Personal note: I feel my body temp increase before my cycle. This often affects my sleep. I also have to use more water to cool my body during training and I find that respiration is higher (and so is HR) in the days before my cycle. I increase my sodium by pre-loading before my workouts/races during this time and also make an extra effort to stay up on hydration.
ACHES AND PAINS - Your muscles, tendons and ligaments have receptors for estrogen so it makes sense that during the menstrual cycle, the structure and function of these tissues may change and you may also experience more muscle and joint pain and stiffness. If you have ever noticed that you experience more niggles, aches and pains around your monthly cycle, it could be due to an increase in estrogen causing your tendons and ligaments to loosen. This can cause instability in certain joints, like the pelvis and knee. Be mindful of how and where you train/race throughout your menstrual cycle as tissue instability may lead to injury.
Personal note: This is something that affects me every month - my SI joint gets out of whack so I make sure to see a massage therapist and I also use KT tape on my back. I find that I get more "twisted" with my hips/back so I have to keep up with certain mobility exercises. I also know that I don't recover as well from intense sessions before and during my cycle so I stay diligent with some type of protein recovery drink during this time. I also communicate with my coach so that I don't do too many intense run or bike trainer sessions during that time of the month. I also stay up on my Mg12 cream to help with my muscles.
MOOD CHANGES - It's true that females will "act differently" before and during the high hormone phase of the month. Connected to the rise and fall of hormones (specifically estrogen), these peaks and valleys of hormones can cause mood swings. Making things worse, stressful situations can make PMS even worse. It's very normal to experience symptoms like being oversensitive, crying more easily, getting angry, feeling sad or feeling more anxious or depressed.
Personal note: I have found that communication is key. I let Karel know that my menstrual cycle is likely coming soon so he knows that if I say something that may be out of character for me, he knows it's not me talking but my hormones. I also get more tired easily so I may not be acting like myself. I also find that I do better with social and outdoor workouts during this time as I happier when I am with other people or outside. I try to avoid social media as this can make me feel anxious and sad at times.
SLEEPING ISSUES - Although you may be tired from life/training, menstrual cycle insomnia is a real thing. When estrogen is kicked up a notch, sleep disturbances are common. You may feel more drowsy and exhausted and you may notice that your sleep is more restless. You may even feel like you need a daily nap. Coupled with a raise in body temperature and feeling restless, REM sleep may be compromised.
Personal note: I'm a great sleeper for ~2 weeks of every month. I make sure to let my coach know when I'm not sleeping well as this is likely more to do with my hormones than training stress but it still impacts my recovery. There are some nutritional strategies to apply here (ex. Tart Cherry juice) but I feel the most important thing is to try to keep your room environment suitable to sleeping - with no electronic or light distractions and to avoid going to bed with a brain that is filled with running thoughts and emotions.
BLOATING - This is where I feel most female athletes struggle - with body image during PMS. A drop in progesterone can cause period bloating, which can be uncomfortable and can also negatively affect your self-image or confidence. Although you may feel like you've gained weight/fat and you may notice that your stomach is protruding, this is all due to the body retaining more water and salt due to changes in progesterone and estrogen. It's important to pay attention to your thoughts during this time as low self-esteem, poor body image and body dysmorphia can trigger disordered eating habits such as restriction and overexercise. Or you may feel too uncomfortable to exercise. Logically, it's important to know that nothing about your physical self has changed and that exercise can do wonderful things for your mind and body.
Personal note: Although this is when most of us females will feel most uncomfortable in our own skin, it's very important not to make radical changes in your diet or exercise regime. Restricting food will only lead to compromised health and performance. Accept what's going on with your hormones and make sure not to let your thoughts impact your actions. I find that wearing looser clothes and not spending energy on how I "feel" helps me get through this time of the month. Plus, I remind myself how awesome I feel when my cycle is over and when I'm in the low hormone phase, I call that my superwoman phase where I feel like I can take on the world and I can crush my workouts. I also try to schedule more work projects, writing and daily to-do's during my low hormone phase as I am much more productive. During the high hormone phase, I give myself permission to put a few less things on my daily plate.