Period Talk

‘Everything hurts and I’m dying’ sums up how I have felt the last couple of days. I am usually an emotional and rage filled mess the day before my period starts and then on day 1 suffer from cramps, back ache, sore boobs and a general feeling of bleurgh. Day two is sometimes fine and sometimes a repeat of day 1 but by day 3 I’m usually fine. I also feel heavy and sluggish and like I could really use a wheelbarrow for my tummy.

So that brings me to exercise. Generally the last thing I want to do the day before and for the first two days of my period is move. Ideally at all. What I really want is to eat all the food, cry all the tears and stay under the duvet with permission to snarl at any living being coming within 5 feet. Curling up and hiding isn’t actually all that helpful though. Mostly I feel better if I can manage to do some exercise. Mostly, but not always.

This week my carefully crafted plan has gone out of the window so I am already a bit grumpy about that. I was tired after my longer run on Sunday and decided to take Monday as my rest and move things around. Tuesday I did a very half hearted workout. I had a thing in the afternoon and I was anxious and edgy and couldn’t really focus on the workout. I got through it, it was one of those you just tick off. I did feel better for doing it. A little more focused afterwards.

Then yesterday was the bleurgh day. I was tired and emotional and hugely pre menstrual. I slept badly and unusually my period started in the middle of the night at 2.30am and I have been drugged on ibuprofen and caffeine pretty much since then. I could quite happily have stayed in bed. But I got up, I had breakfast and drugs and we did the food shop and then I kept hoovering up any food within reach. Kath went out to run and I wondered whether that might be a nice thing to do. But the thought of leaving the house and bouncing the bloated belly down the street was enough to make me go for another spoonful of peanut butter.

Once Kath finished work she persuaded me to at least have a go at one of our Body Coach workouts. I was skeptical. I mean, leaving the sofa felt like an exertion and there was cheese in the fridge that I could eat with minimal effort. But the ibuprofen I’d taken a while ago would wear off soon so it was now or never. I agreed to try, squeezed myself into my shorts, coaxed my poor boobs into a sports bra and started swearing at Joe from the minute he started talking. I huffed and puffed and whimpered my way through bootcamp 20 on the app. I felt weak and crap and struggled to complete some of the exercises. It was pretty grim.

So do I feel better and energised and proud for having done the workout. No. I don’t. Sometimes this ‘You’ll never regret a workout’ rhetoric and this forced notion of always feeling better really gets on my nerves. I appreciate that it probably did me good. I also think I’d probably feel worse if I hadn’t done the workout because I actually quite like ticking them off and sticking to the numbers of workouts per week. But I have absolutely zero strong feelings about the workout. It did not change my day, it did not change my mood, it did not make my cramps disappear. It was grim, it’s done. And I guess sometimes that’s all it needs to be.

But I do think we need to start talking much more about how our periods impact on exercise and diet. It’s nice to see more conversations, more research and more writing on this but I think it is still missing from our general talk about exercise and how we fuel our bodies. So today I had several spoonfuls of peanut butter, a handful or several of chocolate beads, a scone, cheese and my 3 meals, plus some biltong and some cherries and whatever else I have now forgotten. That’s ok. I was busy containing rage and dealing with a very cross lower back. I wasn’t about to worry about the extra fairly random calories. I also hated the exercise. That’s fine. We don’t have to love it every time. I hated that I couldn’t do it and I am cross at myself for even expecting myself to be able to do it. I mean obviously I couldn’t do it. I feel about 3 stone heavier than I actually am, standing up unleashes a tidal wave of menstrual fluid thus making squats particularly fun and my boobs are under so much tension that quite frankly anything could happen when I run on the spot.

