My 12-year-old daughter came home from school the other day and told me about a friend that got her very first period during P.E. She accompanied her friend to the female teacher and announced that the girl had just gotten her period. The teacher’s response: Running will make you feel better. Get back out there.
While I agree with the teacher about the benefits of running, I wish my daughter had offered the crucial info that this was the girl’s FIRST PERIOD EVER and she might need to go to the nurse for some assistance with this life-changing occasion. Regardless, this got me to thinking about my own cycle.
I’ve run through all kinds of weather and during every phase of my monthly cycle. I’ve run with women and discussed our friend Aunt Flo and her surprise visits, as well as the fall-out of fitting her into our busy schedules. I’ve also run with men and have copped to the reality of why I didn’t sleep well and the body isn’t in the best run shape.
There is typically a certain amount of pre-menstrual ache and bloat that announce the impending monthly event. I’ve found that trail running feels much better than pounding the road during these few days, though it took me a while to figure out why this works for me.
When I run trails with muscle aches and cramps, I get a different full-body workout than otherwise happens on the road. Legs lift higher to bound over rocks, arms jut out to balance the body, core muscles tighten for stability on uneven terrain, and during sharp inclines and descents, achy hip flexors stretch out. I’ve found that a short hour-long trail run can have as much impact on alleviating cramps as a good dose of Midol.
As the months pass and my body continues its silent march to peri-menopause, I’ve found that higher mileage cuts down on my PMS symptoms as well. When my monthly running total is less than 100 miles I get the whole package; tender boobs, bloat, aches, headache, cramps, and I wear my cranky-pants for almost a week.
I ran 137 and 208 miles in February and March, and am on track to hit approximately 175 miles for April. These are easily the highest mileages of my life. The happy bonus to all those miles is that during the past few menstrual cycles I had zero cramping, bloating and headaches, and didn’t once wear my bright yellow cranky-pants.
There seems to be a correlation to the amount of exercise I get, the terrain that I run, and the level of PMS that knocks on my door. I haven’t found a lot of science to explain this, but my very unofficial survey of the women between 30 and 50 seem to back up my findings. The more active we are on terrain that forces us to do a full-body workout, the better we feel overall.