Just Say “Yes” to Exercise at “That Time of the Month”

Susan Dawson-Cook swimming in the Tucson TriathlonAt 5:06 a.m., my alarm clock rings. I roll over on my side to silence it, then groan. Sometimes being female really sucks, I nearly mutter, but I stay silent as not to awaken my sleeping husband. It feels like a swamp creature is crawling up my throat. I feel like my ovaries, fallopian tubes and everything else around the middle part of my body is being squeezed (like a grapefruit in a juicer) and stretched (like a torture victim’s body) at the same time. It is “that time of the month.” I need ibuprofen and fast. Or maybe just to go back to sleep. I sure as hell don’t want to go to work. Or swimming practice.

As best as I can at this hour of the morning, I weigh my options. I can stay in bed and skip the workout, but if I do, I will be nauseous, tired, and uncomfortable all day. Everyone and everthing will annoy me. The day will end with a headache.

No, I tell myself as I throw off the covers. A swim is a much better alternative. The nausea will be gone after 4 lengths of the pool. The cramps will be forgotten after 8 (swimming relaxes my lower back and reduces that pressure which makes me so uncomfortable). By the end of practice, I will be in a great mood and will feel energetic and (with a little help from ibuprofen) pain free the rest of the day. Today’s workout won’t be about preparing for a race or getting in “X” number of yards. The focus of today’s workout will be to improve the quality of my day.

After forcing down my normal tea and English muffin, I drive to the pool. I toss my kickboard and fins on the side of the pool and plunge into the water. Within minutes, the rhythm of my strokes carries me back to that comfortable place where I feel strong, happy, youthfu. Alive. And even though it is “one of those days,” I know its going to be all right. By the end of the hour, the swimming workout has delivered all I had expected and more. It gave me the gift of a healthy and happy day instead of one I otherwise would have spent crampy and nauseous. And to me, that’s much more valuable than anything money can buy.

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