Once Upon A Time…
It was my leg day when period arrived but I still decided to go to the gym to see how I go. My mother always used to say that I need to rest when this day of the month arrives. I always trusted her opinion on it and would stay as passive as I could for about a week. You know how it happens. I must admit though that I had abnormal period pain when I was about 10 years old which was the result of certain health issues I had at the time. In this case the only option for me was to remain in bed for the entire menstruation cycle. To be honest, back then I had such an intense pain that I would scream and cry for the first 3-4 days of my period (considering that I used to have 9-12 days of period instead of usual 4-6 days) As soon as the cause of this nightmare was fixed, my sufferings were gone. However I was still used to the taught routine of staying in the horizontal position when menstruation starts, for at least couple of days. My mother would not allow me to exercise anyway.
Now when I am a grown up (or at least I like to think so 🙂 ), I decided to find out whether training during period is bad for you. How great my surprise was when I discovered that it is in fact good for you – to stay active during bloody times 🙂 I went on the Internet to ask people and read articles about the matter. I was approaching this topic with tabula rasa [meaning blank slate in Latin, is the epistemological theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content ] really, only knowing what my mother taught me, suspecting it was an outdated data. I did not go through tones of scientific work or students’ thesis. I in fact decided to go with quantity. I found so many articles stating that training during period is beneficial that I just had to believe it.
To start with, personally although my period now is far from the horror when I first had it, it is still pretty intense. I always take a day off training (which we are meant to have during a week anyway) or sometimes two to enjoy laziness of the painful day. I personally become highly irritable by anything, often swallowing tones of painkillers, crawled under the blanket sometimes crying or simply whinging during period. It is not always that awful but most of my “girls days” of the month are not the days you want to be around me. This time, however I trained on the very first day of the pain and decided to take a day off on the second day to chill and research if exercise and menstruating can be combined.
I am ware that for many people and especially for some athletes bleeding is such a burden that they take birth control pills in order to stop period happening at all. I considered this option and thought about it a lot however I am not the biggest fan of constant retention of chemicals in my body. So what happens during period and shall we carry on training?
Some Bloody Facts…
Now, Turkish researchers surveyed 241 elite athletes to see if menstrual cycle affects their performance and how if it does. While nearly three out of four women said they felt worse just before menstruation, 63 percent said that their pain decreased during training and competition and 62.2 percent said that they believed their performance was just as good when they had their period as other times of the month. This research makes me feel that it is really fifty fifty for everyone. I am aware that we all are very different physically and mentally. For some people period pain is not really a hassle wheres others (including me) want to crawl under a kitchen stove and die silently.
On other hand, a West Virginia University study found that female runners performed equally well whether tested during the first half or second half of their menstrual cycles. However, Timothy E. Hewett, Ph.D., director of the Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Foundation says that our motor control during menstruation is poorer which might easily result in anything from letting your knee collapse inward when you land to letting your quads do all the work instead of involving the hamstrings and glutes. Although this sounds very disproving of running during period, the same researcher claims that people can actually be taught how to reduce the risk of injuries during these weaker days.
Additionally, many researches say that exercise can reduce PMS symptoms and serve pains which in fact should become a motivation to workout even when one does not feel like it as we all know how awful does it feel to menstruate. However they all talk about aerobic exercise including walking, light running or jogging, dancing, yoga or planking. However Chrisalbeth J. Guillermo, MPH, a researcher from the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas found that regardless of what phase of menstrual cycle women were, they would still maintain the level of exercise they kept throughout their cycle. They, in fact would go to the gym and exercise regardless of whether they were menstruating or not. Well, I assume it includes resistance training as well as aerobics.
All of the sources I went through agreed on the same view – it is in fact good for you to exercise while menstruating simply because it boosts the depressed mood, decreases stomach cramps and improves overall energy level. Good news hey! 🙂
Well after reading so many articles on the topic I was persuaded that I shall not stop training when on period BUT let’s not forget every woman is different, and the way the woman’s body handles the menstrual cycle will be unique hence different from one another. Some women tend to bleed more heavily, and doing exercise can cause the bleeding to worsen which none of us want of course. Women that only bleed lightly may find that regular exercise can actually help to alleviate cramps and shorten the length of their cycle. How we handle exercise while on period is entirely up to each of us. My advice and I am not alone – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, it will tell you what to do. I am aware that some people might “listen” to their body and over-analyse what they feel using “pain” as an excuse not to exercise. Well, do not forget it is a personal choice and I believe must be respected whatever it is 🙂 As for myself, I will probably stick to 1-2 days off during period IF I feel like killing myself. BUT if the pain is not that excruciating but the mood is definitely down to ponit-kill-yourself, I am packing my gym bag 🙂
Another great advice I found was refraining from anything that causes your legs or hips to rise over your head. It is believed that inverting the body works against the natural flow of the menstrual cycle, creating discord in the body. So I guess having a leg plus abs day with getting my legs up in the air on the first day of my period was not the greatest move of mine.
When menstruating it is advised to stick with a lower intensity exercise while many others believe that period should not slow the fitness routine down. Again, your body knows the best here. Yoga and walking are one of the advised activities which I might take aboard instead of carrying on sweating my ass off in the gym or stay in bed feeling miserable 🙂
For Hard Corers…
As mentioned earlier all the articles I have read where talking about moderate training and period. So I carried on looking for some information on a slightly more hard core training during period. Well, when talking about bodybuilding, for example apparently we need to take metabolic rate under consideration because period affects it. Interestingly, we burn calories faster during our cycle than at all other times throughout the month. Researchers measure increases in total energy expenditure of 2.5 to 11% during this time. If it does not seem to be a lot, it IS in fact if you are training and dieting well. Now, for everyone out there working on their flat stomach, one of the biggest cycle-related complaints is bloating. Remember that it’s not abnormal at all for women to take on 5 to 10 extra pounds of water during their cycle.
However it is frustrating and we all know that feeling. While bloating is normal and hard to avoid, you might try the following: avoid salty foods, drink more water than usual, sip some herbal tea & season your foods with oregano. Again if training and dieting throughout the entire time is good, these little tips might make a big difference. Talk to yourself! I find it helpful when I know I am about to step in the moody time of the month. I try to rationalise my feelings knowing the stress I am under is only temporal and is only a result of a natural process ALL women go through. Some days are more successful than others but it is fine 🙂
Since during period we are dealing with increased bloating staying strict with diet might become a little harder. If there’s one time of the month for a break, well, this would be it. Chill now! Since we are burning up calories at a slightly elevated rate during period, the extra calories will stand a lower chance of being deposited as body fat.
Now when the period is over, our bodies are less sensitive to pain so it is in fact the perfect time to smash it harder! Thus, interestingly, period is not an obstacle of anyone’s fitness routine; however I prefer to take it easier during the beginning of it. Drink more water, rest and listen to your body, while carrying on with your diet and everything will be just great! STAY ACTIVE!