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Dancers and period cramps – A 16 step Survival Guide

Period cramps – “Is it that time of the month?”

If you mean that time of the month where I once again remember how women are the most superior species on this floating ball called Planet Earth, then yes. It’s that time of the month.

Let’s talk about a very underrated topic when it comes to a female athlete’s performance ability. Let’s talk about periods, cramps and sports.

Surviving cramps in general can be an extreme sport in itself. Some women barely get them, while other’s can barely stand on their own feet on day 1 or 2. The fact that you can walk into a room and not being able to tell whose uterus is tearing them apart and whose isn’t, says a lot of about society. But that’s for another day.

Cramps can feel extremely paralyzing, which is obviously not ideal when you have to go to work, socialize or show up at practice.

Let’s get on the same page first

Excuse me, while I copy+paste what PMS symptoms look like according to Plannedparenthood.com because I’m what my Irish friend would decribe as a “lazy slut pig” this morning:

Physical symptoms of PMS include:

  • Craving certain foods or being more hungry than usual
  • Tender, swollen, or sore breasts
  • Feeling bloated (puffy or full in your stomach)
  • Gaining a little weight
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Aches and pains in your joints or muscles
  • Feeling more tired than usual or needing more naps
  • Skin problems, like pimples
  • Upset stomach
  • Cramps or pain in your belly

Emotional symptoms of PMS include:

  • Feeling sad, depressed, tense, or anxious
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling more irritable or angry than normal
  • Crying suddenly
  • Not feeling very social or wanting to be around people
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Changes in your desire to have sex

So basically;

It sucks so much. And it can be extremely hard to perform at your best or even just manage to show up anywhere else than at the nearest McDonald’s for a McFlurry (with extra Oreo).

16 things that helps me survive cramps that has nothing to do with medicine

If you didn’t know – I am most definitely not a doctor – but I am for sure someone who goes through and immense amount of pain every month, so I’m gonna share what works for me, hoping that it can help you.

Please feel free to share your own hacks below.

1. Foam roller

When your muscles cramp it creates a lot of tension in your entire body. A foam roller is a necessity for athletes in general, but being able to roll out your legs, lower- and upper back, hips and neck during your period can definitely help your body relax. Self-massaging is so underrated.

2. A hard massage ball / lacross ball

.. Honestly, any little ball that can act like a foam roller. If you have very specific spots in your body that holds a lot of tension, laying on a hard ball can be extremely useful in relieving pain – especially in those annoying trapped nerves that makes you wanna yell.

3. Treat yourself to a massage

If I wasn’t single as a pringle, I would 100% force my significant other to give me a massage every month. A full body massage reduces overall stress and is probably much better than any foam roller or massage ball.

4. Heat pads and hot water bottles for period cramps

Place it on your lower tummy or on your lower back. I always use them when I go to bed at night, it basically just feels really nice and helps me and my body to relax.

5. Hot baths

Whether you’re going for the tub or just the shower – it feels so good to losen up your muscles under hot water.

6. Consider what you’re wearing

“Period panties” is such a thing for women – they’re typically ugly (I’m unsure why though) and comfortable. When you’re a dancer, you basically stare yourself in the mirror all day, and what you’re wearing can cause a lot of extra stress when you’re on your period, like:

“Am I gonna bleed through these white sweatpants”

“Why do I look like a gorilla in this leotard”

“This crop top makes my bloated tummy look crazy”

… you know how it goes. It’s completely normal to feel that way since you look and feel different because your entire body is going through a LOT(!) these days.

Therefore, make sure to wear something that’s extra comfy and makes you feel confident in order to reduce that extra stress. Wearing dark colours is also highly encouraged in case you do bleed through. Again, even if that happens, it’s so completely normal when you jump around, so there’s no shame in that.

Bringing extra sweats and underwear in your bag – just in case – can be comforting too.

(Not exactly the color of sweatpants I would choose, but you get the point)

7. Yoga and light workouts for period cramps

I wish I was talking to you in person so I could yell “BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND YOUR BODY WHEN YOU ARE ON YOUR PERIOD” from the top of my lungs.

I don’t know what your specific situaition is, but some days you’re able to rest and other days life is just life and you have to get up and do your thing. I get it – that’s what it’s like for me as well, sister.

I try to get a low impact workout in, when I physically cannot make myself go to a dance class, but still want to move a little bit. Not necessarily for training purposes, but mainly because it makes you feel happier, it reduces the pain and relaxes the muscles afterwards. I’m not talking crossfit or climbing the nearest moutain like a psycho, I’m talking fifteen minutes of yoga, a little walk or some body weight excercises. Here are some of my go-to’s:

8. ..OR how about NOT working out

Trust and believe, I know what the pain can feel like, and sometimes you just physically cannot work out – so please respect yourself enough to listen to your body, just like you’re telling all your friends to do.

9. If you need to be productive, try to be productive in other ways

There are so many ways you can move forward in your career without having to get out of bed today, okay.

Like, read all the blog posts on lovenotestola.com and learn something new!

Update your casting profiles!

Write down your goals or make one of those cute little vision boards.

Go on YouTube and learn something new, it’s free.99

… There’s so much out there that you can learn from from your bed today.

10. Breathing exercises for period cramps

11. Rest and sleep

Just throwing it out there one more time: take care of your body. When your body is under so much pressure, your hormones are flying around and you feel very emotional, it doesn’t help to not get enough sleep, right? Right.

So take an extra hour or two or five tonight, or take one of those nice afternoon naps.

12. Talk about your period cramps

Honestly, I know it can sound a bit dramatic, but it helps me, okay! Whatever pain you’re going through, whether it’s physical or emotional, it always helps to talk to someone. Even if it’s just mentioning it to your friend in class: “Goddammit, I have such bad cramps today”. Your female friend will look at you and say: “Ughhh, I’m so sorry, we got this”. Just sharing your pain and getting a hug and an encouraging word or two is helpful. We ALL know what it feels like, and we ALL know that it’s terrible. Don’t suffer in silence.

13. They say limit fat, sugar etc….

Which makes me think that men are writing those articles, because that advice can’t come from someone who goes through this herself every single month, can it?

Jokes aside, they’re probably right… a straight up PMS-chocolate-diet is not ideal, but lets maybe compromize and say: “add some vitamins, vegetables and fruits to your mood swing diet”. Deal? Cool.

Ideally – if you’re a better person than I am, you avoid treats, since food high in sugar and fat causes bloating and inflammation, which makes the muscle pain and cramps a gazillion times worse. There’s a special place in heaven for those who avoid coffee too, and I wish that was me. But when I’m already going through intense pain and mood swings, I dare you to try and take my Starbucks from me. I try to avoid caffeine on day 1 and 2 though, since that’s when my pain is the absolute worst.

14. Drink water

For some reason, drinking more water is the answer to all the problems in this world, so it’s not gonna be breaking news to anyone that it helps your cramps too, huh. Let’s stay hydrated.

15. Chug all the herbal teas

Look, I’m a coffee girl too. And a matcha girl. But there are lots of great anti-inflammatory teas out that can reduce those muscle spasms in your uterus. Go get ’em.

16. Take an easier dance class

If you are a dancer and you’re in a position where you can choose which dance class to go to today, and your uterus is screaming at you in French, then choose a class that you know will make you feel good. A class that puts you in a great mood, that doesn’t necessarily will put the most pressure on you mentally and where you know that you’ll have a ton of fun.

Only you know what class that is for you!

Lastly,

Sending you, your period cramps and your uturus – all the love, and I sure hope that you can use even just one of the tips from this post! Please share your tips and tricks!

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