Faster, Higher, Bloodier: Periods and Athletes

Faster, Higher, Bloodier: Periods and Athletes

As one of the biggest sporting events in the world comes to a close in Korea, we, the period-obsessed folk at Lunapads, have one question.

What’s it like to be an athlete with your period?

Let’s throw back to 2016, when Fu Yuanhui charmed the world, first with her goofy delight at being a teenage champion, and next with her frank confession - she hadn’t done well because she got her period.

(TBH she swam faster than half the planet and won the hearts of everyone, so we could possibly just redefine "doing well".)

However, the menstrual taboo is still alive and well in the athletic space. From world-record-breaking athletes to those of us just trying to get our sweat on at the gym, there has long been warnings about exercising whilst menstruating. For the record, they’re all nonsense.

Just take the advice of figure skater Mirai Nagasu if you want to get your sweat on during your period and remember that "it's really not that big of a deal. You just stick a tampon up there." (Feel free to use a cup if the Tampax ain’t your deal.)

Exercise is great for alleviating cramps, releasing feel-good hormones to boost your mood and is important to contributing to an overall sense of well-being. Nagasu has said that she relies on workouts to deal with cramps, which is a benefit of triple Axels commentators never seem to touch on.

Of course, having your period is never easy. Many athletes sail through menstruation no problem, but others are sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and wind up not performing as well as they might have hoped. Dr Andrew Boesch, a researcher at the University of Cape Town, notes that "performance just drops off at certain parts of the cycle in some female athletes", noting that each period is different. Boesch recommends carefully tracking performance around the menstrual cycle, so that athletes can prepare to manage menstruation.

Not going for gold yourself? Exercise if you want, or just hang out with a heating pad and some ESPN, if that’s the kind of sports you feel up for. Your period, your way.

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