Welcome to my 2nd edition of Oversharing… Sorry dude readers..this one’s for the girls. Running and your period: This is a topic I have been wanting to write about for a very, very long time. The question of MY period happens to come up quite frequently in conversation. People are curious: “Do you still get your period even though you run all those miles a week”? And as much some ‘overly personal’ questions bother me, this one actually doesn’t. I have always been an advocate for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight and am all for sharing my story with fellow runners.
As a distance runner (and maybe someday an elite runner?), I know that running can affect my period. Adding the extra mileage during training season can lead to an athlete completely losing her period(amenorrhea) or even an irregular cycle. To truly understand how running and your period can go hand in hand, you have to understand the menses:
While an uncomfortable and typically taboo topic for most men and some women, it’s something that every woman runner needs to take into consideration when planning a training schedule and understanding running performance. And in order to grasp the important differences occurring during the phases, one has to first understand the menstruation cycle. The first day of the cycle is the first day of menses. Bleeding is usually complete by day 5 or 7. Days 1-14 are called the follicular phase. By day 14 or 15, ovulation begins with a surge in estrogen and lutenizing hormone. The following phase lasts until the last day (28 on average) and is called the luteal phase. During this phase estrogen is at its highest triggering several interesting changes, many of which hinder performance
Many running articles focus on endurance female athletes with a heavy training load experiencing ammenoheric or irregular cycle issues. The research findings on the effects of a regular menstrual cycle, on average testing women ages 20-35, vary widely thanks in part to the rollercoaster of hormones.Source
How it affects the runner’s body.
Let’s face it: Having your period can be a total drag…Saturday was my long run. I was sluggish. Legs of lead. Uggghhhh……and all thanks to PMS. Running while pms-ing is TOUGH. Anybody with me ladies??? Let’s talk about this shall we?
1. The bloating and the cramping. The swelling. How nothing fits as it should. It’s just lovely how our bodies swell, heat up, and retain water. Be a dear and Roll me down the street to finish my miles now would you?
2. And the MOOD swings…. I’m Grumpier than Grumpy. Sometimes I am elated. Sometimes I’m sad.. Not to mention feeling Dopey for having eaten
all the food that salty snack. Ok two snacks. Ok, for real the whole bag of Goldfish. (((Sigh-they were buffalo flavored can you blame me??))) Nobody likes their emotions being so extreme that you feel like all seven of the dwarves…all at once.
3. The need to pee happens every ten seconds. Ok, well, maybe not THAT Much …But it’s a lot. And it’s annoying
4. And the need to use the bathroom…NOW. Being out on the road and needing a place to do ya biznesss ain’t easy friends. It ain’t easy at all. This is amplified while on your period. If there is no one to pick you up…it sure makes for an awkward walk home.
5. How it slows me down. Somedays, I am Speedy Gonzalez, but when I have my period I might as well be Myrtle the turtle. On Saturday, I felt sooooo slow and couldn’t figure out WHY…and that never makes me happy! (Grumpy strikes AGAIN) it certainly puts some bad running days into perspective. I am willing to bet that all of my best races have fallen on the first 13 days of my cycle and not the latter days. It also explains the quality of one run verses another. How odd to have it finally make sense- I wish I had researched this info sooner!
Tips for getting through it:
1. Run anyway. Honestly I will feel like a lump on a log, yet I will nevertheless push myself out the door. It always helps to reduce my cramps, honest. Regular exercise is proven to help you handle your period better. Plus, training through your period makes you stronger: imagine if you have your period on marathon morning? Are you NOT going to run? (this has happened to me for two different marathons. I sucked it up and ran through it.)
2. Pay attention to your diet. lots of fruits and veggies don’t always sound as good as that bag of goldfish (they were so good) but I guarantee it will help you come cramp time. Unhealthy eating=the worst cramps EVER for me.
3. Look back at the runs you’ve done. If you keep a log of your running or use an app (I use runkeeper and my garmin)you can check your times and see if you were sluggish or on fire during certain parts of your cycle. I have an app for both my period (IP Free) and running and I can toggle back and forth easily to view and match it up. The geek in me loves to fact check and compare!
I have never lost my period. Even though I run…a lot… I definitely maintain a healthy diet: this is one of the keys. When I am in “beast mode” of my training (aka-now)I run an average of 60 miles a week. I have always, always worried about losing it: yet I still manage to never miss a cycle. I actually get a little excited when I get it because I know that I am doing a good job maintaining a healthy diet (oversharing a little? Maybe).
Amenorrhea is an issue that is striking many young athletes. A lot of factors play into it: disordered eating, over exercising, running TOO much and not eating enough calories: Basically, to break it down: you are too underweight to get your period (I hope the warning bells sound if this ever happens to you!) and your body doesn’t have enough estrogen to ovulate.
Although you may consider amenorrhea a desirable benefit of exercise because you no longer have the hassles of monthly periods, amenorrhea can lead to medical problems:
-a 2 to 4 times higher incidence of stress fractures that can hinder your ability to exercise.
-premature osteoporosis that weakens your bone health today and can easily get worse with aging. “
If you find yourself in a situation that you are NO longer getting your period, you should be going to your doctor to check it out. The reproductive system is one of the first things to shut down when the body isn’t getting the right stuff in it: And even though the thought of avoiding the monthly bloat and sluggishness MIGHT sound cool…its really not worth it. Our bodies are the tools we use to run hard, be fast, get stronger. We MUST protect them at all costs. Your body is imperative to your training…why not take better care of it??
Has this happened to anyone you know? Please share away, I know i’m not the only one who worries about all of this stuff!
How many miles do you run a week?
Run free, Run STRONG!