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Women’s running: running challenges during your menstrual cycle

Women's running: running during your menstrual cycleFor many women, running during our period is difficult. We feel bloated, zapped of energy, and may have painful cramp – especially in the early days of our cycle. All of these symptoms pile up and don’t make us feel much like running at all.

But we need look no further than at Uta Pippig‘s 1996 Boston Marathon finish photo to see that we can achieve greatness no matter where we fall in our cycles.

And that’s truly the thing to remember: Our periods don’t impact our ability to train and shouldn’t be used an excuse to blow off tough workouts. Still, the symptoms associated can make things, for lack of better words, unpleasant. The following are some common complaints related to menstruation and sources of relief that will help you running strong all month long.

  • Overheating: During ovulation (which falls mid-cycle), progesterone levels peak in the body. This can cause water retention (bloating) and also increase body temperature, which may not seem like such a big deal. However, if you are running in the heat of summer (or in a hot gym) during this time of the month, be sure to give extra attention to hydration and to dressing even cooler than you normally would. As well, progesterone can cause your body to lose water and electrolytes, so make sure you’re choosing smart coolers that replenish those stores. (Related: Tasty Ways To Get Your Water In)
  • Flow: If your flow is particularly heavy, sometimes impact exercises can exacerbate the problem, creating even – yes – heavier flow. If you think this is you and it’s bothersome, consider switching some of your cross-training days (swimming, cycling, etc.) with your runs and shifting more demanding workouts until later in the week. Note: If you are soaking through pads or tampons in an hour for several hours, passing many blood clots, or showing signs of tiredness, fatigue or shortness of breath – see your doctor. There’s a condition called Menorrhagia which can lead to iron deficiency anemia, and there might be a treatment program that can help you get back to your favorite activities.
  • Cramps: As if we don’t have to deal with enough muscle cramping, menstrual cramps can range from mild to the extreme. The good news is that running releases endorphins, which may actually help aid with pain relief, acting as a sort of natural painkiller of sorts. Running also increases pelvic circulation and helps clear out prostaglandins. Though tampons are certainly easier and preferable to sanitary pads while running, they can sometimes make cramps worse. Some women find menstrual cups more comfortable, all while being totally reliable during strenuous activity.
  • Fatigue: Though all women experience different challenges related to their cycles, tiredness is a common complaint. The root cause isn’t as simple as needing more rest, but – instead – the result of all that blood flowing from the body. You can do your best to keep the rest of your energy up by eating small meals throughout the day and favoring protein over simple carbs. And if your tiredness prompts you to skip workouts, try warming up with a walk or slow jog to see if the movement changes you mind. Often all you need is some time on your feet to get going.

Do you have any tips to share related to running during that time of the month?

Written by Ashley Marcin.