In Ask the Trail Sisters, Health

I hate running on my period, it’s the worst. Do you have any tips on getting past the cramps or discomfort?

Any mental games or physical exercises I can do to help me get through my runs?


For the last couple of years my period has decided to join me for most big races/ planned FKTs. In fact, it waited 18 days and started 18 miles into the Tahoe Rim Trail FKT. Not sure the science on that, but it has definitely tested my mental approach. Like anything bothersome, we have a choice on how to move through it. (this is all said not knowing the severity of your cramps, or how it affects your energy levels). I’ve found that even on the worst flow days I always feel better going for a run. Acknowledging that it likely won’t be my best effort out there and that the run is to help me feel better and less about training seems to help. That might mean slowing down, stopping to stretch more or even cutting it short. It has become more uncomfortable (with age?) over the years, but all in all running is better than not during that time. During the day I find extra hydration and stomach calming teas work in my favor. Staying away from the ridiculous things that hormones cause me to crave also helps. And the best aid is talking it out with the trail sisters. Just acknowledging it, letting another sister know what’s up, and feeling like I’m not the only one that knows what it feels like takes the edge off.

I also hate this, and honestly, it seems like all my periods since January have fallen on races or important weekends. Thanks Aunt Flo! Things that help me include avoiding all caffeine, staying hydrated, and being extra active during the “oh crap it’s coming!” days. For heat relief, my favorite tool is this old tube sock of my husband’s that I filled with minute rice. I microwave it for 45 seconds, and place it on my back, or belly, or whatever. The rice conforms to your shape, and maintains heat for a lot longer than those hot patches. I also think it helps to really go hard on Day 1, if you can. For some reason it almost feels like I’m running my period away. Day 2 always seems significantly lighter if I go hard on Day 1. As far as mental games, just remind yourself that most women, and zero men, are as freaking bad-A as you are! You are a mighty dragon warrior, fighting the battle that is your own body, and you are WINNING girl!

This will probably sound ridiculous, but there have actually been numerous studies comparing ginger to common pain relievers and ginger works really well! I’ve tried it myself and in my experience, it works. 

Running on your period is the worst. As a woman who is insatiable, has zapped energy, a foggy mind, and cramps that refuse to quit during the four days of my period, I can attest. For me there is no avoiding it, so I work with it. Sometimes I take Chamomile, sometimes I don’t. Heat is also a fantastic remedy. Lisa’s recommendation is perfect! I also avoid foods that are inflammatory, and yes, even coffee. The rest is gritting and bearing it. Accepting it’s the worst, and carrying on. Exercise is usually good for cramping, and can keep the worst of them at bay. Just keep swimming, you got this!

For me, after understanding more about what my body is doing chemically, not just during my period, but throughout the month helps me tremendously. I do better knowing more about how to differently fuel, why it’s reacting in a certain way and how to make better use of my training. This 2015 Runner’s World article seemed to break it down in a way I could understand and really helped me.

I understand exercise will help minimize bloating and cramping associated with a menstrual cycle. I suggest taking Advil or Motrin to subside the cramps. Be sure to stay hydrated and run at a slower pace. IMHO there is no need to push runs when you are menstruating. My hormones get out of wack during this time of the month and energy declines so I just take the time to run easy and take more rest days. Be kind to your body.

Agreed. It really is the worst.  I have one day each cycle where it’s sometimes even hard to get out the door due to fatigue, headaches and discomfort.  I usually always make this day an easy, just get out and get moving for a bit run, and don’t put any pressure on myself to nail a workout.  If I had planned for a long run, I don’t focus on pace.  Additionally, I focus on the fact that I’ll always feel worse at some point during a 100-miler, so I’m lucky to have this extra mental training.  When I complete a surprisingly difficult run during one of these days, it’s actually a pretty big boost for me to know that if I could do it while feeling that terrible, I’ll be just fine on race day!  And when it happens on race day, which it often does, I take solace in the fact that I’m definitely not the only one out there dealing with it.

Running/training while dealing with period business is challenging. It’s that time of the month when so much is happening in our bodies and we just have to sit back and bear it. With this in mind, I try to be especially patient and easy on myself. If it’s a really rough go, I will take a few days off running and focus on some cross training like yoga, swimming, or biking. I try to keep in mind what my body is doing and honor it for its work instead of being frustrated with myself. This perspective helps me not feel guilty about missing a run or slowing my pace/effort on a run. And, hopefully in a few days when Aunt Flo is gone, I’ll feel rested and ready to go!

No, but I do recommend you use a menstrual cup! Absolutely no good reason not to.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Raquel

    This is great. Thank you, Trail Sisters.

  • Bee

    I wish to point out that there are plenty of us with cramps and fatigue so severe that running is not an option at all. If you’re one of us and medicines don’t bring relief, just rest the worst out. It will pass. It sucks, it’s awful, but it will pass.

    I have had endometriosis, and even after I had surgery, every single step that thuds me to the ground, even if I take a few running steps to catch a bus takes me down for a half an hour.

    And I’m not bringing this up because I’d want to argue or compare- we all have our own periods that no-one else can fully comprehend. I just had really hard time showing compassion towards myself when I began running and realized that I just have to take some days off every month. If you have same kind of experiences, be gentle with yourself <3

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