Nothing makes me less inclined to exercise than my period. I get cramps, so being cramped, bloated, bleeding, hormonal, and generally experiencing my once-a-month friend with an almost stereotypical level of dread, exercise is the last thing on my mind. But exercise we must! Exercise, as horrible as that word sounds mid-menstruation, is actually exceedingly beneficial to all those gross feelings you're feeling. Exercise can actually help ease the pain of cramps that come with your period (and other period related pain like lower back pain), and the endorphins will give you a much needed mood booster, if what suffers during your period is your mood.
So you just have to convince yourself to get to the gym, or hit your yoga mat, or whatever else it is you do. Once you're there your body, and your period, will thank you for it. I know it can be daunting, what with pads being uncomfortable for exercise and tampons sometimes seeming like an unsavory alternative (I personally hate them), but exercising on your period doesn't have to be difficult. You can do it successfully, and have fun too. Here are some tips for exercising when you have your period.
1. Don't Push Yourself
Listen to your body. If you're feeling too sore or too tired don't push yourself. If you really need to exercise, take a walk, or use some light weights to do some low impact exercises at home. There's no reason to push yourself into high intensity work outs when you're doubled over in pain. Lauren Streicher, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University and author says, physically "you can do the same thing you do every other day, unless you don't feel like working out." So there you go.
2. Try Special Underwear Designed To Hold Your Pad In Place
As I mentioned, I really don't like tampons. When you're in tight yoga pants however, a pad can feel like wearing a diaper, and along with the anxiety that there's a visible pad lump somewhere in your pants, it's really damn uncomfortable and kind of awful to exercise in (especially if, like me, you're very sweaty). If you really, really can't stand the idea of a tampon or other insertable option, Panty Prop has underwear that holds in your pad, so you can slot a pad in and not worry about the discomfort or embarrassment of it moving around when you're exercising.
3. Be Careful With Inversions
Your yoga teacher will probably warn you against inversions when you're having your period. There's no real scientific evidence that says you shouldn't invert during yoga practice or any other exercise while you're menstruating, but it can cause unwanted cramp pain, if you're a cramper. Test the waters carefully, and if you ever feel pain inverting, slowly come out of your pose. You might find you have abdominal pain afterwards too (in which case don't do it again!), and you can lie on your back with your knees propped up to help soothe that.
4. Wear An Extra Layer
If you're worried about leaks and smells and other unsavory period related things, wear bike shorts under your regular work out clothes. The extra, tight layer will help hold everything in and make you feel more secure, especially if what you're wearing is a baggy pair of shorts.
5. Drink Lots Of Water
Sapna Vyas Patel, PhD Nutrition Science and Dietetics, suggests drinking lots of water if you're exercising on your period. You should drink lots of water anyway, but staying hydrated when you're menstruating will help ease bloating and any discomfort you might feel from that when you're working out.
6. Try High Intensity Interval Training
I know right? Sounds terrifying. But apparently your period week is a great time for HIIT. Stacy Sims, PhD, and exercise physiologist for USA Cycling Women’s Track Endurance Program, says, “When your period starts, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop. And because of this, women can access carbohydrate/glycogen easily, as compared to high-estrogen time periods [when we] rely more on the slow breakdown of fat.” In English the rest of us can understand, that means that the hormones released in your body when you're menstruating makes it easier for your body to use fuel to work out harder. You can't make this stuff up!
You should stretch before and after any work out, but it can help ease any post-work out period pain if you pay attention to stretching when you're exercising on your period. Or, you could even do a restorative yoga class that is all stretching. Either way. Stretch.
Images: kate_sept2004/E+/Getty Images; Giphy (4)