- WNBA superstar Breanna Stewart is one of the most dominant basketball players in the world.
- Building routines around her menstrual cycle and menstrual pain helps her look her best.
- Stewart told Insider how she learned to “train and recover according to my body’s needs.”
WNBA superstar Breanna Stewart boasts unearthly talent on the basketball court.
But for a dreaded streak each month, the 27-year-old Seattle Storm forward’s period threatens to bring her back to earth.
“It’s definitely a pain in the ass,” Stewart told Insider. “But women are resilient, and we’re learning to deal with that when it comes.”
“I always seem to get my period at the worst possible time, whether it’s right before a big game or on a day when I know training is going to be tough,” she added. “As women, all we have to deal with is our periods.”
In the early years of her illustrious basketball career, the two-time WNBA Finals MVP and four-time NCAA National Champion had simply taken a grin-and-bear approach to treating her menstrual cramps. For a long time, she just saw her “pain and discomfort” as “something I had to play through,” regardless of the severity.
But now — with access to proper information, world-class resources, and an elite trainer in Susan King Borchardt — Stewart has learned to “build my routine around my menstrual cycle to effectively train and recover according to my body’s needs.”
“My trainer Susan handles my training schedule on a daily, monthly and even yearly basis, and my menstrual cycle plays a big part in developing that schedule,” said the four-time WNBA All-Star. “When I have my period I need more rest days, although sometimes they are hard to come by.
“It’s obviously very difficult when I’m in season,” she added. “But when I’m in the fourth week of my cycle, Susan urges me to do more meditation and yoga and focus on relaxing at night to calm my body.”
Recovery tools are an essential part of the equation. And for Stewart, Therabody — the health and wellness brand she’s invested in — offers several products to treat her menstrual cramps, she said.
Stewart first used the company’s PowerDot to stimulate her quadriceps and prevent muscle atrophy while she was recovering from Achilles surgery. But soon after she began incorporating the muscle stimulator into her routine, she learned that it could also be used to relieve cramps, decrease menstrual flow, blood clots, and fatigue.
PowerDot leverages research-backed strategy to treat dysmenorrhea – the scientific term for period pain – with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). TENS has not only been shown to intercept pain signals before they reach the brain, but it also stimulates the release of endorphins to promote pain relief.
Studies have even shown that TENS therapy can help people with period pain reduce the amount of painkillers they would otherwise take to treat their symptoms.
“When I’m about to get my period, I often feel bloated and have cramps and back pain,” Stewart said, explaining that she uses the PowerDot “on any part of the body that I expect to get sore after a hard workout.” “
“I also use it on my lower back when I get my period because my back gets really sore,” she added. “It’s amazing how much better I feel after just a few minutes of using PowerDot.”
Therabody offers additional aids that help the two-time Olympic champion to treat her menstrual problems. She uses the Theragun “to relieve pain preemptively so that knowing I’m getting my period gives me one less thing to worry about.” Stewart also makes a habit of “watching TV on the couch at night my wife and daughter” to wear Therabody’s RecoveryAir JetBoots to maximize blood flow to their legs and “minimize the pain and cramping of my period.”
The 6-foot-4 superstar insists that overall, these treatments have “absolutely changed my life” by helping her “work out successfully and feel better throughout my menstrual cycle.” And by discussing her strategies for managing her period, she hopes to help break down the lingering stigma surrounding the menstrual cycle and the treatment that comes with it.
“The menstrual cycle is still a topic that people are uncomfortable with really addressing,” Stewart said. “Women menstruate once a month, and it’s important to understand the questions we all have – how you should care for your body at each stage of your cycle and how to get relief, especially in the first few days when many women have the most pain.”
In recent months, the topic of menstruation in connection with female athletes has become more and more commonplace. In May, LPGA star Lydia Ko truthfully responded to a question about physical therapy at a tournament: “It’s that time of the month.” A Chinese tennis player blamed menstrual cramps for hampering her performance after losing at the French Open, and the Period became a hot topic of conversation at Wimbledon this year because of the strict all-white dress code enforced at the All-England Club.
“There is still so much for young ladies, women and even men to learn about women’s menstrual periods and how best to take care of their bodies at different times during their cycle,” Stewart added. “Education opens the door to more opportunities for women to improve our lives by relieving pain and stress during our periods.”
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