Your Menstrual Cycle

With Adidas announcing the launch of their new ‘period proof’ sportswear, there is a new, heightened awareness of the impact that menstruation has on women in sport.

Statistics show that one in four girls drop out of their chosen sport in their teenage years, with fear of leaking during their period given as a major reason.

The phases of your menstrual cycle

The sports brand has teamed up with sport scientist Dr Georgie Bruinvels to produce a new PE (riod) lesson plan. The aim of the lesson plan is to help show that there is a way to adapt your sport to your menstrual cycle.

The plan explains about the different phases of the menstrual cycle. It looks at what activities and nutrition are best for each phase. It also offers tips on how to alleviate negative symptoms.

And this advice doesn’t have to apply only to teenage girls. It’s just as relevant whether you are fourteen or forty-one. We’ve read the plan and extracted the most useful information for you:

Phase one: menstruation

This covers the first three to eight days of your cycle and is the phase during which you are actually bleeding. You may well be experiencing some pain and tiredness.

Activities for this phase: There’s nothing to stop you doing whatever exercise you choose, at any stage of your cycle, if you feel up to it. However, for many women, moderate intensity exercise like cycling or walking is great for this phase.

Nutrition: You are losing blood during this time and are likely to be tired. Eating food rich in antioxidants, like dark chocolate, and ensuring you get your five a day will help you to feel your best.

Phase two: follicular phase

This is the time between menstruation and ovulation, when your progesterone levels are low, but oestrogen levels begin to rise. It usually lasts for around five days after you stop bleeding, depending on the length of your cycle – everyone is different.

Activities for this phase: This tends to be the most energetic phase of the cycle, so high intensity activities like running, aerobics and team sports are all good options.

Nutrition: If you’re doing a lot of exercise you need to be fuelling your body, so don’t skimp on portions, particularly when it comes to carbohydrates like rice, pasta and potatoes.

Phase three: luteal phase

This covers the period between ovulation and the premenstrual phase – ovulation itself straddles the follicular and luteal phases. At this point in your cycle there is a lot of both oestrogen and progesterone in your system. You might feel a bit warmer than usual – maybe a bit hungrier too as your body is working hard to thicken the womb lining.

Activities for this phase: Depending on your preference, endurance sports like swimming and hiking or activities that work on flexibility, such as dance or yoga.

Nutrition: You may well be feeling hungrier than usual. Try to make sure you are getting a decent amount of protein in your diet – meat, fish, nuts, seeds and dairy products are all great.

Phase four: the premenstrual phase

We all know how this one feels. Hormones drop off sharply here, which can lead to that feeling of irritability or low mood. Go easy on yourself and do what you feel like, but remember that staying active can actually lift your spirits.

Activities for this phase: If you can face it, high intensity exercise is great for boosting your mood and reducing other symptoms like cramping. If you don’t feel up to a run, something like yoga that focuses on strengthening the body or walking can also be good.

Nutrition: Try to avoid the junk food you may be craving, as that can actually make symptoms worse. Instead go for foods that are rich in antioxidants, to prepare you for the return to phase one: menstruation.

Unusual period symptoms

If you feel like your periods are unusually heavy, painful or irregular, it is always worth getting it checked out by a medical professional. Whilst heavy periods can just be a normal part of life for some women, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Here at Surescan, we specialise in women’s health, so you can be sure that our specialists will be thorough and cover all possibilities, whilst also putting you at ease.

For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.