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Using running to help manage Endometriosis by Catherine Williams

Just a couple of months back, running felt torturous. Pain would radiate through my uterus and spread to my legs, leading to severe cramps that, along with nausea, would last the entire day.

After my diagnosis of Endometriosis last month, I spent a lot of evenings frustrated with my body and, as a result, my mental health started to decline. I knew accepting the pain wasn’t the right answer, and I started to miss the liberating feeling of running that I had loved so much as a teen.

Meeting with my doctor, I discussed the idea of running short distances once a week, but I was told there still isn’t enough research done to determine if this would effectively ease pain. I took to the web and discovered in several forums that other sufferers have found it does alleviate the pain, suggesting that the dip in Estrogen levels, alongside the typical endorphin rush, helped women to regulate their sleeping patterns during the week of their period. After reading this, I thought I would combine it with the techniques I learnt from reading a Swedish wellbeing book, ‘Finding Sisu’. It teaches that by embracing our connection to the natural world, we strengthen our bodies and so, despite lacking the Scandinavian climate, I decided to test my strength and resilience with the next best thing: a winter run in England.

I started with a slow jog that lasted ten minutes before my cramps started up. Embarrassed and annoyed I wanted to give in right away, yet so desperately wanted the reward of pushing through the pain. I stopped and decided to stretch and focus on my breathing. I started up again, this time slower and with less pain. My body began to heat-up and I became so exhausted that I couldn’t hear any of my negative thoughts, my mind was solely focused on breathing.

Without a running target to reach, I knew I could stop whenever it all got too much, and that security carried me through. I ran for longer than I expected, but I didn’t push myself through pain unnecessarily, and when I wanted to stop, I did.

With a few days rest between that run and my next, I ordered Livia, a women's health gadget that boasts about being the “off switch” to period cramps. The potential to eradicate the need for side effect prone painkillers, and the cumbersome nature of hot water bottles, was enough for me to give it a try. On my next run I wore it and I was able to quite literally go the extra mile. The gadget was unobtrusive and super lightweight, and its adjustable pads meant that I could move them to where the pain was starting.

I have been continuing running every other day this month, carrying with me a malachite stone for when my focus isn’t as strong. I press the stone firmly into my palm for 60 seconds then carry it loosely again. This has helped me focus on counting, which in turn, has helped my breathing. Running has become a thing I must do to manage my endometriosis. Even slow, short-distance runs are a healthy, cheap practice that can help in the following ways:

* It can regulate sleeping patterns

With chronic pain comes sleepless nights, but evening jogs can help relax both the mind and body before sleeping.

* It can reduce severe Endo Cramps

Lowering Estrogen levels and boosting good chemicals in the body can help with cramps and slow jogs help the body stay active during what would otherwise be a week hidden under the duvet.

* It can support mental health

As you expend energy and focus on breathing, your heart rate is regulated and “happy hormones,” also known as endorphins, are released, aiding anxiety.

Finally, and quite personally, the most important benefit that comes from running is that it helps with the depression and anger fits I experience during PMS. It’s almost like I am running away from my problems, with music in my headphones and my mind set on covering a good distance. All I can do is focus on getting one foot in front of the other and checking that my breathing is OK — my brain barely has space for anything else. I get home exhausted, hungry, and with little energy to overthink or worry about anything.

Running is not for everyone with endo, but if you can jog slowly or cover just a small distance, you’ve got it. It can do wonders for your health, even if at such a slow speed that it is more akin to walking. Running has helped me focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t do, it has given me a healthy dose of positivity that is aiding in making my endo journey a lot easier.

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Thanks to Catherine for sharing her experience of using running to help manage Endometriosis and we hope it helps other.

Happy running.

Team runr.