Your Menstrual Cycle and Running

Hello world! Yes, I am getting right out there today and talking about the joys of being a running lady. Sometimes we have to deal with that menstrual cycle and in all reality, we are always dealing with it whether it is that time of the month or not. Let's forgot about what if race day falls on that worst day ever. Been there, done that...more than I would want to but in all reality, it is out of our control although I must confess, I have told dear hubby once or twice he is lucky to be a man and not have to worry about this kind of stuff. I don't think he got it and probably dismissed me as being moody again, which I probably was. It all makes perfect sense.

But for years I was adamant to say my menstrual cycle didn't impact me or my performance one single bit. Let's call that denial. When you truly accept the facts in your life you can run with them better. There are things you can do, understand, and still get the PR you are dreaming about; however, don't beat yourself up as life is too short to get all worked up over things out of your control. Been there, done that too. It only accomplished making me more miserable. Learn from my mistakes, please. Thanks!

So in a nutshell, here is what is happening to us ladies on a monthly cycle. Yep, back to biology class we go!

Aloha Menses! Day 1 of our cycle. It can last 3-5 days, typically. Yep, I am going to assume we all have a 28 day cycle. Please note: if you have a heavy period your hemoglobin count may be decreasing making you lethargic. If you are really concerned, talk to your doctor about getting an iron check and to see if supplements are recommended. Please, don't diagnose yourself. You can have too much of a good thing.

Hello Follicular Phase! This is generally day 1 to day 14 of your cycle but I learned it can go up to 21 days. Oh the joys of an irregular and long cycle! Our estrogen levels are down there at rock bottom and we can feel achy and tired but don't fret, we begin to feel a bit energized around day 7 as our estrogen increases and peaks at day 14. Woo-hoo! But wait, if you have anxiety issues that boost in estrogen may make you a bit more anxious. 

Bonjour Luteal Phase! Here comes the final 14 days. Progesterone starts rising, estrogen drops (but it does have a second mini peak around day 23). Ladies, our bodies start getting warmer with the increase in progesterone and that bloated feeling? That is the progesterone causing fluid balance issues leading to water and electrolyte loss.

What does this all mean for running performance?

In the first few days of your cycle you may be weak (and perhaps have a lower hemoglobin count). Go out and run! But don't purposely schedule your hard workouts during these days and if you must do them, forgive yourself if you fall a wee bit short. Who knows, the effort may boost your hormone levels and make you feel good but honestly, listen to your body. Is it worth risking injury or burnout?

In addition at the end of your cycle, especially the days right before your period, you may experience your worse performance but don't fret, your performance should have rocked the boat mid-cycle when your estrogen levels were up.

Please also keep in mind that when our body temperature is raised due to progesterone, our thermostats are a bit off kilter. They don't work normally as we now have an increased threshold to dissipate heat. What all this means is, it is harder to run in the heat and you may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion. Please take care of yourself.

What can we do? Honestly, I listen to my body. If I feel sluggish I think about what I have done recently and the time of the month. Yes, I do get a heavy leg, sluggish feel as my period approaches but I have also PR'd a marathon on day 2 with a heavy period. Personally, I have noted that days 1 or 2 are a bit better than the days leading up to my period as long as my flow isn't extremely heavy. I also try to stay well hydrated every single day and take a women's multi-vitamin that does have some iron in it. And if I am hot and feeling unable to cool down, I slow my pace, cool myself down by pouring water on myself, or cut the run short if it is in my best interest. If it is a race, I would rather finish able to run tomorrow then to finish on a stretcher so yes, I have walked way more than I wanted to in a very hot marathon.

Daily Gratitude: I am thankful that I am getting more and more in tune with my body.

Daily Bible Verse: Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear. ~ 1 Peter 3:3

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