I have noticed a massive difference in my performance whilst on my period compared to any other time of the month. I firstly thought this might just be due to feeling off or under the weather or just having a negative attitude but I’ve done lot’s of reading in sports science magazines and online journals about the impact it can have on female runners. There are women who it really doesn’t make much difference to at all but if you’re like me and really suffer with heavy and painful periods you might struggle with training during yours.
At the start of running journey I was still donating blood but unfortunately donating blood AND running AND periods weren't compatible for me. Unbeknownst to me at the time I was iron deficient. This is quite common of women of childbearing age, with heavy periods and often goes undetected. The symptoms can be lethargy, paleness, shortness of breath. See NHS website for more information.
At the time of donating blood, I had given a donation and I then had a heavy period directly after it. Well my training times dropped like a stone. I had dropped nearly a minute a mile just by these two simple acts. I felt really weak. It took weeks of me plodding away on my training plan to get back to where I had been. I had to stop donating and when I did I felt better in my body. It wasn’t until much later when I discovered about my iron deficiency. Initially I was given a high dose of iron tablets but I now control with just eating far more meaty iron rich foods around my period. I sometimes can feel that lethargy creeping in but just try and eat more iron enriched foods.
My periods are very heavy and painful. Even premenstrual pain can sometimes be pretty unbearable akin to the initial labour pains I had, seriously. All I want to do is curl up in a ball with a hot water bottle but I can’t do that for a whole week. The things that work for me might not work for you but basically the best things I have learnt is to keep running. I don’t quit even on my heaviest days. Take paracetamol and ibuprofen when I have to and make sure I am more prepared than normal. By this I mean mentally prepared and physically. I will need to make sure am eating a decent amount of protein and carbs to be able to have the energy to run. Keeping hydrated is more important than normal too.
Racing whilst on your period
Have you ever planned a race and realised you are going to be on your period? Well this happened to me this year. Not only one race but pretty much all of mine. All 12 marathons scheduled to be 4 weekly apart and right on the due date of my period. I can cope with running an hour whilst on my period at its heaviest but not 4+ hours. Sorry to get into the finest details here but I must change pretty much every 1-2 hours. I have to use both tampax and pads on the first 3 days of my period too. This can’t happen during a marathon or half marathon. There is no way I am going to stop and queue for a loo break. Some of my races there aren’t even toilets (trail races). So, what to do? There is a drug you can get from your doctor called Norethisterone which delays your period. I asked my doctor for this and she had no trouble giving it to me for my races. She explained that I needed to take one tablet 3 times a day for 5 days before my period was due and this would delay my period. Continue to take Norethisterone for as long as you want to delay your period. As soon as you stop your period will start as normal within a couple of days. I’ve taken this a few times now this year and it’s worked exactly how she described it. It doesn’t reset your periods and they still come as normal. I haven’t had any side effects from it, which is brilliant as I used to suffer terribly from taking anything containing hormones (contraceptives). It’s working great for me and I can’t imagine having to suffer my period through a marathon.
Runners World discusses exactly how running affects which bit of your cycle in quite sciency detail.
If you’ve got 5 minutes to read a funny running blog about periods then this is for you: Running Blog