So can we just give ourselves a break here. Can we just accept that sometimes our periods will have a huge impact on our day and our routine. I am actually not bad every month, sometimes I can carry on almost as normal but more often than not expecting the same levels of energy, the same good food choices and the same enthusiasm for moving never mind exercise is just madness. It is tempting to be disappointed at not sticking to the Body Coach food framework (which is about a lifestyle and not a diet so should in theory work for periods too, in fact it should have an extra period snacks section I reckon) and frustrated at how awful the exercise was and the fact that there was no way I was doing a workout and a run today. But we need to work with our periods, they need to feature in how we think about living healthy lifestyles. And for some of us our periods become less painful or heavy or have less of an impact as we get generally fitter but that’s not universally true. For some of us exercise helps relieve some of the symptoms but I don’t think that’s universally true either. I think, like for so much with running and exercise and healthy living and all that generally, we need to figure out what works for us. Forget the ‘should’, forget the ‘this works for me so it must for you’ and certainly forget the ‘just push through’. Make those bleurgh days about you and what is right for your body. Nourish it how you want to, move it how you want to and never ever feel guilty about it.

Now, where’s that peanut butter.

Ice, Ice Go Away

Running is sort of on semi-hold while the weather decides what it wants to do. I’m trying not to be grumpy about it. I get stupidly scared in snow and ice. While part of me really wanted to go and play in the snow, face some of those fears and rediscover some of the winter childhood joy, now is not the time to risk injury or to add to stress levels. So running is paused until the last of the ice has melted and the paths are safe again.

For once I am not too concerned about the pause. I have been doing my Body Coach App workouts so I am at least doing something. I am also confident that I can run/walk the distance on my plan so am happy to just tick those weeks off for now and pick up the plan wherever it falls when I can get outside again. This weekend I am to do a 2.5 mile run and maybe, just maybe I can do that tomorrow.

I seem to be managing 1 run a week in-between cold snaps. Last Tuesday I had a therapy appointment at Bolton Abbey and took the opportunity to have a little trot out while there. I was only going to run/walk from the Abbey to the Cavendish Pavilion, grab a coffee and walk back to the car park with it. However when I came out of my session the path towards the bridge across the river and beyond towards the Cavendish Pavilion looked really busy with dog walkers and families with small children. I really didn’t fancy trying to navigate my way through that lot. I briefly considered not running and just heading home but the sun was shining and my brain was whirring from therapy. Running would be good.

So I set off in the opposite direction for a little trot out along the river and soon moved off the path onto grass. It had that delightful consistency that you only get from slightly frozen wet fields – squishy and crunchy at the same time and a little bit spongy. I trotted along in my 30seconds / 30 seconds run/walk intervals and wondered why it felt like such hard work. Then I remembered that for the last year or so I have hardly really run properly off road. The bit of running I have done has been road and canal towpath – and the towpath locally here is proper path not mud. I have not run on grass and mud for absolutely ages. And it showed.

The section I ran is only about half a mile each way so I ran a little loop round the field which also tested out my feet and ankles more on the slightly longer grass and avoided the muddy bits where lots of people had walked. Then I ran back up to the Abbey and round it back towards the car park to make up my 30 minutes. It wasn’t a great run in terms of pace or even how I felt doing it – a bit sluggish and can’t be bothered but it was 30 minutes of moving my moomin butt in the sun, it helped my brain stop whirring and it felt good.

The run really got my quads and I was sore for a couple of days after but not sore enough to not do the Body Coach stuff. I have a week to go on Cycle 1 so I’ll do a review then. I’m quite enjoying it all. I’ve switched rest days around a bit this week as I was just dead yesterday but overall I think it’s going pretty well. Now, if the weather goddess would be so kind and remove the ice, I can get going properly on that 10km plan!

I ran

I wasn’t really expecting to tell you this again this year! I had moments where I hoped and the odd glimmer of total madness where I dared to plan. But I didn’t really believe I would manage another actual run this year. When I last wrote I was testing the fitness water with some HIIT sessions at home – well parts of HIIT sessions. Well they felt sort of awful and I felt not quite right and weird. And then one day, about 10 days ago I managed all 3 sets, and it didn’t feel weird. It just felt hard. It felt like being unfit and not being used to any of the exercises and like maybe having started on the mince pies just a little too early this year. It felt familiar. My body does unfit really well. It understands what it feels like and what is asked of it. It grumbles in all the usual places and ways when asked to do something about it. It wobbles and creaks a little and grumbles but it also secretly knows which bits will be slightly less wobbly first, which bits need nursing along and which bits just need to get over themselves. It knows my thighs lie when they say ‘can’t’ but that my shoulders know their limitations and ignoring a ‘can’t’ from them is likely to result in a dropped weight or face plant. It also knows that my hips are quite bendy, my hamstrings are not. Being unfit and starting to get fitter is familiar territory, I was beginning to come home.

