So hoping this post may be useful to some people, but wanting to give some info on…*drum roll please*…..
Periods and running (woo…)
First things first it is good for you to run whilst on your period as it helps to ease cramps, release endorphins and helps you feel like more of a bad ass awesome runner!
But I understand that people have problems when it comes to running whilst on, or around mother nature time.
So here are the top tips that I can find for to help you through all the aches, pains and troubles:
Your body is losing extra fluids during the days of your period so it is important to try and drink a bit more water than you normally would and maybe keep some water on you. This can also help stop the feelings of sluggishness.
Stretch before hand
I know we should do this anyway, but it can really help to ease cramp pains. Stretching helps to warm up the body and stretch out muscles, all things that helps cramps to go away. I personally find a few abdominal stretches (belly stretches) or a few stomach exercises, such as sit ups, helps massively at times.
Can’t manage a warm up stretch or exercise beforehand? That’s fine, even just walking for a while as a warm up can help, and if the pain is real bad try using a heat pad or hot water bottle to warm it up for you. Just try to get out and run as it will generally help to make you feel better.
Lots of fruit and veg is recommended, this also helps to keep you hydrated. Iron rich foods can be good for you (let’s remember that you are losing blood) and can help to stop female runners from getting temporary anaemia.
Also for bloating apparently reducing salt intake can reduce bloating.
However, do be careful with this as salt is still needed for running, especially around the summer when it is hot and you are sweating a lot out as you need to keep your body topped up with electrolytes, especially if drinking more. You could always try getting your salt/ electrolyte top up through salt tablets rather than salty sodium rich foods, salt tablets are good for having all the range of salts (Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium) so not just Sodium.
I think an important thing for avoiding bloating is to avoid eating junk foods, which is tough. I find avoiding greasy foods helps me personally, and for chocolate cravings I try to reach for 60% dark chocolate which has Magnesium, as I can’t quite do super dark chocolate yet.
Don’t be afraid to reassess things
Sometimes you will just need to accept that you may need to change your running or race plans today, which sucks I know. This may just be cutting down on miles, effort levels (maybe a gentle run instead of a hard one), doing few reps on a training session. Just be flexible with your training and for races it’s okay if today that target is not going to happen, it happens, life happens, and that’s perfectly okay.
Dark bottoms is normally recommended in case of leakage.
More supportive bras for when breasts are feeling at their most tender.
Tummy hugging bottoms (ones with high waistbands) for helping with cramps.
Non tummy hugging bottoms (Waistband sits under the stomach, or is not too tight a fit) for when having tummy toilet needing troubles.
Keep track through apps
There are many apps that can help you to keep track of your period and help you to track the symptoms, tell you what is best for you to eat and do when. These apps are great and a good way to predict when you are due and at what stage of menstruation you are/ will be at.
Please note that this is a thing that will take time to work at its most effective for you as the apps will need to learn your data over a couple of months.
Also if you are a Garmin user I believe Garmin has a new feature that can help women to track their periods and to suggest to them whenever they should eat less salt etc.
You can find a link to a list of period tracker apps in the links section.
Always change to a new fresh sanitary towel, tampon, or maybe a pair of period pants. And cup users always empty that cup beforehand.
Always keep some form of emergency sanitary product on you if you can, especially for races, just have it permanently in a race bag. Running can sometimes encourage mother nature to hit a bit earlier, or to find something more to empty out after you think you are finished. Tampons are easy to hide, as are panty liners and can hide in running belts/ pockets, though I recommend you put them in a little zip lock bag still to keep the a bit safer from damage and sweat and is also good for putting bloody sanitary into if had to do an emergency change in a hedge. For cup users you can get collapsible cups, and with period pants they just look like pants.
Always try and change to a fresh towel/ tampon and change those sweaty pants if you can. This will help to keep your vagina’s pH level stable and stop the risks of discomfort, odour and thrush. Also maybe have a wipe with a baby wipe or specialist vaginal wipe.
Find what suits you for running:
There are many sanitary options out there and it can take some experimentation but here is some info that may help if you are having problems.
If you suffer from thrush or irritation when using a tampon or towel for running then maybe try using:
Reusable cotton sanitary towels which are less likely to cause irritability when sweating.
A menstrual cup which inserts like a tampon, and is made of silicone so has no fibre to get sweaty and cause irritability.
Period pants can be less irritable for some people than the meshy fibres of tampons and towels, and you can get active wear versions that are even better at wicking away sweat than other versions.
If you have a weak bladder or have had children:
Sanitary towels are essentially made of the same stuff as nappies so don’t be afraid of leaking into them a little, just make sure that you can change it at the end.
Period pants are super absorbent and can be a great safe bet, some are even designed with post pregnancy in mind, and you can normally get active wear versions for extra sweat wicking.
If you are a heavy bleeder:
Then I recommend doubling up on products being used for example, a tampon and a towel, a cup and a towel, a cup and period pants, a tampon and period pants.
Well done for making it this far! 😀
I hope that someone maybe finds this useful, I will try to update it if there is any new info or tips that comes my way (feel free to suggest and share tips).
Below is a list of links and products that may be useful for the things I have discussed above, as well as a quick bit of info onto how and why you can be affected whilst running on your period.
Thanks very much for reading and have a nice day 🙂
Maybe useful products, apps and links:
Saltstick caps- I have personally used before and find great
GoNutrion five essentials- I have never used before but are more afforddable
Some info and brands, I know a few people who use Modibodi
A list of period tracker apps
Garmin menstrual tracking – info and how to
Some info and brands – I personally use these and find them great for stopping irritability, but did take a bit of learning how to use.
For a collapsible cup there is the lily cup one by Intimina
How is my body affected?!
Your body is affected because your iron levels will have dropped in your body affecting your haemoglobin cells (blood cells that carry oxygen), this in turn makes it harder for your cells to carry oxygen around the body.
This means it can be harder to regulate breathing when running since it is harder to breathe and for oxygen to get around. Also since oxygen can’t get about so easily you can find it harder to move.
You may also experience a raise in body temperature as your brain and body gets it’s signals crossed and mess up what temperature you should be at. So be aware that it may be extra hard to run when it is hot, and depending what bit of your menstrual cycle you are on you may also sweat more or less than normal.
Your body will also go through stages where it has less glycogen, so less energy, which is great when you are going to run.
During something called the follicular phase (between 7-22 days into your cycle, occurs from the time you stop bleeding to ovulation) oestrogen levels rise causing your metabolism to use fat rather carbs to burn for energy. This may make sprinting harder but can mean running longer distances is easier. You may have seen that when it comes to insanely long distance ultra races women winning is not unknown. Women are generally better than men at metabolising fat which is why we can see women win when it comes to ultra running. So that’s pretty cool!