It never fails. One week, you're feeling on top of your game, hitting segments stronger than ever, keeping up with the fast kids on the group ride, and, overall, just feeling invincible. Then, all of a sudden, your legs are heavy and the thought of getting on your bike is the last thing you wanna do. Great, here we go again - "that time of the month" has circled back around.
There's a lot of nifty sciences behind the changes your body goes through during the entire menstrual cycle, but, more importantly, we just wanna know how to overcome those changes.
In an effort to find the best way to motivate myself (and others!) back into a workout routine, I spoke with some other ladies for their tips on dealing with facing a full training schedule while all your body is encouraging you to stay in bed.
For me, the key to getting myself on the bike when I'm feeling funky--from periods or otherwise--is a "gateway drug." Nothing of the actual chemical variety, but more in the realm of a low key activity to get myself off the bed/couch/floor and in to the saddle. I'll start with simple stretching or yoga, which can often lead to simple strength training (read: squats or planks), which, if I'm lucky, leads all the way to a ride! But even if I don't make it all the way out the door, I've at least managed a bit of movement, which helps lift my spirits and often assuage my physical discomforts.
When it comes to social media as a motivator, for me that's a double edged sword. I've found that scrolling through Strava or Instagram leaves me feeling worse than before--I'll get down on myself for not doing as much as one rider or another. But I have also found that youtube or bike specific video channels can be positive! Watching someone cruise through a beautiful landscape helps me remember the good feelings of getting out and riding, which can provide that motivational boost I need to get out of whatever slump I might be in.
At the end of the day, I try to listen to my body and allow the rest days where they're needed. Cycling is both a sport but also a hobby for me, which means that self care never has to take a back seat during training. Sometimes the answer to cramps + exhaustion is powering through and being refreshed by physical activity, but other times the answer is just ice cream in the bath tub with a rom com. You do you, whatever that entails. ❤
I've found that using a Diva Cup helps keep it less crampy. There's still some fatigue and soreness but not as much. It's also so much more comfortable for riding than a tampon. That and staying active helps me stay loose and moving! Hydration is key too! For drink mix, I try to drink more water and sometimes boost it up with low/no sugar hydration mix like Nuun since I don't need the carb part when I'm just focusing on getting electrolytes. Yoga is awesome too, just avoid inversions (learned that the hard way) and core heavy workouts too. Usually that is a lighter core week.
Diva Cup changed it. Before that, a good workout actually was my focus to feel good because no matter what, you're messy when you train. So I embraced my lady skills of learning to use a Diva Cup to feel free of clutter when I'm out doing anything. No more tampons/purses. Training itself relieved cramps and, when it didn't, it overall helps "express" my time of the month, making it shorter! Then I treat myself by showering, quality/whole meals, and sometimes essential oils for comfort.
I struggle with terrible cramps that cause numbness and the occasional puking because of pain. That being said, I find working out/moving around/stretching first thing in the morning can make a huge difference in my day! And a heating pad and glass of red wine at the end of the day really helps!
Magnesium powder in my post ride smoothies, especially in the two weeks leading up to my periods has helped curb cravings and help keep my energy levels up!
In Stacy Sims book Roar, she talks more in depth on the scientific side of how our bodies change before, during, and after our periods. It's a great read for anyone who wants to start training as a . woman rather than "as a small man." This can be snagged up off of Amazon here.
As many ladies, myself included, have found switching to a Diva Cup over traditional pads and tampons has been a game changer. There are hundreds of options available for mensuration cups to match your flow and body's shape properly. Personally, I have never experienced any issues with the Diva Cup, but there is a short adjustment period (hah) of getting used to proper placement. The Diva Cup can be purchased at many local drug stores or online. They typically cost around $40.
And lastly, but definitely not least(ly), the option of an IUD has been quickly catching popularity with women who just want to forego the worry of a period (and pregnancy) altogether. If you want to read more on the praises given to IUDs, Outside magazine wrote a great piece covering this topic.
Also, if you're needing some more stories of rad women out there doing their things regardless of what their bodies are going through, check out Baja, BB over on the Radavist.