Periods. Menstrual Cycle. Time of the Month. Whatever you call them the majority of female grapplers have them in some shape or form and have to deal with them on the mat. This blog is a combination of my own experience as well as some the best of the net to hopefully share some thoughts and advice on the topic.
Should I Train?
The answer is generally yes! Although I’m not going to pretend to be a superhuman. If your genuinely really struggling then just pick your training partners. You might want to flow and drill rather than full on rolling. Be honest and don’t be ashamed that once a month knee of belly isn’t just nasty but almost inhumane! Plus on the positive exercise can help with mood and actually help with period pain.
It’s not just knee on belly and stomach bloating. Periods can cause breast tenderness. Although I do experience it personally it’s never gotten in the way of my jiu jitsu. I have sacrificed most of my boobies to the jiu jitsu gods so other than boob smear incidents (which hurt anyway) I haven’t had any negative side effects. But I have heard of more blessed females occasionally having to take painkillers to help with the aspect on the mat.
Picking your Products
I know a host of women swear by menstrual cups now I’ll be honest I really hate the idea of them despite a host of positive around them. I just have a really irrational fear that one slip during training then they’ll be an indescribable flood! But don’t let my own OCD put you off. A ton of women online genuinely swear by them!
Now I am not quite in the only wearing black gi’s gang but I do double up for my own personal security and sanity whilst rolling so it is a tampon, with a panty liner with booty shorts over the top. Although to be honest I always wear booty shorts anyway just to stop me flashing my undies! It’s a combo that’s always served me well even through the toughest comp class.
Adapting Your Training Programme
At top-level sport there has been a lot of discussion regarding phasing a females training programme in line with their cycle to maximise results. Now this might not always be possible in BJJ but it may be something to keep in mind regarding your own personal goals. Not everyday is designed to be a lifting PB similarly your recovery can be affected.
Be Injury Aware
Linked to the point above there is research to suggest that women are more prone to certain injuries due to the fact our joint laxity changes during our cycle. In particular knee joints have been highlighted in a number of articles. You can’t change your hormones or biomechanics but good prehab and injury prevention work is never a bad idea to add into your work out.
Weight Management & Diet
If you have to try to manage your weight for competition. You may find that you need to adapt your diet schedule around your cycle. Some research claims that women need more calories during certain parts of their cycle. The theories for why this is are mixed one being linked to simply higher calorie needs whilst the other theory links to hormone changes linked to decrease serotonin which may explain those sweet tooth craving.
Do I need to have Periods? / Changes in your Cycle
There has been some research regarding eliminating your periods through birth control methods and generally it has been deemed safe for women. I personally use the pill anyway so have utilised it to prevent having to compete on my period or trips away. But and it’s a BIG but there is a world of difference in manipulating your periods due to birth control and losing your period due to excessive dieting or training.
Lost or irregular periods can be a sign of Female Triad Syndrome and athletes who are training hard and are trying to manage (lose) weight are a particular at risk group. Eating disorders or restrictive eating is one triad element and whilst it sounds extreme athletes managing their weight often fall into this category by simply not enough to maintain their weight and training needs. If find that your periods do start to become more irregular or stop completely consider seeking professional or medical help. Whilst part of our brain may find losing our periods a cause for celebration the potential other factors such as osteoporosis or longer term health issues aren’t something any grappler wants to compete with.
So so what about me?
I’ve mentioned bits about me as we have gone along and readers know I’m genuinely not a Wonder Woman. So it won’t be a surprise that personally I don’t do everything suggested in this article but what I do try to do is listen to my body. Tapering intensity because your feeling “urgh” isn’t a sign a weakness. You wouldn’t ridicule someone doing it to avoid over training and illness so don’t feel bad about adapting around your body. My other change has been around weight management and not trying to diet too heavily and allowing those extra carbs. Let’s be honest grumpy and hungry isn’t a great combo!
Hopefully, you found this article useful whether your new to BJJ or a seasoned grappler but feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences.