So, can it be done? Are periods and sports star-crossed lovers, doomed to be apart, or is there a way the pair can live side-by-side?
Can You Play Sports When On Your Period?
The short answer: yes! It’s even encouraged, as working out while on your period has many health benefits that help combat some of the symptoms of the natural process happ
Did you know that exercise releases endorphins? The body’s very own antidepressants, and painkillers. It’s difficult getting yourself moving when plagued by painful cramps but working out will make them subside. Magic, right?
The period hacks for sports don’t end there. Exercising regularly helps regulate your cycle and reduce your flow. Lighter, predictable periods? Yes, please!
In short, exercise is the key to unlocking your body’s own pharmacy. It’s good to play sports while on your period. If you take anything away from this article, though, it should be this: the best exercise to do is what you feel like doing. There are no rules about what is and isn’t allowed when on your period. There’s no such thing as cheating.
That being said, you may want to reduce the intensity of your workouts, particularly during those heavy-flow days. If your body starts to object, dial it down until you receive the all-clear.
How Do Sportswomen Manage Periods?
You may have wondered how elite sportswomen continue to show up and come through with the risk of a surprise period hanging over them. Does their period magically fall on their days off? Perhaps it’s never occurred to you before, and now you, too, are wondering how on earth they manage.
Lots of women clue their coaches and trainers in on their cycle. Monitoring players’ cycles mean training schedules can be adapted accordingly. As you can imagine, negotiating with a dozen people’s cycles is pretty impossible, but a compromise can be found.
Communication with the rest of the team is key. Sometimes, someone listening to your vents or passing a blind eye when you’re a bit irritable is all you need.
As for the cramps, lots of athletes use over-the-counter or prescription meds to keep their bodies in check.
Even professional athletes miss the odd match or training session because of their periods, so don’t feel guilty about needing to sit out of P.E every once in a while!
How Do You Play Sports During Your Period?
- Use a tracking app. This is a great way to record what exercise you enjoy doing at each part of your cycle. Tracking apps tell you when you’re due, so you won’t get caught unawares (removing a lot of stress in itself!). They often have tips and info-bites for each stage of your cycle, helping you understand what the heck is going on.
- Change up your period products as your flow changes. Different things will be more comfortable at different times. Again, experiment until you find what works for you - we recommend sustainable products such as reusable period pants or a menstrual cup.
- Maintain a good diet and stay hydrated. As you bleed, your body is losing a lot of fluid, so it’s paramount that you replenish. Eat slow-release carbs to keep you going through the day, with the odd high-energy food (e.g. fruit, nuts) to get over that energy slump. A balanced diet will boost your mood and keep everything ticking along smoothly. (Psst – a bit of comfort food is allowed too!)
- Share with your teammates. A problem shared is a problem halved. Odds are, plenty of people will understand what you’re going through.
- Double up if you’re worried about leaks. Wearing a pad with your tampon or cup can help assuage any fears about the dreaded red spot. Consider wearing period underwear for sports: these are reusable and so much more eco-friendly. Wearing sports underwear when on your period can be sweaty and uncomfortable, but there are products out there designed with periods in mind!
- Reduce the intensity and length of your workouts. Low-intensity sports like yoga are perfect for working out any stresses and finding your inner zen.
- Do power-based workouts. The start of your period is when your oestrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest, making it the perfect time for strength training.
- Be prepared. Have a permanent stash of solutions in your gym bag. Bring along painkillers, spare underwear, and proper bags to dispose of used items.
- Listen to your body. All bodies are different, but all have warning signs to tell you if you’re pushing too hard.
- Compromise is okay. Here’s a secret people won’t tell you: shortcuts are allowed. Doing something is better than nothing, and there’s definitely no point in exercising if you end up injured! Don’t beat yourself up if you need to take things slow. Find ways to motivate yourself, like arranging a gym session with friends or having a treat afterward. Remember: the odd sick day is okay.
How Do You Get Rid of Period Cramps While Playing Sports?
It’s hard to get rid of cramps altogether but here are our best period tips for battling them while exercising.
Performing activities like yoga before your period prepares your body for the one-two punch of cramps and mood swings by relaxing your muscles and reducing stress.
Take painkillers in the lead-up to your period. They can build up and have more impact – but don’t take more than the suggested dose.
Hot showers and hot water bottles should be your new best friends. If a hot water bottle isn’t comfortable enough, I recommend getting a microwavable soft toy.
Go to your doctor if nothing helps. Painful periods are normalised, and we’re told to grin and bear it. However, there should be no expectation for you to put up with something so disruptive just because it’s natural. Your GP can discuss the options available to you, such as more potent painkillers or the contraceptive pill (yup, these aren’t only good for not getting pregnant).
Is It Okay To Wear a Pad On Your Period?
As with all period hacks, the only thing that matters is your comfort. If pads are what you want to wear, wear them!
Bear in mind that pads aren’t always ideal for sports. They absorb sweat and blood and can move around or get stuck in places they’re not supposed to. The best pads for sports are flexible ones with wings. You can find ones designed specifically for exercise.
Change your pad as often as possible and definitely after working out. Be prepared to do some surreptitious readjusting – or decide that you don’t care if people catch you organising your undergarments!
Reusable products are more eco-friendly and often last longer between changes.
Crucially, dispose of pads and tampons properly. Use hygienic bags like FabLittleBag to hold onto used items until you can bin them. Anyone who told you that you can flush tampons was either lying or loves pollution!
So there you have it, the best period hacks for sports. Now go forth and get active!
Especial thanks to Hannah Richmond for her efforts on writing this blog.