Women: Training During ‘That Time’ of the Month

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Article written by Alanna Casey

It feels like someone is clawing at you from the inside, you have zero energy, a headache, and you’re achy in general; time to hit the gym, right!? Yes. Absolutely time to hit the gym. Many women wonder how their monthly cycle will impact their training. I’m here to tell you how it affects mine.

First off, I usually know I’m going to get my period for many reasons. One of them being I want to eat ALLLL the food 1-2 days prior. Another reason being, I feel super strong about 2-3 days before I get my period. Then, when I actually get my period I feel like poo. I have low energy and the last thing I want to do is go train. But, this is when you need to dig deep and find a way to get your butt to the gym! You may not feel as strong as usual but, that’s okay. Just go to the gym anyway and do what you can. Usually you can force your body to do the training you have planned to do.

Plus, physical activity is one of the best things you can do to relieve period cramps. One of the reasons women have cramps is because their uterus muscle is tight and contracted. When you exercise, you are forcing the use of other muscles of the body. Your blood, and therefore oxygen supply, is delivered to the muscles you’re using most. This means, your body is essentially less focused on your uterus and the uterus muscle ends up relaxing.  After you train I recommend a warm bath/shower to keep your lady muscles in a relaxed state.  I almost always take Aleve (naproxen) as well. Though, my training partner swears by Midol when she’s on her period.

Bottom line, when you’re on your period, you should still workout!

No period: Is it normal to NOT get your period during intense training or diet?

Yes. It is normal to skip your period when you are physically pushing your body to the limits. This includes intense physical training, and intense dieting. The way I think about it is, when I’m training and watching my diet, my body doesn’t have the time or energy to put into bleeding every damn month! Nobody got time for dat! This is one of the perks of heavy weight training; fewer periods. That said, not every woman who weight trains will have less frequent periods. Some women will still have their period regularly.

Spotting: Is it normal to spot during intense training? 

Yes. It is absolutely normal for your body to spot during intense training. When I first started training in Strongwoman, I involuntarily made myself spot every time I event trained. It was super annoying. However, as my body has become more accustomed to such a heavy workload I would spot less and less. I suggest always traveling with period supplies when you train so that you are prepared for any situation!

I hope this article sheds some light on “that time of the month” as it relates to women athletes. Remember that everyone’s body is different. So how your body (and cycle) reacts to heavy training may not be the same as someone else’s; and that’s okay. You are you, and you is different! 

By LBEB Athlete Alanna Casey

 Bachelors of Science in Health Behavior Science

World’s Most Powerful Woman 75kg

www.facebook.com/StrongwomanAlannaCasey

 

  • I get that intense training can prevent a period, but seems like this shouldn’t be looked at as a desired side effect.. I mean, I’m all for not having a period but working your body to the point that it stops seems a bit unhealthy.

  • I had to LOL a little that you spot sometimes during strongwoman training. Its like the chick equivalent of when I’ve seen guys with nosebleeds after they do a really heavy competition squat or deadlift. Haha.

  • No, it’s not normal to skip periods when lifting heavy. Weightlifting women are not a population exempt from female athlete triad. Please get your facts straight… and eat more. Heavy lifting will NOT affect a healthy woman’s cycle, being in a negative energy balance will.

    I find a wee bit ironic I’m reading this on Eat Big, Lift Big.

    • I agree. As well, I d believe promoting the use of anti-inflammatories. And of the reasons women cramp is due to a burdened liver, therefore adding more chemicals for the liver to process further strains it.

      There’s a lot to be said for listening to your body and not ‘forcing’ it when you need to rest and let your body work the way mother nature intended.

  • It might be a bit more beneficial to get a doctor’s point of view on things like not getting your period while training before saying that it’s perfectly normal. I understand that gymnasts, cheerleaders, runners, don’t get their periods while training because of their low body fat, but I don’t know why that would affect you while you’re lifting heavy unless you’re not eating enough and your body fat has dropped below like 12%.

    I don’t know if this is a problematic way to look at it, or if it’s just worded badly and hasn’t been elaborated on.

  • Great discussion everyone! Allow me to clear a few things up.

    1) It isnt “normal” for the average woman to skip her period. However, if you train at an extremely high intensity level, it can be “normal” to skip occasionally. This statement is a direct reflection of MULTIPLE occasions where I asked various PhD gynecologist about my personal situation.
    2) Yes, while typically it would not be seen as a “positive” for a woman to be irregular, skipping your period is not in itself unhealthy. Thousands and thousands of women don’t get their period for YEARS due to various methods of birth control.
    3) I’m not saying its normal for high class athletes to never get their period, rather that it is “normal” to be irregular.
    4) There is more to this equation than body fat. While yes, extremely low body fat can be an unhealthy reason why women may be irregular, that is not the only reason. I have NEVER been below about 17% body fat.
    5) I am talking about a very VERY small percentage of women. I’d estimate that 95-99% percent of women who participate in athletes/sports will remain unaffected, in terms of their monthly cycle. However, when a woman put extremely high stress loads on her body, the result can be irregular month cycles.
    6) This is MY personal experience. I have come to these conclusions after multiple talks, at length, with my doctor(s), and 5 years of training at a World Class level. This is not “the rule” but rather the exception. I wanted to write about this topic in case any other women are experiencing or have experienced a similar situation.
    7) Always talk to YOUR doctor if you are in anyway worried about your cycle or your body.

    I hope this clears some things up.

    – Alanna Casey

  • “Yes, while typically it would not be seen as a “positive” for a woman to be irregular, skipping your period is not in itself unhealthy. Thousands and thousands of women don’t get their period for YEARS due to various methods of birth control.”

    Just because something has been done for years does not make it healthy or normal.