Sunday, June 5, 2011

Training. Running. Period.

I will have 5 period cycles during this upcoming 18 week training cycle. Not many bloggers (or runner's world articles for that matter -- I found one good one here) write about training, running and periods. I'm sure it's mentioned in passing, but it seems to have the potential to be really influential when deciding on a training plan, or even which race to run.

I'm sure many runners are on birth control and have some semblance of control over when they menstruate, whether it means skipping a period on race weekend, or designing an entire 18 week training plan so periods coincide with step-back weeks. But what happens when the race you really want to run falls on your "Red Tent" day, as I call it? How can you really be excited to run your favorite race, or even your weekend long run, when your joints ache, your migraine is in full swing and you're bleeding through tampons every two hours?

Luckily I have light periods. I can plan when they'll start (down to the hour) each month, and can count on them lasting less than 48 hours. I have had relative success with skipping periods a few times in my life, but wouldn't make it a regular event. I also notice that the more I run, the less premenstrual cramps I experience, and the more consistent my energy levels.

It occurred to me as I gaze at my newly printed training plan taped to my fridge that I'd better sit down with my calendar and redo the whole thing. Hal Higdon obviously didn't design this 18 week marathon plan (or any of his plans, as far as I can tell) with menstruation in mind. Or he thinks it should be ignored (?). I don't. I experience pre-menstrual joint pain and migraines, and definite low energy for at least two days. On Day 1, I usually feel light headed and my heart races when walking up the stairs. In short, I don't really feel like running.

I like the fact that running lessens all the potentially negative aspects of my period experience. I know that when runners talk about "going easy" or "taking time to rest" perhaps "period rest" falls under this umbrella. But I think it deserves special mention now and then because it's not something to ignore or sweep under the running rug.
Questions. Do tampons fit in the runner's belt everyone carries? Do aid stations stock tampons? Has anyone ever had a horrible race because they were bleeding out the entire contents of their uterus in one day? Has anyone ever seen a training plan adjusted around a 4 week cycle of step-up/step-down to accommodate periods? Skipped a period when it falls on race week? Why does no one talk about this?

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