(It’s International Women’s Month! So I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on an issue women share. Last year, it was about sagging and sports bras.)
As a woman runner of a certain age, I’m bound to experience it sooner or later. With four to seven days out of every month affected by it, inevitably one of those days will fall on a race day. Ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about menstruation.
I see red.
At the risk of oversharing, I’ve had my period on race day about four times over the last year, and they were all important races, too. So what’s a girl to do?
It’s important to remember that the menstrual period is just a part of a woman’s monthly fertility cycle. An egg ripens in the ovary and is released via the fallopian tubes into the uterus, which has developed a thick lining rich with blood and nutrients so that a fetus can implant and grow. If no sperm fertilizes the egg, everything in the uterus gets sloughed out during menstruation. And then the cycle begins again.
The whole cycle is governed by hormones secreted by the female body in various levels throughout the month. So a woman is always in a state of hormonal flux — and that’s even when she’s not pregnant! (Yes, this is our get-out-of-jail-free card.)
Despite the products available on the market to alleviate some of the usual problems that plague us (cramps, feeling faint or weak, blood stains due to overflow…), we women can never be quite as comfortable engaging in sports during our red-letter days as on other days of the month. How can we, with something jammed between the legs?
…OK, moving on!
“Have a happy period!” EEK!
Still, there’s nothing that says we women shouldn’t engage in the sports and activities we love even while surfing the crimson tide. Increased activity won’t result in increased blood loss, since what comes out is old blood no longer in circulation within the body. There’s even scientific evidence that exercise alleviates menstrual pain (dysmennorhea).
Whether or not a woman can run during her period really all depends on how she feels. And at least having a regular period is better than not having it at all, which means something is wrong. Unless pregnant, of course; in that case, congratulations!
We may not feel like celebrating these “red-letter days”, but overcoming our unique challenges is definitely something that should be celebrated.
Happy Women’s Month!