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Tips and Tricks - Sports & Periods by Matilda Moore

Tips and Tricks - Sports & Periods by Matilda Moore

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The thought of participating in sport whilst on your period, especially if you are a young girl new to the world of menstruation, can seem incredibly daunting. My first period at 13 with the physical discomfort and the stress of learning how to use new, awkward products such as tampons resulted in me missing all swimming practises during that first week and several weeks of periods to follow. Worried about leaking on poolside, having a visible tampon string and ultimately losing the tampon in the water if it was not properly inserted, I was too ashamed to do the exercise I loved. But I gradually learnt how to manage periods and swimming, discovered the many benefits of exercising whilst menstruating and realised how important it is to separate shame from participating in sport when on your period.

 

 

 

Is Exercising On Your Period Actually Beneficial?

Long story short- YES!

Period pain, exhaustion and mood swings experienced during the dreaded week every month often prove problematic to our exercise routine and the thought of moving our bodies feels very unappealing. However, research has shown that uncurling from a ball on our couches and actually exercising is incredibly beneficial for our bodies and can alleviate many menstruation symptoms!

Exercise can lighten the flow of your period and give you a natural endorphin high from increased levels of dopamine and serotonin, endorphins which not only reduce fatigue but also act as natural painkillers, relieving uncomfortable periods.

Not only that but exercise can also improve the blood and oxygen flow around your body, reducing the levels of a hormone called aldosterone which informs our bodies to retain salt and water. As a result, the production of anti-inflammatory compounds increases and alleviates symptoms like bloating and tender breasts.

Movement therefore is key, no matter the level to which you can exercise during menstruation!

What Kind Of Exercise Should I Do On My Period?

Generally, there are no restrictions to what forms of exercise women should engage in during their periods and many are simply able to adjust their normal exercise routine, reducing training stress and volume to a level they are able to manage with their increased levels of fatigue.

However, there are more specific forms of exercise that have been proven to be beneficial to your body on your period.

Since the first few days of your period are the most uncomfortable and have the heaviest flow, gentle movements such as light cardio, walking and shorter bouts of aerobic exercise are encouraged.

Yoga and Pilates have also been proven as beneficial both in the lead up to your period and during it. Relaxing and stretching your body, yoga positions such as cobra, cat-cow and suppline twist can help reduce cramping, breast tenderness and muscle fatigue and YouTube is now full of period pain elevating yoga videos!

Swimming also eases period discomfort, something I was delighted to discover! The lapping and buoyancy of the water calms muscles and reduces bloating and even though you don’t stop bleeding in the water, your flow will also be affected because the water exerts pressure on your vagina which counteracts its gravity.

One study by Umeå University also found that the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle (the first day being the arrival of your period) can allow you to experience greater gains in strength and power due to your lower level of hormones, so low volume strength training and power-based activities may also be possible.

The above list however in no way restricts what forms of exercise you should be doing on your period after all, periods are personal! So just stay hydrated, prepare your chosen sanitary products and listen to your body!

 

Will My Period Be Affected If I Am An Athlete?

 

If you are an athlete who follows a vigorous, daily training plan, it is likely to have more of an impact on your menstrual cycle. A growing body of research has pointed to training needing to adapt to athlete’s cycles. Chelsea FC are leading the way in its implementation and The Well HQ are leading the way in this research. Please click the link here to find out more!

https://www.thewell-hq.com

 

What Sanitary Products Should I Wear Whilst Exercising?

Today there is a large range of products available for women to wear whilst on their period so don’t worry, you can easily find an option that suits your chosen sport best and which you feel comfortable wearing.

The first, and most important, things you need to consider are the rate of your flow and the predicted length of exercising and once this has been determined you can pick your product!

 First of all, there are pads- although in reality, they are not the best option for sport. Often bulky, easily displaced and visible through leggings, they are usually uncomfortable when exercising, and, prone to leaking, are sometimes a hygiene concern. However, pads are a great start up option for young girls who are not ready to tackle the insertion of tampons or menstrual cups and are still a very viable option for those who do not feel comfortable using other products! To ensure that the use of pads in sport can be hygienic and effective, look for pads specifically designed for sport, wear tightfitting underwear or compression shorts to prevent movement of the pad and make sure you change the pad frequently.

 

Another established option is tampons. Discrete both in their use and removal, less messy than a menstrual cup and able to be used for up to 4-6 hours, tampons are a good choice and can be used for practically all sports. However, they can be irritating to your genitals, visibility of the string can be a concern, and you are limited time wise. If you decide to use tampons when exercising, make sure you choose tampons with the right level of absorbency for your current flow as this is influential in both the length of time a tampon will last and how much it will irritate!

 

 Another option is menstrual cups, a relatively new period product which has many benefits. They are capable of holding three times as much blood as a tampon, are less likely to dry out or irritate your genitals, are comfortable and are good for the environment meaning they are a great choice for practically all forms and durations of exercise! But they are not without their flaws. Able to move and leak if not inserted properly, messy to remove and often expensive, these problems are important to consider when deciding on your product of choice.

 

Period pants are also a further option. Working just like traditional underwear but with extra absorbent and odour-free layers, they are comfortable, stay in place, are easy to clean and are sustainable. However, they are expensive and only work for light to moderate flows.

Pantyliners also come in handy when exercising at the end of your period as movement and stretching may cause spotting and they will save your underwear from stains!

Combining products such as pads and tampons or pads and menstrual cups depending on your flow and sport to ease your mind about the stress of leaking is also an option.

 What Are Your Overall Top Tips and Tricks For Exercising On Your Period?

Overall, when dealing with periods and exercise you should:

  • Listen to your body and do exercise that you feel comfortable with.
  • Plan out which sanitary products you will be using and how many you will need.
  • Stay hydrated and eat well- your body is craving iron with the loss of blood.
  • Understand your own cycle by tracking your periods so you can learn when and why your exercise performance may be slightly reduced.

 

A recent study found that 78% of teenage girls avoid exercise whilst on their period and this figure is deeply upsetting. Incredibly beneficial for both the body and the mind during menstruation, sport should not be avoided out of shame or discomfort and FabLittleBag’s discrete, hygienic disposal bags make the disposal of sanitary products as well as their use whilst exercising just as easy.

 

https://fablittlebag.com

https://www.health.com/condition/menstruation/5-things-to-know-about-exercising-during-your-period

https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/lifestyle/hygiene-and-beauty/period-hygiene-faq

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-during-period#exercises-to-avoid

https://allmatters.com/en-gb/blogs/blog/how-to-deal-with-your-period-during-sports#:~:text=Playing%20sports%20on%20your%20period,rapid%20movements%20and%20physical%20exertion.