with the first couple of days of my period. It's inconvenient, but I'm beginning to wonder if I might end up having higher pain tolerance (with both menstrual cramps and running pain) as a result.

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  16. Thanks for posting, I think it's god to know how our bodies naturally react to our cycle.

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  17. I'm sorry, but if I got a Diva Cup for my Christmas present and it was that time of the month there would be blood shed - and it wouldn't be mine. Give me chocolates any day.

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  18. Random and gross: sometimes my period starts several days early at the end of a marathon. All that cramping has to do something. I've learned to run prepared!

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  19. It's weird how training affects my cycle. My period started a few days early this month right after a long hard run. The better shape I am in though, the less the symptoms of PMS and my period affect me.

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  20. I have noticed that my period always starts the day after a long hard run now...I'm glad because it's over before the next long run and I HATE running with a tampon in. I do notice all the cycle changes affect my runs though...the water retention makes me a bit sluggish and when my breasts are tender...ouch! I concur about running keeping the cramps away!

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  21. Fascinating stuff! I think I might keep a journal and see if I notice a pattern. I'm kind of a nerd like that.

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. No comments from the men? Apparently your male readers are smarter than I thought (just kidding!)
    Today was a pms run. I was slow as dirt and argued with my running partner (hubby) the entire time. Well, alternated between arguing and apologizing. He finally got a clue around mile 4... I didn't catch on until several hours later. Dang middle age! Lately, I never know when the pms monster is going to strike.

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  24. I had endometriosis and the Diva Cup was a Godsend for me. I loved it. I was a user of BC tampons before, so the ick factor didn't bother me. And to never have to worry about not having tampons. My cramps were less painful too.

    Had a hysterectomy four years ago and I got to keep my left ovary. I still have PMS, but without the red river.

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  25. I don't get periods anymore. I had a partial hysterectomy three years ago. The best thing I have ever done. EVER. I do get ovarian cysts that rupture every 2 months or so. Yesterday, I ran 13.1 with a ruptured cyst and I flipped the bird at said cyst with a 7 minute PR. I spent the rest of the day on the couch with my heating pad hopped up on prescribed pain meds.

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  26. I think running is the best remedy against PMS. I don't really notice how my period affects my running. Sometimes my runs are easy, and sometimes they're difficult. There doesn't seem to be a pattern.

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  27. Yeah, I'm kinda lucky bc I had a hysterectomy a few years ago so I don't have periods anymore but I still kinda do bc I still have my ovaries so I get all weird and hormonal but I just don't bleed....which can be very confusing for me bc I never know when to expect it. It helps when I sync with my best friend bc I can just ask her if we are on our period and then it explains my chocolate cravings and acne. LOL But yeah, I need to pay attention to how it affect my running.

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  28. I have been using a diva cup for 8 years and it is AWESOME. Even heaviest days, I don't neddvto empty it for 12 hours. And if you sports leak, it does put the right pressure somewhere to stop that.

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    1. I must ask an indelicate question. When you say "heaviest days", how heavy do you mean? I am going through 2 super-plus tampons every 90 minutes and would LOVE to have my life back.

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    2. I'm going to volunteer an answer- I used to use the big giant o.b. ones...the purple ones, and I'd go through those in about three hours. I can go 8 hours with my cup on those same days.

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  29. You forgot to mention that if you do a headstand during your period you will be fired from your yoga teaching job. I look into the DIVA cup. It looks cool.

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  30. Great, now I have to google tampon costumes:0

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  31. I pray monthly for a hysterectomy. I am miserable, and only want the world to go away. That being said, my son, my mother, my job, they all disagree with me, so I pull on my big girl panties and deal with it. But I keep begging my gyn for it every year! Only ten more years to go and I should be through with it.

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  32. I use the Instead cups and love em. Just like Diva cup but shorter time frame, and cheaper material so you can only wash and reuse them so many times. But they work great for runs.

    My problem is I get the bloat and the gas -I have to say it - period farts are the funniest.

