Okay, so this is a slightly sensitive topic to cover but I feel it’s important.
The number one question I get asked from other upcoming female fighters is: “What do you do when you get your…you know”. The “you know” is an obvious reference to one’s period.
There’s also a really good article by T-Nation that talks about the hormone cycle in female lifters, highlighting the different phases your body goes through during your cycle and how to make each phase work for you during training. Although the article by T-Nation may not be targeted to fighters specifically, I still found the information pretty useful in terms of when to exert and when to taper.
I’m pretty sure every women has slightly different experiences when it comes to their cycle so it’s about finding what works best for you.
The following tips, although common-sensical, are actions I’ve taken that have proven useful.
Talking to your trainer
I know this might be uncomfortable for some, but having a candid conversation with your trainer can help them understand what you’re going through so you can both work towards a solution. If you explain how difficult it is to perform, and throw in some biological facts, your trainer may be able to get a better picture.
Not talking to your trainer may lead to further confusion and misunderstanding on their part, especially if they’re demanding a lot of you physically. I’ve discussed my ‘female challenges’ with my trainer (who is male) and it’s been a really good solution. My trainer is more aware of what goes on biologically, and why I sometimes wreath in pain on the gym floor for no “apparent reason”.
However, if this suggestion doesn’t work for you, and / or you’re too embarrassed to talk about it (which I completely understand) then continue reading as there might be a different solution for you to try.
Plot your period
Many women do this already and if you don’t, perhaps you should start – it’s useful for when you need to work around training and fighting.
If you’re irregular, this wouldn’t be a great solution as you never know when the crimson wave will cast itself ashore. If you’re experiencing irregularity, it’s probably worth chatting to your doctor to ensure it’s not another health related issue.
Some of my female fighter friends have a really tough time with their period. I know for myself that when it’s really bad, it feels like a chainsaw going through my insides, or a small rodent clawing it’s way out. Nice picture huh!
If you know when it’s coming (through plotting or physical signs) then having the right pain relief on hand is of course always helpful. I usually take a two mild pain killers before training, or I’ll just have a quiet word with my trainer that I’m in excruciating pain. He’ll then ease off me a little in training.
A friend of mine also said taking fish oil helps relieve pain during period. I’ve tried this myself and it seems to work well. Again, seeking medical advice might be helpful in this regard.
I sigh at the thought of cutting weight during one’s period. The water retention is uncomfortable. The cutting is uncomfortable. Everything about it is uncomfortable!
If you’re prone to ballooning, and you need to cut weight for a fight, having a plan in place well in advance is important. Ideally, you would have been working on your weight cut months in advance while you’ve plotted your cycle. But if the weight is being stubborn, and you’re days away from your fight, you may need to be more aggressive with your cut.
Water manipulation through water loading might be your answer. Alternatively, you can take a bath full of Epsom salts to help drop your body’s water levels. These are quite drastic measures, and I’m not a big fan of them. Only when I’ve been desperate have I gone down this track. I’ll talk more about these methods in another post, although I warn against them and I don’t encourage you to undertake them without consulting your trainer.
Come fight night, make sure that you…er…“change the linen” as close to your fight as possible to ensure no “incidences” occur.
I like to wear two layers of black, compression sports shorts so everything is held in place. Last thing you want is for something to show up or come out (eek!) but honestly, this will be the last of your worries during the actual fight I’m sure.
Knowing when to push through
I’m a big fan of mentally pushing through when faced with adversity. I’ve learned that if something’s uncomfortable or painful, but doesn’t kill you, you can keep going. The same can be said for your period.
Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it looks like a massacre down there. But, it’s not fatal. What’s important here is managing your period, but also knowing that you can push through it. I use it as an exercise to help strengthen my mental game through training. Any form of physical adversity can be used to make you mentally tougher.
Plotting your period, managing your pain, talking to your trainer and pushing through adversity are ways that I’ve managed training and fighting through that time of the month. These methods may not suit everyone as we’re all different. These are just my suggestions to help you get through.
If you have any tips or ideas, feel free to enter them in the comment box below. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – just keep it clean!