Does the thought of running on period make you retire the running shoes in the closet? In case you’re worried about how periods may affect your running routine, then you’re not the only one. For many reasons, women skip exercise during their periods. But there is no reason to not do exercises such as running because you are having your periods. Exercising, especially running on your period is actually good for you.
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Sticking with a routine of running may actually help in easing some of your complaints that accompany menstruation. Running on period may help to elevate your mood by releasing endorphins, as well as relieve cramps and back pain associated with periods.
How menstrual cycle affects your running
The menstrual cycle in women is 28 days on average. In this case, the ovulation takes place approximately on day 14 of the menstrual cycle. The first half of the menstrual cycle is the follicular phase while the second half of the cycle is the luteal phase.
The follicular phase starts with the onset of your periods and lasts for approximately 14 days (it may last for 11-21 days). Following menses that last for 2 to 7 days, there is a rise in the level of estrogen and it peaks on day 14 just before ovulation. Then a surge in the luteinizing hormone occurs, initiating the ovulation. The levels of progesterone hormone remain low during this phase.
During the luteal phase that always lasts for 14 days, there is a rise in the levels of progesterone. After ovulation, the estrogen levels drop. If there is no fertilization of the egg, the levels of both progesterone and estrogen reduce abruptly. The luteal phase terminates with the start of menstruation and the cycle begins all over again.
If you experience heavy bleeding during menses, then the hemoglobin concentration of your blood may decrease. This may negatively impact your blood’s ability to carry oxygen.
Many women runners may develop athletic anemia (a condition in which the iron levels of the blood become low as a result of physical activity).
The body temperature changes throughout your menstrual cycle. It peaks during the luteal phase of the cycle in response to the increase in progesterone. A raised temperature of your body increases the threshold for heat dissipation. It implies that your body should reach a higher temperature before the temperature control center signals the body to cool itself. This is not good if you are running in hot and humid weather as the cooling response of your body should start as soon as possible in these conditions. The temperature of your body is lower during the follicular phase in which the levels of estrogen are higher.
The increased temperature of your body during the luteal phase may remain elevated while exercising especially in hot weather. This may make it difficult to run during this phase particularly in the heat, as you will not start sweating to cool down until your body has reached a higher temperature. The increased temperature of the body during the luteal phase may also increase your risk of developing issues related to heat such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. But training may enhance your capacity to regulate your body temperature.
The effect of variations in the menstrual phase on your running performance may be due to changes in exercise metabolism that is stimulated by fluctuations in the concentrations of the progesterone and the estrogen hormones. Estrogen may enhance your endurance performance by altering the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and progesterone may act antagonistically to estrogen. Estrogen provides the fuel during exercise of short duration.
The quantity of glycogen that is stored in the skeletal muscles influences your capability to run for a long time and fatigue may occur due to depletion of glycogen. According to studies, muscle glycogen is highest in the mid-luteal phase while it is the lowest in the mid-follicular phase. As a runner, you may increase your muscle glycogen content in the follicular phase of your cycle by having a diet high in carbohydrates.
Every woman is, of course, unique, and each one feels different in various phases of the menstrual cycle. That’s why the duration and intensity of each training should be determined individually, depending on how you feel at the moment.
In any case, it’s better to reconsider your usual cardio routine during periods. If you’re experiencing a heavy menstrual flow or cramps, it would be better to abstain from running during menstruation altogether.
However, if you feel ready — go for it! But be careful about your workload and stay hydrated.
The mental and physical health benefits of running don’t stop because you are menstruating. In fact, running on your period may actually relieve some of the complaints, which accompany menstruation.
The benefits of running on period are as follows:
- It releases natural endorphins: one of the benefits of running on period is that it may release your natural endorphins, which help in elevating your mood and making you feel better. Endorphins act as a natural painkiller; hence, when they are released while running on period, you may get relief from pain and discomfort.
- It improves your mood: running on your period may help in improving your mood and increasing blood circulation.
Some tips for running on your period are as follows:
Staying hydrated is always important while running. But it becomes even more important if you are running on period as you lose extra fluids at that time and may become dehydrated.
You should take in 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during your runs.
Don’t overdo it
Don’t overdo running on your period and make sure that you rest well. Get plenty of sleep and take at least one rest day per week so that your body restores before you run again.
Perform dynamic stretches before your run as they may help you to warm up for cardio training. It may also help in relieving period cramps.
Invite someone to join you
Invite a friend, a colleague, or a relative to join you while running on period. Running with other people may make it a fun event; it also keeps you accountable for the activity even when you are having your period.
Complete running on period with a diet
Eat a healthy diet while running on your period. Make sure that you include lots of fresh and whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. This is important as your body should get all the essential nutrients to keep running without any hindrance. Furthermore, eating a healthy diet and limiting your intake of salt may reduce your symptoms of bloating during periods.
Plan your hygiene in advance
Plan your period hygiene in advance. Choose the right products, which help you, feel more comfortable and are meant for running on period. There are products available in the market, which are made for women who want to stay active during their periods.
While running on your period, let the body breathe naturally. Don’t breathe only through the nose as this may restrict your breathing and may limit the quantity of oxygen you inhale. Breathing through your mouth along with the nose may increase your intake of oxygen.
Many women skip their exercise routine during periods due to many reasons. But, exercising particularly running on periods is actually good for you. There are many benefits of running on your periods. It may help to release natural endorphins, improve your mood and tackle painful periods. Following some tips while running on periods may actually make it an activity that you will not dread. These tips include staying hydrated, taking plenty of rest, doing stretching before a run, running with a friend, eating a healthy diet, planning your period hygiene in advance and breathing naturally through both your mouth and your nose.