    Espectially when running, you toot toot toot with each footfall. My poor husband is out-tooted during ttom.

    Also have to make woods breaks. Thank goddess I live in a rural area.

    Day before my period I am sluggish. But I do find that like, day two or three, I become a speed demon. AFTER the bloat goes.

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  33. Ack. The bloating and tender boobs and feeling like my gut is sticking WAAAAY out over my running shorts. And I crave all the junk I normally have no problem resisting. Which makes me feel worse.

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  34. Don't care for the cup - not much luck there. Running definitely helps with cramps, all the crankiness & bloated feelings.

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  35. I started using a Diva Cup about 6 months ago. Never going back. It takes a few cycles to really get used to it but I really like it.

    My workout schedule becomes more spotty (excuse the pun) when I'm on my period. I'm more likely to skip it if I'm on my period, but I've got to get over that.

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  36. I'm 42, and done having children, so I had an ablation done in my gyn's office. BEST THING EVER! No more periods! My hormones weren't affected by the surgery, so I have some PMS symptoms still, but they seem much, much milder, and not having to deal with actual menstruation is awesome!! My workouts are so much easier all around now!

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  37. So if you're 52 and still menstruating does none of this apply? :) Diva cup user. Headed into menopause until my girl child achieved menarche and that must have kicked started my hormones back into production. But since I'm 52 I'm guessing none of the post applies? :)

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  38. I have adductor tendinosis and high hamstring tendinosis and it seems they are made much worse at the start of and during my period...can't figure out exactly why yet. Running during this is impossible.

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  39. Just tried and did a review on the Instead Cup, which is like the Diva cup, but it fits differently, and personally I loved it! Can be left in for 12 hours, and couldn't notice it at all during my run. Here's my review for anyone interested - http://www.solanaleigh.com/2012/11/07/post-girls-reviewing-softcup/

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  40. haven't seen anyone mention this: with an IUD, you will likely not have a period. the insertion is not so fun, but five minutes of discomfort is so worth five years of no cycles, PMS symptoms, etc.

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  41. Just ran a half marathon this morning and my period started last night. It sucked. I took Immodium to make sure I didn't have "period diarrhea" (get it all the time). My stomach was crampy and uncomfortable. Everything hurt. My legs were achy once I hit mile 9. Had to add walk breaks in. I will go out of my way to not do a race at the start of my period. In general the first couples days, running or not, kill me.

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  42. Diva Cup? A great stocking stuffer?

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  43. I am trying to prepare for my first half marathon this Saturday. I think my period will start just then. Read about the Diva Cup. Sounds like a good idea. But what do you do with peeing? Do you have to change to a new cup? Any information helps. Thanks, Elephant.

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  44. can any one help me? i just ran my first half marathon. it was a struggle after mile 10.After i finished i headed to the hotel to shower, i noticed bleeding and thought i started my period, i had just finished 2 weeks prior.The bleeding only lasted a day. has this every happened to anyone?

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    1. That happens to me on occasion. The only difference is I only run a mile a day. I have no idea why.

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  45. I just ran a HM on the first day of my period. My stomach was shot! I nearly broke down crying because I could not find a port a potty (it was that bad). Thankfully this nice family let me use their bathroom. I would have died (or worse) otherwise.... But I know for a fact I can't do any PBs on my periods but I know I can run the distance and hope for the best. I get very very tired and dehydrated.

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  46. I'm dreading this one today but will get her done anyway! Great advice also! I'm just getting started running and need all the info I can find. Thanks!

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  47. I'm reading this now because I was wondering if I could run even with my period. So I think it's safe to say I can, right?? I mean, really no side effects? Haha I feel so ignoramus about this given that I just started running anyway. Lol

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  48. I am a runner and my mum always tells me to stop running while I'm on my period because it will negatively affect my uterus and will have problems in childbirth in the future (thats what she said). I know it's some sort of old wives' tale or something and I don't believe it because I haven't seen any scientific article about it but I can't stop worrying. I wouldn't stop running anyway.

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  49. There is no harm in running with your period......................................................

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