In January 2021, we collaborated with Women’s Running UK to promote health and wellbeing with a particular focus on the menstrual cycle and hormones. In a month where fitness and wellness information can be about extremes and new fads, we wanted to bring you 31 days of evidence-based top tips that are sustainable, actionable and, ultimately, beneficial! 

Here are some of our highlights from the 31 days…

Day one: Track your menstrual cycle and symptoms

We find that lots of women will be taken by surprise by PMS symptoms or when their period comes, but if you track them then you can prepare for them. ⁠
You can track using your diary or calendar, or with the free FitrWoman app, available on the App Store and on Google Play.⁠

Day five: Eat your carbs

Repeat after us: carbs are great. There is a lot of ‘carb-phobia’ in the media, including in the world of sport, but carbohydrates are essential for your body to make energy and will benefit any high-intensity runs. Plus, adequate carbs (along with protein and fats) are important to keep your hormones happy - under-fuelling is stressful for your body and could cause menstrual cycle disruptions. ⁠

Day eleven: Protect your bones

We asked @fitrwoman Brand Champion, marathon runner and female athlete researcher Dr @jess_piasecki_runscience for her top women's health tip and she said:⁠

‘We know (endurance) running is a great stimuli for cardiovascular fitness, our mental health and reducing body fat percentage. However, what we must not neglect is our bone health, particularly for females. It is vital that we balance our endurance training with some resistance work to build muscle mass to protect our bones, along with some powerful exercises to ensure we stimulate those bone cells to build more bone and make our skeleton stronger.’⁠

Day twelve: Not all advice is good advice

Look at advice and information with a critical eye, @fitrwoman remind us, especially when it comes to health, fitness and nutrition. Not everyone is an expert.⁠

Women are still underrepresented in sports science studies, which means that recommendations are usually based on research in men. Historically, research in women has been limited, and considerations for menstrual cycle phase (which can affect your response to certain stimulus or mental state) haven’t been made. This is changing, but it may take a while for advice to change with it. Know yourself, and know your sources.⁠

Day thirteen: Use your cycle to your advantage

Marathoner and @fitrwoman brand champion, @lilypartridge, has got some advice for you: "Take your time to learn about your own body - knowledge is power! It can make a huge difference to not only your run performance but how you feel about and look at your cycle. You can start to use it to maximise your performance rather than seeing it as a hindrance." ⁠

Day eighteen: Normalise the conversation

Talk about your menstrual cycle, about female health, about breast health, about smear tests… that is the only way we are going to normalise the conversation and make these topics less of a taboo. If you have a coach, talk to them, talk to your friends, colleagues and family. It doesn’t have to be in detail, but you shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. After all, these things affect a huge amount of us and we shouldn't be shamed into keeping quiet about it!⁠

Day twenty four: Boost food with mood

We found that mood changes/anxiety is one of the most prevalent menstrual cycle symptoms. Here are some things that may help if you are affected by this: ⁠

1. Seeds, pulses, soya beans, eggs and whey products may help to ‘boost’ serotonin levels (they are linked with increases in tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin)⁠
2. Increase your intake of complex carbohydrates like wholegrain bread and pastas, brown rice, pulses and grains like oats⁠
3. Increase your exposure to bright light and fresh air⁠
4. Maintain RDA for magnesium, omega 3s, calcium and vitamin B6 as these can affect your neurotransmitters and, therefore, your mood.⁠

Day thirty: Don't compare yourself to anyone else

Everyone is different, even when it comes to menstrual cycles, hormones and health & wellbeing. That means that what works for your next door neighbour or best friend might not work for you. Likewise, some experience awful symptoms for half of their menstrual cycle, and others barely notice any changes. @fitrwoman encourages a personalised approach, based on your individual responses to exercise & life performance across the menstrual cycle. It may be a bit of trial and error to begin with, but it’s worth it.⁠

About Women's Running UK:

Women’s Running UK are the UK’s first running magazine for women, with the aim of bringing their running tribe together, and to enthuse all runners with inspiring features and invaluable advice. Every month, the magazine and website are crammed with advice, gear, interviews and in-depth features to inspire all women to run the best they can. Women’s Running is there to talk to you and offer any help, advice and motivation you need to get out there in the first place. Women’s Running have launched memberships, more than just a subscription to the magazine. Membership includes the magazine, one month’s membership to Move GB’s ‘Move At Home’, 25% off membership to ‘Girls Run the World’ and many more perks. Find out more on their website.

To check out all 31 top tips, and discover more about Women's Running UK, check out their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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