Period Pro's, Pain's & Plastic free Products
In light of International Woman's Day 2021, I felt it appropriate to share this blog. Since becoming a FitrWoman ambassador last year, I have learnt so much about the menstrual cycle.I only wish I had learnt about this free app earlier. From the monthly changes in hormones, to what each menstrual phase means for me as a female athlete, it has been really empowering to educate myself on the benefits of the menstrual cycle and take control of my symptoms for the first time. Through my ambassadorial role, I therefore feel compelled to raise awareness and contribute to normalising this discussion - for the benefit of woman's sport.
After 11 years of contraceptive use; to manage painful period cramps, nausea and vomiting around my training and racing schedule, it feels great to have finally got my natural cycle back last year. It also feels pretty powerful to have got to a place where I no longer rely on synthetic hormones to control my symptoms. I now feel I can reap all the benefits of having a regular natural cycle and have confidence in my longterm health. Below are just some of the benefits why having a natural cycle is important to me as a female athlete and further recommendations and readings for you to explore around the menstrual cycle. Enjoy!
A regular period is a good indicator of a healthy body.
A natural cycle can lower Injury risk and increase response to training.
A natural cycle can be a marker of health and help identify when the body is under stress (Reducing the onset of Relative energy deficiency in Sport or RED-S).
A regular cycle can aid learning, to facilitate being more in tune with the body.
Below are a couple of recommendations of how I like to keep on top things to ensure I have a regular cycle each month (as informed by FitR app).
1. Beginning exercise well fuelled and hydrated to Avoid RED-S
2. Refuel within a 15 minute window after training with protein & carbohydrates to repair muscles to support the work.
3. Meditation and yoga to combat the psychological stress which has the potential to delay your period and even cause amenorrhea.
4. Getting 8-10 hours of undisrupted sleep so the body can repair and not become fatigued.
5. Maintain a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables, omega 3, probiotics and vitamins. Healthy fats are also a key for producing and regulating hormones.
Aside from the many positives a regular natural cycle provides, periods can cause a lot woman to experience a range of symptoms throughout any given month due to hormonal fluctuations. There are of course a percentage of woman who experience chronic symptoms due to menstrual dysfunctions and disorders such as endometriosis, fibroids and ovarian cysts. However, most woman experience symptoms due to the menstrual cycle being an inflammatory process. Thankfully these symptoms can be reduced with some simple strategies such as, good quality sleep, nutrition, hydration, exercise and stress management techniques. Below are some tried an tested strategies informed by Orreco's FitrWoman App, which I have found most helpful for reducing my symptoms.
1. Bloating, Heavy legs & DOMS - Compression garments, Ice baths, Antioxidants & Omega 3 all help reduce inflammation.
2. Menstrual Cramps and Back pain - Antioxidants, Omega 3, Exercise or Stretching (Sometimes the last thing you feel like but I have found a light jog or yoga to help), Hot water bottle or a Warm bath & TENS Machine.
3. Headaches - Hydrating with plenty of fluids and electrolytes (Particularly important in the Luteal phase, Phase 4). Avoiding Caffeine and alcohol.
4. Psychological stress and tension - Meditation (Calm or Headspace are great mindfulness apps) and the Shakti Acupressure Mat is amazing at helping me chill out (mainly because it forces me not to move!).
5. Poor concentration, Nausea & Fatigue - Make sure there's plenty of fuel and fluids on board pre exercise and recovery post exercise. Try to get a minimum of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep or nap during the day to make up hours.
Download the FitrWoman app for more information on how to combat symptoms.
PLASTIC FREE PERIODS
In the UK alone we flush away 4.6 million tampons, pads and liners down the toilet each day. This is a BIG issue for our sewage systems, rivers and the sea, not to mention the rest that ends up in landfill. In the current landscape where daily disposables are being used in mass more than ever due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we could all think about the sustainable options that are available to us, to do our part to reduce plastic pollution.
City to sea is an award wining non profit which campaigns to stop plastic pollution and provide practical solutions to the plastic problem. Their #PlasticFreePeriod Campaign aims to raise awareness about the effect menstrual products have on the environment and our health. To read more or donate to the non profit visit Citytosea.org.uk or follow @Citytosea_ on Social media.
Below are some products that I feel make each month just a little more comfortable. All recommendations are reusable or plastic free and I have tried them during training or whilst competing.
1. Disposable sanitary bags by Fab Little bag £2.99 - These are great for being discreet if you are sharing a bathroom -as I often do when I am competing!
2. The Menstrual Cup by The Pixie Cup £17.50 is a game changer for exercise. The application take some getting used to, but once you do, it's the best for long-wear. The Pixi cup have a Buy One, Give One program which provides cups to woman in need across the world, helping tackle period poverty.Here's 10% off with the code10FIRST if you would like to try one.
3. Reusable tampon applicator by DAME Tampons and reusable applicator set £23.79 - Comes with 100% organic, toxic free tampons and is a really clever way to ease the application of a tampon without unnecessary disposal of a typical plastic applicator.
4. Period pants Cheeky wipes period pants £10.50 - the underwear has multiple absorbent layers, therefore they can be worn alone or in conjunction with a menstrual cup, disc, tampon or pad.
5. TENS Machine Livia £94 - this is super helpful for reducing the pain of period cramps and it can be worn throughout the day and even during exercise.
6. Compression tights - These are perfect for reducing swelling or bloating. My favourite compression legging's are high waisted pair are from Ryka which you can buy in TK Maxx.
7. Hot Water bottle Wearable cover & long hot water bottle £45 - A great option if you are having one of those day's where you need heat on the go.
8. Warm bath with Epsom Salts Eco Bath London Muscle and Joint Epsom salt soak £8.99 - This does wonders for heavy & 'DOMSY' legs.
9. Acupressure Matt Shakti Acupressure Mat £42.64 - This is amazing for getting me to stay still, it's wonderful for meditation and relieving tension in the neck and back.
10. Tracking cycle with FitrWoman app It's free! - The most beneficial thing I have used over the last 12 months. The app has great science led advice and tracking my period means I can be prepared to put strategies in place to support my cycle.
I wanted to include this section since becoming enlightened by the conversation surrounding period poverty in back 2019, when I listened to the amazing Amika George (19 years old at the time) speak so eloquently about the issue on the Gurls Talk podcast hosted by Adwoa Aboah (Episode 23. If you are interested in listening).
Period poverty is a global issue affecting woman and girls that don't have access to safe and hygienic sanitary products. Amika began the Initiative Free periods in April 2017 ( at just 17 years old) and continues to work towards their mission to end period poverty in the UK.
Already they have obtained Government committed funding for free period products in schools in England, mirroring similar commitments already made by Governments in Scotland and Wales, since January 2020.
If you'd like to read more or donate to Period Poverty visit FreePeriods.org or follow @Freeperiods on social media.
I hope this blog helps anyone reading as much as the recommendations have helped me over the last 12 months. Further information see the recourses below.
Resources: FitrWoman App, Female athlete Podcast, No period, Now what? A guide to regaining your cycles and improving your fertility by Nicola J. Rinaldi, PHD, It's about bloody time. Period by Emma Barnett and Period Power by Maisie Hill, Free Periods & City to See website.
#Femalehealth #IWD #Periods #MensturalCycle #Periodpoverty #FitRWoman