261 Blog

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Running & Periods

Periods can be a right bother when it comes to running. Pain or heavy bleeding can make running impossible, hormonal shifts can drain you of motivation and then there’s the simple inconvenience of having to carry period products. Not all women are affected equally, some have few problems with their menstrual cycle where as others find themselves debilitated for a few days every month. How can we stop periods being such a barrier to running?

Here are some of the ways that periods can affect our members and make running difficult for them:

  • Heavy periods
  • Period pain
  • Irregular periods
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Lacking energy and motivation to run.

“I’m always terrified about having to change a tampon when I’m out on a long run in the hills. It’s so uncomfortable when you know it needs changing and I worry it’s going to come out. I choose not to go on really long adventures when I’m on my period.”  261 Club UK member

Even though it can feel hard to run if you have period pain or if you feel lethargic, moody and bloated from PMS, running can help. Just a very slow and short run with lots of walking, getting out and moving your body will make you feel better. In fact, research has shown that exercising three times a week for around an hour, at any intensity, could reduce the severity of period pain. More studies need to be done to understand this fully but it’s an encouraging example of movement as medicine.

It’s important to know that if you have unexpectedly not had a period for 3 months (and aren’t pregnant, using contraception that stops periods or perimenopausal) then you should see your doctor. This is called amenorrhoea. A regular period is a marker of good health and if periods stop for a prolonged time it will have a negative effect on your health. Amenorrhoea can cause issues with many systems in the body including fertility and bone health.

Time to talk

A great benefit of the women-only space that a 261 Meet Run provides is that it’s the perfect opportunity for women to discuss their health. Members often chat about their problems knowing they will fall on supportive ears and are less hesitant to talk about personal issues with other women. Sometimes all you need is acknowledgment and a bit of empathy from someone else who understands why you don’t feel on top form that week. For example, learning that your periods are affecting you much more than they do other women can be eye-opening and spur you on to see your doctor for help with managing them.

Tracking your cycle

Is there any pattern to the way you feel at different times of your menstrual cycle? Do you always feel great just after your period and awful just before? We know that levels of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone vary throughout the menstrual cycle and this can have an effect on how you feel. It can affect your energy levels, endurance or speed. That might then determine whether a long run or a short interval session suits you better. Medical research in this area has been lacking, thankfully more is being done now, but the consensus so far seems to be that every woman is different and there’s no generic advice as to what exercise is best at which time of the cycle. What you can do however, is to track your own cycle and look for any patterns. This can help you to decide which activity to do. You can then work with your body rather than feel frustrated and as if you are constantly fighting against it.

Education is key

We want to help women break down the barriers that prevent them from exercising. At 261 Fearless we ensure our 261 Coaches receive education on women’s health. This is a prominent topic at their initial Train the Trainer weekend but also a big part of the ongoing 261 Fearless Coach education. All aspects of women’s health are covered including hormones and menstruation. This means our Coaches are well aware of the effect that periods can have on a woman’s ability to run. Whether that’s a member feeling sluggish due to Pre-Menstrual Syndrome or a perimenopausal woman getting an unexpected period during a Meet Run, they understand.

“I really value the education on women’s health that I’ve had through 261 Fearless. It’s made me much more aware of the problems that some women face. Members talk about all sorts during a Meet Run, there don’t seem to be any taboo subjects! And as the leader of the group the education has helped me feel much more informed which has helped my confidence.” Helen, 261 Club UK Coach.

Join the club

The 261 Meet Run environment is non-judgemental and caters for all abilities so if you’re feeling rubbish, you can take your pace right down and just do what you can. There’s no pressure, the Coaches will just be glad you made it! Knowing that women are there waiting for you to arrive and that you won’t be judged for being a bit grumpy or slower than usual can really encourage you to go along.

Running has a magic ability to change your day, lift your spirits and make you feel happier. We want all women to experience that regardless of where they are in their menstrual cycle.


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