Real Talk: The Reality of Having a Period as an Athlete
We all fell in love with Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui when, at the Olympics this year, she talked about having her period. In an interview she said, “Yes (my belly hurts) because my period came yesterday,” she was discussing her performance. “I’m feeling a bit weak and exhausted, but this is not an excuse. Anyway, I didn’t do well.”
Not only was she super charming in her honesty, but she was breaking a stigma and giving voice to a real issue facing women in sports, one that doesn’t really ever get mentioned-having a period as an athlete.
Here are a few reasons why athletes on their periods deserve a little extra recognition:
It’s harder to athletically do well.
Yuanhui was not exaggerating when she felt that her period affected her performance, despite her humility. Research has proven that up to half of athletes find that their performance is negatively affected by their periods. It’s no joke.
Sports already hurt without menstrual pain.
Even the best athletes in the world get sore from a performance. When your energy is low and you’re already feeling crappy, the extra pain from physical exertion is far from pleasant. On a positive note, exercise can sometimes help relieve menstrual cramps: exercise both increases blood circulation and naturally lowers stress, positive things all around.
Heavy flow days can get messy.
Spandex plus those have-to-change-your-tampon-every-hour days usually don’t mix very well. Just remember your backup pads!
Athletes on their periods need a little extra care.
There is not a ton of research out on athletes on their periods. If an athlete is exercising during her time of the month, they should be extra careful to be hydrated, rested, and eating nutrient-dense food.
Here’s Fu keeping it real and starting a conversation that is way overdue and incredibly important: