Confession: Secretly, I didn’t mind my ovarian issues because it meant running sans period for over 5 years! I mean does PMS effect affect running performance?
YES!! But maybe not the way you think.
Yes, it’s horrible and awful that I went through some crazy kind of menopause at 30….
But suddenly I no longer had to think about all the female crap that interrupted my running! The fatigue, the cramps, the moodiness, you know the infamous PMS.
Well as I noted a few months ago, suddenly after 5 years my period returned. And oh baby it came back in full force…which lead me to realize I haven’t talked about this ever on the blog!
My life is my work and you’re welcome.
Running During Your Period
Have you ever wondered if your great run or really crap one, could be directly related to your cycle?
First, let’s set aside that you can’t perform well on your period. In fact, you might be at your peak the day you start or shortly there after.
Case in point, Paula Radcliffe set her first marathon world record on her period.
Let’s look at the cycle and what might cause that:
The two key hormones are estrogen and progesterone.
Following the onset of menstruation, both hormones remain low for most of the first (follicular) menstrual phase, until a sharp spike in estrogen that precedes ovulation. During the second (luteal) menstrual phase, both hormones rise and progesterone takes over from estrogen as the dominant one. — Alex Hutchinson, Sweat Science
If you’re dealing with peri or post menopause running <<— you’ll want to read this.
Tips for running on your period
- Start tracking your symptoms monthly, so you know what to expect and aren’t surprised by an off run
- Continue to remind yourself that during your period you may not feel great, but can perform
- Shift your training schedule around those low and high days so you can maximize your training
- Ensure that a few days prior to starting you are taking high quality fish oil and magnesium, this will help with cramps and inflammation
- Utilize tools like a very low dose melatonin or cherry juice to improve sleep in the days before you start your period, which will make you feel better during
How Running Changes During Your Cycle
Now let’s better understand how your period impact your performance the day of, before, after and well all month long. Once you better understand this, training is a lot more fun.
Suddenly you aren’t berating yourself for a bad day because you understand it was hormones!
- Best runs: Could actually happen as your period starts and through the first week or two after
- Worst runs: Likely in the final days prior to your period beginning
- BUT as noted, you can figure out how to run through all of it and benefit from showing up regardless
Mid-Cycle: Hormones are peaking
Estrogen is highest right around the mid-point of your cycle and can give you a boost in distance running because the body begins utilizing more fat than carbs for energy.
Additionally, progestorone is highest in the middle of your cycle, which raises your body temperature.
I feel like this explains my night sweats, but more importantly explains why sometimes you feel like you’re overheating on a run! The hotter you feel, the higher your heart rate goes and usually the harder the effort will feel.
A few ways you might see this play out:
- Decreased thirst, so you take in fewer fluids (not good)
- Increased core temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius, making it harder to cool down (higher HR)
- Increased blood vessel vasodilation, which results in greater heat absorption when exercising in the heat
- Decrease in blood plasma volume by 8%, so your blood is less efficient at delivering oxygen and nutrients and clearing lactic acid (higher HR)
- Increased sodium losses because progesterone competes with aldosterone (get on those electrolytes!)
- Increased muscle breakdown (see below for how to mitigate this)
Muscle Breakdown from Estrogen
We know that distance runners have to stay on top of nutrition to maintain muscle, but your cycle plays an even bigger impact on this.
Estrogen and progesterone are catabolic, which means they increase muscle breakdown.
Maintaining a high enough protein intake will help with production of serotonin and melatonin, meaning you’ll sleep better and be less moody on your period.
It’s recommended, during that last 10 days prior to starting your period to consume 25 – 35 grams of high-quality protein within 30 minutes of exercise.
Last Two Weeks of Your Cycle
You’ll want to plan your easiest workouts in the 3-4 days prior to starting your period.
As your hormones continue to increase, during the last two weeks of your cycle, it may become harder to breathe.
Your phrenic nerve, located in the neck, becomes activated and this triggers the diaphragm thus speeding up your breathing.
- Perception of effort increases
- Breathing feels more difficult
- Fatigue tends to increase
“Progesterone stimulates ventilation independent of the intensity of the run, which can increase the perception of effort since runners typically link their perception of effort to how much they’re breathing,” according to Dr. Jason Karp.
Dr. Jason Karp dives more in to all the things women runners need to know around their hormones in Running for Women, definitely check it out!Your cycle could be behind both your GREAT and your AWFUL runs, find out more! #runchat #letstalkpms Click To Tweet
Running On Your Period
One of the biggest issues that crops up at this point is that blood loss can cause iron deficiency issues for some women.
This contributes to the feelings of fatigue.
Checkout this post on iron deficiency in runners for tons of ideas to help combat this and to see if it’s part of what’s holding back your progress.
Beyond that, we know that cramps and fatigue happen so let’s talk through some ideas to help.
How to Run On Your Period?
It’s happened to all of us at some point. We have a run planned, but find ourselves curled up in the fetal position instead pondering how we’ll ever move again, let alone run.
The good news is that there are a number of natural PMS relief tools you can implement to keep running because as we know consistency is a key to results!
Take a Nap or Sleep Late
Umm yes counter to what I just said about moving, you also need to not move more! Your body is doing extra work and requires extra sleep during this time.
Checkout my tips for natural sleep aids, if this time of the month happens to throw you off.
Use CBD Cream
When my cramps hit me hard a few months ago, I pulled out my CBD sports cream and lathered it on because what did I have to lose?!
It friggin worked and now I don’t hesitate to get that menthol smell going as soon as I feel them coming and especially prior to any run during my period for extra relief.
I know it sounds horrific, but it’s true the movement actually helps muscles to relax.
It makes sense, movement increases blood flow throughout the body, which brings in oxygen to reduce cramps. It can indeed also simply work as a distraction…play the I will just go for 5 minutes game and then see how you feel.
Enjoy a Detox Bath
I love a hot soak, checkout this recipe for a homemade detox bath.
It’s a great way to relax your muscles, help with fluid retention and ya know…sweat it out. I’m not sure that helps with PMS, but the relaxing sure does. Additionally, the magnesium, will get things flowing so if you’re feeling constipated this a go to.
I wrote in depth about how runners need magnesium, but it becomes even more important during this time.
As noted above, it both helps to ensure your relaxed, reduced cramps and helps with getting the bowels moving. Sorry, I know that’s not the most glamours thing to talk about.
All my tips and recommendations for magnesium and how much athletes need >>
What helps with PMS mood swings??
Honestly, I’ve never found anything that worked as quickly for me as the natural product called Jayde. Which is no longer in production and I legit emailed the company repeatedly asking if it would come back or if they had other recommendations.
However, it’s pretty easy to replicate and I have indeed done it:
- Turmeric pills – my go to for all things anti-inflammatory
- Digestive Enzyme – yup, it helps your stomach
- Boswellia extract – an anti-inflammatory often used for cramps
Of course one of the keys for me is that it’s a natural herbal remedy.
I’ve found that NSAIDs or other anti-inflammatory drugs make me feel sleepy, lethargic or of course as a runner are bad for your kidneys to take prior running. None of that happens here, I just feel better!
The right foods can absolutely help with PMS! Of course we’re all craving chocolate and that’s just fine, but if you can fill up with a few other things you’ll help mitigate things! The goal is to go higher in iron and B vitamins.
- Lemon water
Here’s a fun smoothie recipe putting it all together >>Essential Oils
Yup, I’m totally a fan of essential oils now and I’ve shared before how you can use essential oils to improve athletic performance, but here we’re talking about relief!!!
Lavender and peppermint have the biggest boost to help both with mood, cramps and headaches. Combine to dab on your neck or sniff on the wrist.8 Natural PMS Remedies to kick cramps, moodiness, headaches and more! #letstalkpms Click To Tweet
Just like putting a hot compress on the neck helps you to relax, sipping hot tea can also work towards relaxing the entire body.
Ginger tea will help with stomach pains, Chamomile helps with relaxation and peppermint is also known for digestion/relaxation.
Do you notice changes in your training around your cycle?
Do you have any natural remedies to share?
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