It’s the eternal question: Is working out on your period a good idea or a bad one? On one hand, you generally feel bloated, fat and more in need of some serious cardio. Then there’s all of that PMS snacking…. No shame here — we all give in to the cravings now and then! On the other hand, feeling crampy, cranky, tired, bloated and in need of serious menstrual cramp relief doesn’t really make you want to hit the gym.
But before you start making excuses about working out on your period, look to musician Kiran Gandhi for inspiration. Her Aunt Flo came to visit the night before the 2015 London marathon and, like all women, she had to stop and think about how it would affect her performance. Instead of worrying about having to stop and change her tampon, she decided to make a statement by running the entire marathon sans tampon, letting her menstrual blood flow free. She explains, “I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist. I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.” Now, that’s a brave woman!
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But was it smart for her to exert herself that much during that time of the month? Well, have you ever heard of a female athlete backing out of an event because she got her period? In fact, working out on your period, particularly aerobic exercise, may be one of the best ways to relieve many of those unpleasant symptoms. Getting your heart pumping helps you sweat out some of that pesky water retention while the endorphins improve your mood and give you some natural menstrual cramp relief.
You may be surprised to learn that during the first 7-10 days of your cycle — which begins the day your period starts — you are actually at your performance peak. Exercise physiology and sports nutrition expert Dr. Stacy Sims explains, “Women are more like men in the follicular/low hormone phase — what I mean by that is during that time, we can access carbohydrate, hit intensities, have greater muscle contractile strength and power, and less central nervous system fatigue than during any other phase.” So you go girl!
However, women are more prone to ACL injuries than men and some research has found that hormones affecting muscle tone and joint laxity released during menstruation may play a part. The jury’s still out on that but always use proper form and if any exercise causes knee pain, immediately stop doing it and consult a professional.
So the verdict is YAY for working out on your period! However, listen to your body and don’t force it. If you feel like curling up on the couch with a bottle of ibuprofen and a good book, that’s what you should do. If you get plenty of exercise in general, a couple of days won’t make a difference and you’ve got a head start on period relief.