74% women reported their menstrual cycle negatively affected their active & sporting performance.

75% had never discussed their menstrual cycle with their coach

72% received no education regarding exercise and their menstrual cycle*

Most of us can recall being in school and playing sports at school, and having to  contend with our periods. Often starting during high school years, changing into sports gear at school, battling PMS and cramps whilst also pretending everything was fine. 

Even now in adult years, you can feel a difference in your pilates or yoga classes, or out for your morning run when you're menstruating, and if you're in tune with your cycle you can feel differences at all times of the month. 
So how do professional athletes manage to contend with all of the symptoms of an ever changing menstrual cycle, and still compete and perform at a professional level? 


The effect of the menstrual cycle on physical performance is (finally) beginning to be increasingly recognised as a key consideration for women’s sport and a critical field for further research.

We all experience different symptoms on our menstrual cycle to the next woman, everyone is different, and we’re not the same each month either; our cycles fluctuate, so every athlete will be different, making a greater variety of research needed.

We all know that physiologically women are different to men. But there has been a lack of research historically on female athletes in the area of high performance and, as a result, training practices for men and women have been very similar, if not the same. It is an issue that many elite sportswomen are starting to talk about and have spoken out about recently. Studies are now gradually emerging to provide a better understanding of the menstrual cycle and highlight how exercise and nutrition can be altered to advance female athletic performance, reduce injury risk, and, crucially, on how women need to train as women and not as men.



During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (second half – just before the period) we see hormonal changes and PMS symptoms that can affect all of our day-to-day life, and can no doubt have detrimental effects on an athletes performance.

A survey conducted on Elite sportswomen in 2020 found 59.8% of athletes were affected by their period; they showed varied symptoms of lower energy levels, aches, headaches, bloating and cramps, all of which will take a physical and mental toll, and can certainly limit athletic performance.

Progesterone is highest during this phase, causing the increase in core temperature, breathing rate and heart rate which can make exercise seem harder. This is because the muscles involved in breathing use more oxygen, which means there is less available for the training muscles to use. 

These effects can make it significantly harder to exercise in the heat, which is an issue when training or competing in hotter climates.

Periods for athletes

During a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle, relaxin regulates muscle activity in the wall of the uterus to prevent contractions and prepare the lining of the uterus for pregnancy. The levels are highest during the mid-luteal phase until menstruation begins. Therefore, there are certain points during the menstrual cycle that women may be at a higher risk for injury due to the effect relaxin has on connective tissue. Relaxin creates a general laxity in a woman's ligaments and may impact the incidence of sports-related injuries, making injury more likely, and inhibiting recovery.

During the first half of the cycle, when oestrogen levels are high, we may see a benefit to endurance performance. Oestrogen increases our reliance on fats for energy during submaximal exercise, which means we can exercise for longer before dipping into that all-important limited store of glycogen. For the endurance athlete, this is great news, as it helps to delay fatigue and improve their overall performance.

Reflecting on the physical impact of menstruation on performance, an international tennis player said:
“Your body feels looser, your tendons get looser, sometimes you feel like you’re a lot more fatigued, sometimes your coordination just feels really off, and for me I feel really down and it’s hard to get motivation.  Obviously, you’re trying to play world-class tennis but it’s really hard when you're PMS-ing and you feel bloated and tired. Why do we need to be shy about talking about it?”


"it’s really hard when you're PMS-ing and you feel bloated and tired. Why do we need to be shy about talking about it?” 



Female hormone levels change throughout the menstrual cycle. As these hormones travel in the blood, they can affect everything from how you respond to training to how you recover and how your body metabolises food for energy.

When talking about the menstrual cycle, the key point is that it’s not just about those few days around menstruation when you bleed – it is about the whole cycle. This is because the primary female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, rise and fall throughout the entire menstrual cycle.


In the first half of the cycle, THE FOLICULAR PHASE, as oestrogen rises, females are more likely to get the most benefit from a strength or high-intensity training session as the repair of muscle tissue is thought to be better at this time, and energy and strength levels rise to a peak.

As we’ve already discussed, further research is also indicating that there are certain points in the menstrual cycle where the risk of soft tissue injuries may be increased because of hormone fluctuations on ligaments, muscles and tendons.


This is because high oestrogen levels are linked with increases in joint laxity and changes in neuromuscular control. This means that the stability of the knee may alter and the muscles surrounding them may activate differently. It does not mean that an athlete should stop training, but instead, by tracking and monitoring their cycle, they can adapt their preparation, training and nutrition to work WITH their cycle and benefit their bodies the best way.

And this isn’t just the case for top professional athletes, all active menstruators can benefit from tracking their cycle and working WITH their cycle to adapt their training to their bodies benefit.

You can read more info on what exercise to do at which stages of your cycle in our previous article on this topic:

Period bodysuit for yoga


Unless you’re a trained professional athlete you may want to avoid any high impact sports or high intensity training while on your period, however, gentle exercise is good for you, your cramps, your hormones and your PMS symptoms.

Instead of disposable plastic pads or tampons, opt for natural breathable period underwear. Period underwear absorbs your flow as you bleed freely, meaning you don’t have to worry about a sweaty pad moving or sticking to your legs, or a tampon string tugging out of place.

Rosaseven period underwear is made from TENCEL™ Lyocell & organic cotton, so is naturally moisture wicking to wick the sweat away from your skin and keep you comfortable and dry, as well as naturally anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, so no unpleasant odors or smells, leaving you and your body to breathe and relax and enjoy the exercise & endorphins that come with it.

Rosaseven period underwear comes in different flow levels so you can find the one that’s right for you on that day of your period’s flow level, then just put them on and forget about them - enjoy the game, the run, some yoga or even just watching sport on TV!






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