Having a uterus and ultrarunning is generally pretty rad. There is nothing like running into some badass women in the woods, tearing up the trails and having a great time. We push each other to be better, dream bigger, run stronger. How many times have you been digging deep for the next internal power surge to arise and been inspired either by thinking of another woman runner, or witnessed within yourself that core sense of knowing you’ll rise to the occasion? We lift one another up in this sport. In the interest of elevating women in sports, let’s lift the mystique of that monthly visitor that can throw a bit of a wrench into an otherwise finely tuned machine. Periods run interference on even the best training schedules and can set you back a week or two at a time. Most of us are already balancing our running with career, family, and the odd (gasp) other pastimes besides running.
Raise your hand if any of the following scenarios sounds familiar. I know.
“I was packing the car up a few months ago to leave for an early morning race. I ran back in the house to pee only to find that Aunt Flo came by to wish me luck. The race was set to start in 2 hours. I thought she was coming on Tuesday!”
“I’m scheduled for a long run on the weekend, but have been bleeding and cramping for the past two days. My legs feel weak, my back hurts, and I would eat a Taco Bell Party Pack faster than a gaggle of teenaged boys right now. How can I cement the wherewithal to get 20 miles in bright and early? My 50K is 6 weeks.”
“Looking ahead at my race calendar, again I count the weeks to go: seven weeks until the next race. I have my period this week. It should be 8 more weeks until ‘that time of the month’, but it’s going to be a close call. Can’t I just plug it up and pretend it’s not happening??”
There are so many factors that affect our biggest days out there racing and training, and uterine behavior (or misbehavior) doesn’t need to be another big unknown. Getting a general sense of your cycle can empower you to do all the right things to guide your body toward training and racing strong, before, during, and after your period.
HERE COMES AUNT FLO: Running before period (Days 15-28 of cycle)
Hydration is key. There are a lot of hormones leaving the system during this time, and it can feel akin to a detox. For women who experience premenstrual headaches, be extra sure to keep those electrolytes balanced and the excretion (ahem, peeing and moving your bowels) humming along. If you’re up for it, a trip to the sauna or hot yoga class can aid with the processing.
Decreasing inflammation is also vital, particularly if you get bad cramps or have endometriosis. Focus on foods high in essential fatty acids, known for decreasing cramping and clotting, like olives and olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, fatty fish (like salmon, cod and halibut). Decrease coffee, alcohol, and limit sugar, as these amplify inflammatory pathways in the body.
SHARK WEEK: Running during period (Days 1-7 of cycle)
Use your discretion in determining when and how much to run. For some women, the increased circulation from exercise actually helps relieve cramping and clotting. For other women, running can cause more fatigue. Eat iron-rich foods: dark leafy greens, eggs, beets, poultry, and beef. Combining iron-rich foods with Vitamin C or foods high in Vitamin C (citrus, spinach, berries) will help your body absorb more iron naturally. Magnesium can also help a bunch. Epsom salt baths are great way to relieve muscular tension from cramping, low back pain, and leg pain.
GETTING OFF THE COTTON PONY: Running after period. (Days 7-14 of cycle)
Sleep is your buddy, and you’re likely to be feeling much better now that your body is resetting. Treat it to some daily nourishing blood-builders like spinach, black beans, dates, and carrots to stay on top of your game. Run strong, and tear it up out there, my friends!