Have you ever noticed that your menstrual cycle influences your dance performance? If so, you’re not alone! While the menstrual cycle doesn’t impact the performance of all Irish dancers, for some, it certainly does.
In this blog, you’ll learn how the menstrual cycle can influence dancing abilities. Plus, you’ll discover what you can do to manage the effects of your cycle.
Various hormonal levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. Some of these hormones impact how you feel, your coordination, and how fast you recover from your dance sessions.
Therefore, you may feel better at certain times of your menstrual cycle than at others (although other factors can also influence how you feel and perform, such as your sleep and nutrition).
Now, we are oversimplifying a bit here, but there's one menstrual-cycle- related hormone in particular that can influence dance performance. It's the hormone progesterone. You don’t need to worry about the name as we are only interested in what it actually does.
Levels of this hormone are low during the first half of the cycle but increase around ovulation. Then, once you get closer to your menstruation again, progesterone levels go back to baseline.
There are three main reasons progesterone – and the menstrual cycle in general – can influence dance performance.
First, progesterone reduces the ability of your brain to contract muscles. As a result, increased levels of this hormone can make you feel less coordinated.(1)
That's why dancing may feel more 'natural' during the first half of the cycle. At that time, progesterone levels are low, which aids dance performance.
Second, progesterone impacts how fast your body recovers from workouts. The reason is that increased levels of this hormone slightly impair the ability of your body to repair muscle tissues.(2)
Therefore, you may feel less sore after a dance session and recover faster during the first half of your menstrual cycle compared to when you're two- thirds through it.
Third, low progesterone levels, as is the case during menstruation, could cause mood swings and a reduced motivation to exercise.
Aside from impacting athletic performance, the menstrual cycle can also influence body weight. In fact, it’s quite common to gain between three and five pounds leading up to and during menstruation.
That’s because the hormonal fluctuations can cause your body to retain water, leading to a higher number on the scale. Although fortunately, your body secretes that water upon finishing your menstruation.
It’s important to remember that the menstrual cycle can have such an impact on body weight. Otherwise, these fluctuations may cause frustration each month.
The main thing to remember is that you can't control your menstrual cycle. Sure, performance may vary a bit depending on where you're at in your cycle, but as this is outside your control, try not to worry about it.
Instead, focus on the things you can control. These include how well you practice, your sleep, and whether you consume nutritious foods.
Also, keep in mind that much of the effects of the menstrual cycle are psychological. If you think you will perform worse because you're at an unfavorable phase in your cycle, that'll likely be the case.
On the other hand, if you adopt a belief like "I will give it my all and can perform at my best regardless of my menstrual cycle," you'll naturally do much better.
Menstrual cramps are common before and during menstruation. Such cramps are inconvenient regardless of when they happen, but especially so if they take place on the day of your competition.
Now, in case you have severe and painful menstrual cramps most or even every month, it’s best to talk to your doctor for a possible solution. But other than that, what follows are four things you can do to provide relief.
Avoid foods that can cause bloating and water retention, as that can increase tension and make cramps stronger. Such foods include sodas, salty foods, fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
Ensure your meals consist of foods that are minimally processed and score high in fiber. Fruit and vegetables are great as those are nutrient-dense, reduce inflammation, and can lessen the pain.
Apply a heat patch. One study found that putting a heat patch of 104°F (40°C) on the lower abdomen was as effective as ibuprofen at relieving menstrual cramps. (Warm baths also work.)(3)
Dance it off. Now, it may not appeal to you to move when you suffer menstrual cramps, but doing so can reduce the pain and symptoms. (4)
The menstrual cycle can influence dance performance. However, because you can’t control your cycle, try not to worry too much about how its impact. Instead, focus on the things you can influence; for example, making sure you have practiced your routine meticulously before you step on stage.