So if the HIIT sessions just felt hard but not being-poorly-weird then there was no real reason I couldn’t have a go at a run. Running feels scarier simply because I have to leave the house. If I don’t feel well I still have to get home; there might be other people (rude!) and there are other things to think about like traffic, curbs, potholes, dogs, cars, wheelie bins with minds of their own… so I made a very very gentle plan:

  • Week 0: Complete 4 HIIT sessions
  • Week 1 (now): 2 runs of 30 minutes running only 10 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run -same running interval
  • Week 2: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 15 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
  • Week 3: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 20 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
  • Week 4: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 30 seconds walking 30 seconds; 1 longer run 30/30 on Christmas morning

The I panicked about everything and did very little. Out of the 4 sessions I managed 2 and I struggled to get out to run. It’s now Thursday of Week 1 and after a day of pottering about in the kitchen baking I decided it was time. I found a pair of new New Balance long pants I bought a century or so ago (it’s 2020, time is meaningless) and got wrapped up warm. Then I went to set my watch and discovered that I couldn’t set a 10 second/50 second alert – it would have to be 15 /45 seconds or I’d have to set up a new workout to upload first. Hm. Ok well 15 seconds run it had to be then.

Kath came with me and we agreed just to do an out and back to the end of the road section of our sheep loop. It wouldn’t be quite half an hour but it would be a good start. So that’s what we did. 15 seconds of running – really concentrating on running form and going at a decent pace. It was pretty good. It wasn’t easy but my legs remember how to run and actually they weren’t too grumpy about having to move a bit faster and get the knees a bit higher and my lungs didn’t protest too much either. 1.5 miles all in and I am looking forward to the next one. I ran.

Warning: running may lead to Yoga, Pilates, Gym….

I don’t actually like the gym. We have been doing yoga at home – sometimes more and sometimes less consistently. However, its not really enough. I very occasionally popped into the gym at work but I often don’t get there because work stuff side tracks me or I want to get home…. So after much deliberations we joined the local council gym for a month in June to try out the classes and have another go at doing some useful cross training.

June was pretty good and we decided it was sensible to come back and get into a good exercise/cross training routine. So far we’re doing pretty well. One of the guys at the gym did us a short programme designed to support our running. It consists of some step ups with weights and then lots of stuff to strengthen core and glutes. I like it because it’s short and should work fine if done twice a week. In fact we have been doing this a little while now so it is probably time to go see him again and get a new one.

In addition we have done a fitness pilates class which I find quite hard but good and I enjoy it. Again the work on core strength helps and I think I am probably getting better even with only having done it twice since we’ve been back (and twice in June before we went). Last week we also tried a yoga class which I loved. The instructor was fabulous and very focused on form and technique coming round and putting us all in the right positions. I could most definitely feel that! We also tried a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class in June which I sort of hated but loved having done. We are having another go on Thursday next week. So with 2 gym sessions, 1 pilates, 1 yoga and 1 HIIT class as well as the running we’re pretty busy getting fitter. We might not be able to do all of this every week and if I’m honest, the HIIT class might prove too much for me, but we’ll see how we go.

I lost 2 pounds in the first week back from Australia, I’m sticking to Sunday weigh in just to keep track and eating is focused on fuel and eating yummy things that are overall healthy without going over the top. I feel quite content with all of that at the moment and I am getting stronger. It feels different not going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym or to lose weight or tone up but to go to support my running. It feels like there’s a good reason and somehow that makes it more enjoyable.