6 Facts about Running as a Female
By. Dr. Jason Karp and Jessica Maurer
Did you know your menstrual cycle has several effects on your running performance? From body temperature to metabolism, breathing to bone density, your monthly cycle can influence your weekly runs. However, few female runners and coaches take the menstrual cycle into consideration when planning training. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know... right?
In this article, Dr. Jason Karp, founder and CEO of the women’s-specialty run coaching company, Kyniska Running, shares with us six facts your mama and your coach probably never told you about running as a female.
1. The best time of the month to push endurance training is when estrogen is high.
If you are looking to increase your training volume, aim to do this around week 2 of your cycle (known as the follicular phase). Why? Estrogen shifts your metabolism to a greater reliance on fat, which conserves your muscles’ limited store of carbohydrates. Use this to your advantage and plan your longer runs during this time of your cycle.
2. The worst time of the month for endurance performance is during your period when progesterone is high.
While harder workouts may be more challenging during your period, easy running may actually improve your mood and alleviate physical symptoms associated with your period. While you are on your period, stray away from pushing it extra hard and stick to maintaining your pace and weekly mileage (or even decreasing it).
3. Estrogen is powerful!
Did you know that estrogen helps your muscles recover? It inhibits inflammation and stimulates muscle repair and regeneration following strenuous exercise. Plus, estrogen can lower your core body temperature and protect your bones from stress-fractures. Pretty powerful, right?
4. Progesterone can affect your hydration levels.
When running during week 3 or 4 of your cycle, it’s important to focus on keeping cool and staying hydrated since progesterone is at its highest levels at this time. Progesterone acts on your brain’s hypothalamus, which increases your set-point temperature. This means a woman’s body must reach a higher temperature before her thermostat compensates and begins to cool itself (sweat). This is not a good thing when running on a hot and humid day when you want to begin the cooling response as soon as possible. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your running and stay as cool as possible when running by wearing lighter clothing and aiming for more shade than sun.
5. Birth control may positively affect your running.
If a woman has very heavy or irregular periods, oral contraceptives may benefit her to regulate the cycle & plan more strategic running sessions. Whether from menstrual dysfunction or menopause, women who have irregular period cycles can also have compromised skeletal health due to the lack of estrogen; hormonal birth control can supply the missing estrogen.
6. Running can be an effective PMS treatment.
Sometimes, certain period-related symptoms may make it harder for women to run and be motivated—feeling tired or bloated, having less energy, cramps, upset stomach, and dealing with tampons/pads/cups. Aerobic exercise won’t prevent PMS, but it can greatly reduce the symptoms naturally.
Moral of the story? There’s a lot more to running as a woman than you might think! The good news is there are knowledgeable pr
About Dr. Jason Karp
Dr. Jason Karp is the founder and CEO of the women’s-specialty run coaching company, Kyniska Running. In addition to being an industry-leading running coach, exercise physiologist, bestselling author of 12 books and 400+ articles, and speaker, he is the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and two-time recipient of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Community Leadership award. His REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ certification has been obtained by coaches and fitness professionals in 25 countries.