Athletics Magazine

How Your Period Affects Running

By Brisdon @shutuprun

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. How Your Period Affects Running

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.

How Your Period Affects Running

  • 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).

How Your Period Affects Running

  • 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.

How Your Period Affects Running

  • 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).

How Your Period Affects Running

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?


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!

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