I know they recommend exercise for PMS... but how do you exercise?
May 18, 2007 3:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I maintain a regular exercise routine despite period fatigue?

I'm trying to start jogging regularly for my general health, as well as with an eye towards a 5k in September. I had a few false starts during the school year, during which I usually managed a half hour workout, 3 or 4 times per week, despite homework and some extracurricular commitments.

I'm overweight (5'6" and 160), but as a college student, I walk everywhere and take the stairs most of the time. (Jogging a 10-11 minute mile on a treadmill gets me temporarily out of breath but isn't a problem otherwise; real life, replete with hills, is harder) I'm not on the school meal plan and try to eat moderate portions, but not always healthy ones.

From a few days before my period until the third or fourth day of it (out of five), I'm very easily out of breath and my muscles get tired a lot more easily. I'll notice my heart rate increase more than it should after one flight of stairs at a walking pace.

I guess the culprit could primarily be dietary, but I've been fatigued during my period since menarche, so it'd be something I've been consistently doing wrong from 12 to 20. I've always assumed that some level of fatigue was typical, but I feel tired enough that I'm unable to maintain my usual level of training. I wonder if some part of it is psychological, but I know that I really do get tired, and it bothers me that I can't perform anywhere near my peak.

Is there an insider secret or some standard solution that female athletes use? Or am I stuck with writing off one out of every four weeks?
posted by scission to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, I have the exact same problem. I find I come out of it sooner if I give myself permission to rest when I need to rest, instead of pushing through when I just don't have the energy.

Also, eating red meat, (YMMV) getting enough sleep and doing more relaxing exercise (easier yoga, swimming) helps. Good luck! I'll be watching this thread to see what other people do.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:05 PM on May 18, 2007

Actually, I think your problem is hormonal. Your estrogen goes way down, and so does your energy, when you are premenstrual.

Post-menopausal women also experience this.

Taking the pill as a birth-control method can help to stabilize the hormonal levels. You might have to try a few different ones that would work for you.

You might also try taking a plant-based estrogen supplement, like promensil or estroven. These are available over the counter, but you will need to take them for 4 weeks or so (one full cycle) before you start to see results.
posted by misha at 4:08 PM on May 18, 2007

Assuming there's no underlying health problem, I would try to slow way down (there is no shame in a 12- or 13- or 15-plus-minute mile) on those days -- don't just the workouts. Getting in shape and sticking to your routine may help the overall problem, assuming it is the fatigue that many women experience as part of the whole menstruation deal. Overall, exercise should gain you some energy.

As a female athlete, though, I don't have this particular problem. There are days that the same run is harder than on other days, and it's normal to have off days.
posted by Airhen at 4:13 PM on May 18, 2007

Response by poster: I tried Desogen for a few months and switched brands due to extreme mood swing side effects, so I'm on my second month of Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo now. I didn't notice a change in physical ability when I started either pill, but I'll consider asking the (intimidating) nurses at Health Services if I get a chance. I posted to AskMeFi to get a sense of how normal this is and in hopes of finding a more obvious / less personalized solution.
posted by scission at 4:14 PM on May 18, 2007

premenstrual fatigue isn't uncommon. i just drink a little extra coffee (the diuretic effect isn't unwelcome that time of the month, either).

i wouldn't stress about it. work out, as per your routine, just don't push yourself as hard.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:19 PM on May 18, 2007

That sounds unusual to me; I'd ask a doctor for an opinion.

In the meantime, maybe you could come up with different kinds of exercise during your period -- yoga, maybe (though no inverted poses).

The dietary explanation is an interesting one -- does your diet varies dramatically during your period?
posted by stonefruit at 6:12 PM on May 18, 2007

Iron supplements. Talk to your doctor about it, though, as too much iron can be poisonous.
posted by amtho at 7:14 PM on May 18, 2007

I find I come out of it sooner if I give myself permission to rest when I need to rest, instead of pushing through when I just don't have the energy.

Ditto. And if I keep warm.
posted by salvia at 8:58 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I experience this too. I think eating foods with iron and protein helps me a bit with energy. I give myself permission to skip maybe one workout if I'm beat, and to take it easy for my other workouts. I started running in January 2006, and as I build my endurance I find the monthly exhaustion has diminished.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:27 PM on May 18, 2007

I tend to feel horribly tired just before and during the first couple of days of my period. I just feel fatigued, for no good reason.

I tend to give myself a break during those days; workout at a reduced intensity.
posted by ysabet at 9:29 PM on May 20, 2007

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