TMI – Periods & Running!

I had a few girls ask about periods and running. Their questions focused on the week before your period starts, cramping, racing, and just overall feeling blah and not wanting to do anything. I have experienced all of these things. Periods can be the WORST and PMS is very real. I’ll break this post into sections. First, let’s cover the week before we start our periods – AKA hell. : )
I can always tell I’m about to start my period because I get super grouchy, bloated, and crampy about a week/two weeks beforehand. During this time, I think my biggest struggle is feeling huge. The bloating is awful and I retain water like crazy. I just feel heavy, which isn’t great for running. A few things that help me during this week before are Tylenol, getting out and moving, taking an Epsom salt bath, and chocolate. I also have a pair of sweat pants that are about three sizes too big and I live in them the days before and after I start my period. They are baggy, so they aren’t tight on my stomach, and they’re super cozy and warm.
Next, let’s cover cramps. Ouch. I swear by my heating pad. I have a corn bag that I can heat up in the microwave and it is basically an extension of my body during the first two days of my period. After those first two days are over, I don’t typically get cramps again. At least not as terrible as those two days. My cramps used to make me double over in pain, so I’m glad that doesn’t last very long. I also take a lot of Tylenol and drink a ton of water. Staying hydrated definitely helps my cramps. Cramps are miserable and I wish they didn’t exist, but they do, so we just have to find ways to make them more bearable. Heating pad, Tylenol, and water for me!

I have shared excerpts from Roar, a book I read about women and training, on the regular blog posts, but I thought Dr. Sims had some really great things to say about periods and training. Here are her tips for dealing with cramps. I keep forgetting to try this, so I am saving this picture. I’m going to do these things next month!

This is the cover of her book. It’s super interesting. If you’re interested in learning more about women’s physiology and training and recovery, give it a read.
Let’s talk about racing while on your period. As much as I dread having my period for a race, I have actually had some of my best races while on my period! In Roar, Dr. Sims says our hormones are actually primed for racing when we are on our periods. See below.

I have literally driven to races with my heating bag on my stomach. Heat helps me SO much. When I was younger, I would wear those heating pads that attached to the inside of your underwear. I started my period when I was in 5th grade, and I had terrible cramps right away, so I would wear those to school under my clothes. They helped!

Also, we all know that we get nervous before races, which can send us sprinting to a Porta Potty. Well, if you’re like me and some of the gals I talked to, you also get the ‘period poops’. That’s not a scientific term, that’s just what I call them. Add that upset stomach to your already nervous stomach, and you could be spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Stay hydrated and give yourself some extra time before your race. You may need to visit a bathroom a few more times during your period than you normally do for a race – that’s normal! I also lower my caffeine intake – that seems to help a little, too. I have some friends who have the opposite happen to them – they get constipated during their period. If this is you, send me some tips for how you deal with it! I’d love to share them here. 

I definitely start to feel like a normal person again after my period starts. I feel crazy the last few days leading up to it. I think I could start crying if someone looked at me wrong. (I don’t just think that…it has happened…just trying to make myself feel better…)
Lastly, let’s talk about how to deal with the blahs and not having motivation to do anything. Man, this is a tough one. The day before I start and the first day of my period, I don’t ever want to to anything. I just went to lie on the couch in my big sweats with my heating pad and eat all the chocolate. Sometimes my cramps are so bad that I don’t have an appetite. Anyone else? I will say, if I can force myself to get up and get out the door, even for a walk, I feel a lot better. It’s the last thing I want to do, but I know it helps. Running really helps, but sometimes it seems impossible when your cramps are so bad. My biggest tip here – just try to get out and go on a walk. Give yourself some grace. It’s just one day. If you’re miserable and are able to take the day off from working out, do so. It won’t hinder your training. Also, know that you’re not alone! We all know that cramps suck. 

I like this quote from Roar, too. Don’t expect to hit paces or lift heavy those two weeks. Hormones play a big role in performance.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a Roar summary, but Dr. Sims has some great stuff to say! I hope you enjoyed reading her insights.
One last game changer for me – The Diva Cup. I shared all about it HERE, but I love it. No more tampons, which is amazing. This is only the second cycle I’ve used The Diva Cup, but I am sold on it. It’s so easy to use and it’s one less thing to worry about. 
I’d love to hear some of your tips for dealing with periods and life. I’ll add your tricks to this post!
Keep on keepin’ on, ladies! Happy Wednesday!
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