“That’s Time” the coach calls as we finish another tough session. A wave of relief sweeps over me as I come to realise that the session is finally over and that I've got through it by sheer grit and determination, for I love this sport. Every inch of my body is on aching. My legs are burning from the sprints, my arms feel dead from all the bag drills, and my core is killing from the floor work we finished off on. That’s when I start to feel my stomach cramps coming back. Before my mind has even fully processed the pain my coach interrupts my thoughts….
“Are you alright today?” He coach strolls over as I finish off my stretches. He continues: “You didn’t seem like yourself today. You lacked that focus and sharpness you had last week. Even your footwork was all over the place. What’s going on?”
I take a deep breath as I weigh up my options. Do I tell him? If I do, how do I tell him? Would he even understand? I hesitate, before finally saying: “nothing wrong coach. Just a bit tired today. I’ll make sure I'm better in the next session” I hope.
As I pack up my gloves, wraps and put my hoodie on I really wish I could use have used the toilet rather than having to wait to get home. I unconsciously glance to the crotch of my legging in fear that I might have leaked through to the fabric. I exhale in relief – nothing.
It’s strange how the bin in the boxing club’s toilet can be full of bloody tissue from bloody noses and cut bloody lips but could you imagine ever putting a tampon or pad into it? Never! They don’t even have a sanitary bin and who knows how they would react!
As I walk the ten minutes to my house I start to wonder why can’t I just tell him I’m on my period? It's 2019, not 1919. They know about the birds, the bees, and the flowers, and the trees...Surely?
I fasten my pace to push to get home. Back to the warmth and my comforts.
Later on, as I settled into my PJs and my mind goes back to my thoughts from earlier. It was then I had an epiphany. Firstly I’m not the only women at my boxing club, and I most certainly am not the only women boxing. So if I was struggling to deal this, then I imagine I wasn’t the only one managing it it either. So how do other women approach their coaches and do they even tell them?
So with the platform of Unorthodoxx, and the reach of Instagram, I decided I would ask our followers on an Instagram Story. So the following was posted:
Dr Emma Ross, Co-Head of Physiology at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) said:
“Women have a monthly cycle of hormones, which have powerful effects on our bodily system, emotions and mood. This difference alone has the potential to mean women will adapt differently at different points of their cycle
how do you deal with being on your period whilst boxing, and do you tell your coach?”
The post had numerous responses and just starting the conversation alone gave me comfort knowing I wasn’t the only to be affected by it or struggle to tell my coach. We know that not every gym is the same, and some coaches are personable and others are not. We also realise that we each have different ways of handle our boxing training during our time. So without any fancy dress up, we wanted to share some hardline feedback just as it was sent to us. In no order of preference, here is some direct, unalatered feedback:
R1: “You have to tell your coach. There should be no shame talking about it”
R2: “Yes, 100%. I have to because he can the difference in my performance on those days”
R3: “I have never told my coach and sometimes feel more energetic, other time I just want the training to finish”
R4: “I don’t have to tell him. He can already tell most of the time lol.”
R5: [A male coach] “The one that communicates openly with coaches they trust will always benefit in the long run”
R6: “I don’t tell my coach but during that time I really struggle and feel so lethargic”
R7: “Taken the contraceptive injection for ten years. No periods, no PMS, no cramps”
R8: “Fortunately, I had a female coach in my gym, who I discussed it with, but not the males”
R9: “I don’t tell anybody but I am very aware. I take notes, listen to my body and adapt”
One thing is for sure, Unorthodoxx’s favourite quote rings true again, there is no “one size fits all”. Especially when dealing with our boxing coaches, training and our periods. But all this conversation is great, but so what and what do we do about it?
Firstly, I know I shouldn’t need to but I feel it's so important to remind us all that we should never be ashamed of our menstrual cycle. It is what makes us women, it makes us stronger, empowered and beautiful.
Secondly, our coaches need to acknowledge and may need to be reminded, that our physiology is different to men. Our cycles impact our energy levels, our mood, weight and even our coordination. But that doesn’t make us any less worthy of being in the gym. We need to take ownership of this and start to communicate with coaches how our training could be tailored better to match our cycles. It's okay if we have a light training week or we avoid heavy sparring or high impact training – it's about doing what we are comfortable with and what works best for you.
Thirdly, its time that Boxing, and our coaches, are reminded that we are equal. That means making the same provisions as they do for men. We should have our changing room, our own toilets and most importantly sanitary bins within the facilities. If you are hesitant to speak directly to your coach and you attend an England Boxing Club you can always contact a Regional Welfare Officers for further support.
So there you have it! Our first crack at tackling an issue that genuinely needs more attention and support to be resolved across all boxing gyms. So be a voice for good, and don’t let other fellow girls be held back. And if you're lost for words or your not quite sure where to start why not send your coach this blog with the message: “ I thought this might be of interest” because Unorthodoxx is more than a brand. We are a movement.
Stay tuned as next week we will be posting some interesting insight on how our menstrual cycles affect our performance and we dig into the nitty-gritty of how we can make the most of our time.
“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”
About Unorthodoxx and our Women's Boxing Gloves
Unorthodoxx is the UK’s first Women’s Boxing brand that has been created purely for women and has exclusively designed women’s boxing gloves and women’s boxing clothing. Our products and equipment are designed to offer the ultimate fit, protection and durability for female boxers and combat sport fighters. From novice beginners to elite competition Unorthodoxx fight gear offers the best women’s boxing gloves, clothing and equipment.