by Stef Puddicome
How each individual deals with this for training may be completely different. Since I get asked all the time what I do specifically for my training while I am on my period here it is. I always train, period. On a good month your period may just be a mild annoyance. However, on a bad month it can feel like athousand tiny ninjas kicking your abdomen wall from the inside. As a female powerlifter we have to deal with training (or not training) during our menstrual cycle. Do we train? Do we take a break? Do we back off intensity?
Being a competitive lifer I do not see it being viable to take 3-5 days away from the gym monthly or even veer off my program for these days. In my opinion this will negatively affect progress. So I push through. Since I’m learning that consistency to your program is a key factor to making gains, I do not change my program when I am on my period.
Understanding the menstrual cycle more and some of the benefits of training while on your period may motivate you to get into the gym and get it done.
Interesting fact: physical activity is said to be one of the best ways to relieve period cramps. I repeat physical activity relieves period cramps! Ladies this is revolutionary. Drop the Midol and pick up the barbell!
Exercise increases blood circulation which relives cramps. Exercise also releases endorphins which decrease feelings of pain and discomfort. Let’s be real here, as a woman when we are feeling emotional and crazy from aunt flow a few happy endorphins will not go astray! Exercise is a natural pain killer for cramps. As quoted by Gustavo Rossi, MD an obstetrician gynaecologist “Exercise relieves cramps because it helps release beta endorphins which are internal opioids – your own human morphine”.
Working out is your own human morphine!! Get at it and relieve those cramps!
Secondly, have you heard of pelvic floor exercises? If not, let me explain, “Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles around your bladder, vagina, and back passage. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help stop incontinence.”  Pelvic floor exercises are a whole new topic which I can get into another time! For now let’s just touch on this:
Tampon + Deadlifting = Pelvic Floor Exercise!
Have you ever deadlifted with a tampon in? If so you know as well as I do that you need to breath and flex in certain ways to ensure your tampon stays where it should! You may be wondering, as a powerlifter why you should care about pelvic floor exercises. Well, if you have ever peed when executing a lift you know exactly why! Consistent pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen the muscles and minimize those lift accidents.
So back to my training, when I get asked if my training is altered by my menstrual cycle my honest answer is no. My training is not altered by my cycle, my training attire is!
During my period my b-boy pants come out. I feel bloated and uncomfortable and I definitely do not want to risk having leakage. My recommendation is while on your period it is the perfect week to trade in your cute light coloured lulus for your hip-hop loose jogs. Throw on your loose (dark coloured) jogs for an extra level of security from leakage, toss on your headphones, and work off your cramps while working towards your goals.
Being on my period increases my cravings for carbs. I eat a little more, meaning I am carbed up for training. The extra carbs paired with the moodiness and my gangster pants always motivate me. As I train in a modified version of RPE sometimes this means heavier weights as that day I am angry, carbed up, and ready to fire. An RPE 9 can mean different numbers depending on the day, normally on my period this means heavier numbers. Some of my best lifting sessions are while on my period, even if these same sessions are some of my worst wardrobe sessions!I do not change my weights or sets during my period. Although I may deadlift sets a little faster and take out the reset to avoid my tampon coming out! Princess fits, crankiness, cramps, doesn’t matter – same numbers, same sets therefore same progress.
Check out the Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign (screen shot below of their mission). This campaign encourages females to stick to their sports, period and all. The campaign zones in on being confident and not giving up.
I love being a female and not one of my characteristics that define me as female will be a hindrance or stop me from my goals. My hair is long; I tie it back to lift. I have breasts; I wear a sports bra to support them while I lift. I have a period; I use a tampon to lift. The world can be full of excuses or it can be full of solutions. Your choice! Side note: you never know when one of your big meets can land smack dab in the middle of aunt flow. Don’t let the platform be your first experience lifting while you are on your period. Fact: I won nationals both raw and equipped in 2015 while on my period and that same year went on to medal at open worlds, again while on my period.
I wrote this article with no medical background, I am using my personal experiences and what I do. If you have complicated periods or underlying issues don’t use my “I Always Train, Period” methodology, consult your medical doctor.
Happy lifting friends, period.
“What Are Pelvic Floor Exercises? – Health Questions” NHS Choices. NHS. Web. 16 Oct. 2017.