Q: Getting Your Period on Race Weekend…help!

Hey Lauren,

Hopefully this isn’t too personal or “feminine” of a question for your site. As an athlete, I have always struggled with amenorrhea. It seems like every time I taper for a race, BOOM! cramps like crazy, making it impossible to even get out of bed let alone have a decent race. I try not to be on any type of hormones like the docs have recommended, but I get so tired of having shitty races with all the Midol it takes to get me out of the fetal position! Is this something that you have ever struggled with as a female athlete, and if so, how do you make it work for you?

L.L. in L.A.



L.L. in L.A –

Good question!  I’ve been thinking about this one a lot, because its so damn confusing to figure out!  Sometimes I HATE being a woman athlete.  I’m all about being a strong woman, using your body in powerful ways, etc, but no matter how equal things have become in sport between men and women’s opportunities, dudes will never know what it feels like to go through what you’re talking about.  Grrrrr.

My cramps aren’t nearly as bad as yours, but I have gotten my period on race day many many times.  I will skip several periods during hard training, and just when I almost forget about it completely, the taper brings it on.

Honestly, and I hate to say this, your best option as far as I can tell from researching, is to use hormones to regulate your period.  I personally steer clear of artificial hormones myself, but if my symptoms affected my performance as much as yours, I’d consider it.

If it were me, I’d try homeopathic/naturopathic methods first to reduce my symptoms.  Since we can’t predict our periods very well due to their irregularity, just assume you are going to get your period before a big race and do things to minimize PMS symptoms just in case.  For example, you can make sure to reduce your simple carbs slightly (not dramatically) and eat a bit less salt to minimize bloating.  There are certain teas that help, or other nutritional things you can research to help.  I say create an arsenal of tools to minimize the damage and then work on your psychology.

There are certain perks to being on your period when you perform, if you have the right attitude.  It is a rare day when everything is set up perfectly for a race, and your period is just another obstacle.  Don’t give it any more power than that.  Try saying to yourself, “Its making me feel more tired, but mostly its altering my perception of how I feel.  The reality of what I’m capable of is yet to be determined.”  If you are on your period, that means your estrogen is low, so your hormones are more like a dude’s.  Think to yourself that this is an advantage.

And for the love of God, pop the advil, midol, or whatever you’ve got.  That won’t hurt you.  Women have won medals on their periods, but I’m sure it was with the help of some good pain-killers.