Working Out On Your Period: The Dos And The Don'ts

If you’re a female runner, you likely have experienced it. It’s your time of the month and you are mid training. You’re feeling bloated, sluggish and like you would rather curl up with a bag of Cheetos and a Diet Coke than head out for a run. But should you give in to the cravings and lazy tendencies, or should you gut through the workout? There are definite advantages to working out on your period.

Why Work Out While Menstruating

For women who experience fatigue and mood swings while having their monthly cycle, working out may help alleviate that discomfort. In fact, regular exercise is known to decrease PMS symptoms for many women.

In addition to that, all of those natural endorphins that you get while you have your period can work as a natural painkiller to help you feel better. That same “high” you always get while working out becomes even more important while you are trying to work through your period pain, cramps and moodiness.

Obviously, this could work to your advantage in helping you to decrease overall irritability and help you to be more bearable to be around!

For women who have painful periods, exercise has alleviated some of that pain in some of them. Statistically, you have a great chance of feeling better after working out. Why not try and see if it works?

Is Running Good While On Your Period?

While it is important to give yourself a little grace if you are on your period and find yourself running a little slower than normal, you should not feel compelled to avoid running. In fact, many running greats have broken records and had amazing races while menstruating. Just because you feel a little lousy does not mean you should just throw in the towel.

working out when menstruating

First, many women report feeling a lot better once they get moving. Second, gradual and steady movement is a good way to work the kinks out no matter what your physical issue is.

Many experts advise you should listen to your body during your period, whether you are planning to run, weight lift or take a HIIT class. Chances are good that once you get moving, you may feel better and have more to give!

Is Working Out Harder On Your Period?

The swings in your hormones during your cycle can lead to fatigue, muscle aches, bloating and a general feeling of “yuck.” Your energy level will be at its lowest from the first day of your period moving forward. That is just one reason why you will feel sluggish and like your workout is requiring way more effort than normal.

Incidentally, you may also feel more sluggish than normal the week leading up to your period.

If you’re struggling with discomfort and feeling just “yuck,” you should consider easing up on the workout for a bit. This might mean lighter weights, shorter intervals, or less intensity. The point is if it feels a lot harder you might just want to ease up a bit.

Does Your Period Make You Run Slower?

Some women for sure slow down during their menstrual cycle. However, Uta Pippig won the Boston Marathon in 1996 with blood streaming down her legs. This sent a couple of clear messages to women everywhere:

1) You can power through menstrual pain.

2) Bleeding happens. Don’t sweat it.

Most women will find that their body responds better to a slower, easier type of run while having their period. Guess what? That is okay, Listen to your body. Running on your period does not have to suck!

Are Some Workouts Better During Your Period?

As you contemplate working out on your period, there do seem to be some workouts that are preferred. For example, cardio is often preferred to strength training. If you want to do strength training, perhaps focus on a light circuit rather than heavy weights.

running on your period

Those suffering from bad cramps may swap cycling for something requiring impact. Brisk walking is better than nothing so if that is all you are feeling, just do it! Yoga might be another option. Building flexibility is always a good thing so if you’re having a really hard day, maybe try that on for size!

Does Running Stop Your Period?

For some women, running can lead to amenorrhea, which is a ceasing of the menstrual cycle. It is not the actual running that causes it to stop. There is a mismatch between the energy they take in and the energy they expend. Some women can run “all the miles” without any problems with their menstrual cycle.

If you are fueling properly to compensate for all of the exercises you are doing, you can often keep your period intact. Some runners who favor a very low-fat diet find themselves without a cycle and can bring it back by adding fat to the diet. Common not just in runners but also in dancers, gymnasts and rowers, it is not only elite athletes who face this problem.

Does Amenorrhea Have Long Term Effects On Fertility?

Most of the evidence says no, it does not. There have been many documented cases of elite athletes, including runners, who have made changes to their training and diet in order to get their cycle to return. These women have successfully gone on to get pregnant, have children and raise a family.

Trainers advise young women athletes to seek out medical attention if they reach 15 years old and have not had their first period yet, just to make sure everything is okay.

Periods, Exercise And Making Choices That Work For You

Everyone has an opinion on athletes and periods. Some people will insist that if your period ceases to come because of how hard you are training, you have to change something. Others think that amenorrhea is just a byproduct of hard training.

Uta Pipig
Uta Pippig,

When referring to women who still menstruate, there are those who feel you need to take things easy during your cycle and those who feel you should just continue to hammer through your difficult workouts. After all: it’s just a natural part of life. Why slow down?

Truthfully, everybody is different. The beautiful thing is that it is your body and you get to choose what works for you. Happy running, friends.

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