Ever wondered if athletes are super-human-women, or if they too have days when they'd rather hide under the duvet? Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui admitted her period had affected her performance in the 2016 Olympics, re-fueling the comments made by tennis player Heather Watson about the time of the month and sport.
So on National Fitness Day (27th September), let's drill down and learn just how these women are affected by their periods. How does exercising impact their performance? Do they get days when they are 60% chocolate too? And most important of all: does it give us a ticket to skip the gym?
Period Vs performance. What's the lowdown?
Sports Scientist and Performance Coach Cian Doyle says hormonal fluctuations caused by a period can definitely influence performance, “Coaches, medical professionals and researchers are fascinated by how an athlete’s performance is affected by their period. Each woman is affected differently. Knowing this uncertainty coming into a major competition makes this very difficult for both female athletes & their coaches to prepare for.”
It’s not just cramps that athletes have to handle. There are many things their performance can be influenced by. Doyle says, “The increase and instability of both the oestrogen and progesterone hormones can impact on blood pressure, heart rate and vascular flow. It can even affect metabolism by confusing the body’s choice for fuel requirements as well as negatively affecting your body’s ability to maintain its core internal temperature.”
It’s not all bad though: Doyle says that some athletes experience a positive affect in their performance, although everyone is different. He says, “The impact that the athlete's performance is affected by their period is completely unique to that individual.” In other words, just because your friend feels she can't exercise on her period it doesn't necessarily follow that you can't too.
The pill for a PB?
The contraceptive pill is top choice for athletes who are badly affected by their period when competing. Doyle says, “Research has shown that using oral contraceptives may be advantageous. In essence, using these pills to delay their period may give them more control over these hormones.”
Before deciding what is right for you, speak to your doctor.
Whatever your fitness level, our advice is simple: listen to your body. If you're normally cracking out 10km, 3 times a week, but your body is telling you to cut down to 3km during your period, that's better than nothing and there's no need to feel guilty about easing up on the exercise. Remember that some activities, like yoga and swimming, might actually relieve icky symptoms like cramps and backache, but don't feel pressured into doing more than you feel able. Exercising during your period will be different for everyone.
If you haven’t signed up to Pink Parcel yet, it’s time to start enjoying your period! Subscribe here and you’ll have everything you need (and want) sent directly to your door.