|Navigational Art and Directions By Colleen Yorke, © 2015.
Largely ignored by running magazines, websites and race commentaries, for the female runners among us one week out of every four is going to be inconvenienced by menstruation. This monthly re-occurrence does affect our training and running schedule, and if we race, chances are we will have to deal with it, sooner or later. (And by the way, knowing a woman's MC can be of potential interest to some men as well)
During the first 13 days of the menstrual cycle, estrogen is at its lowest. The body uses carbohydrates as the primary fuel source. Typically, tempo and speed workouts will be stronger during this part of the cycle, and glycogen is quickly broken down for fast energy. Days 14-27, estrogen peaks and remains high until the start of the period. The body uses fat for fuel, and female runners tend to be more efficient running longer, slower distances. Speed or tempo work may feel more challenging.
In the midst of the period, the female body loses iron, which causes fatigue. The body temperature tends to increase, and we gain water weight. Energy levels are at an all time low, and lower body cramps add to the running discomfort. We are padded up, and we resort to running in black clothing in 90 degrees weather.
Still, the majority of us prefer running. Exercise increases blood flow and the release of endorphins, which can lessen physical symptoms as well as our depressed moods. Win win. To a degree. We are reminded of our bloody problem, when we attempt speeding around the USC track alongside elite runners high on testosterone. Even without the external feedback from a gadget, we know our performance just dropped precipitously.
Nevertheless, 100, 100, 200 and 200 yards later, burning feet and thighs, heart and lungs embracing an entire world at their disposal, I remember why I run. Rain or shine, golden mornings and starry evenings, urban exploration or following a forest path, running courses through the arteries of my life and colors my dreams.