Managing Your Menstrual Cycle: How to work out on and around your period
On average us women will have around 400 periods in our lifetime and where you are in your cycle can really affect how you feel emotionally, physically and mentally. With so many changes happening within our bodies each month, it’s really important to get a deeper understanding of how your menstrual cycle could be affecting you. So let’s dive deep into helping you understand just what goes on each month, so you can tailor your training towards your individual needs. Sis, we got you!
Follicular phase part 1
An average cycle lasts around 28 days, with your period marking day 1 of your cycle. For many women the arrival of their period and the reset of their cycle can feel like a ‘pop’ for any premenstrual pressure, bringing with it a physical and emotional release. Around the start of your period, as well as for the first couple of days, your hormones oestrogen and progesterone are at an all time low. This drop in hormones coupled with potential period cramps may leave you feeling like you want to snuggle up on the sofa, questioning whether exercise is a good idea. Although exercise might feel like the last thing you want to do, some research supports the fact that exercise, (particularly gentle aerobic exercise) during and around your period, may help to:
1. Combat cramps
2. Boost your mood
3. Increase your energy
From around day 3 your hormone oestrogen starts to rise again. With this rise comes energy, positivity and as you start to leave your period, you begin to feel like you again. Around this time some research has also shown that you recover faster from your exercise, so let’s get that sweat on!
How to train?
Sis, time to ride the oestrogen wave and get your heart pumping! Utilise your rising energy and quick recovery rates with workouts like crossfit, strength training, HIIT and running. If you’re looking for a sweaty sesh to try around this period (no pun intended), we recommend Melissa’s Bodyweight HIIT or Danyele’s Finish Line HIIT. Remember to listen to your body, if you suffer from cramps particularly in the first couple of days, (before your oestrogen starts to rise), gentle movement may feel best. If this sounds like you, we recommend Jen’s Yoga for Period Pain to boost your mood and soothe your soul.
Follicular phase part 2
You’ve well and truly left your period and as your body prepares itself for Ovulation (day 14), this is your time to shine! As you approach the ovulation phase other hormones like LH, testosterone also arrive on the scene and the cumulative effect of all three hormones is intense. By now you’ll be at your most confident, strongest and most flexible!
How to train?
Thanks to the sharp rise in testosterone pre-ovulation, you’re more likely to hit PB’s around this time. Whether it’s training for your marathon or lifting weights you’re going to be feeling like the queen you are! Now is a good time to log your weights on your program, or to try for a personal best so you can see just how far you’ve come! We recommend you test your strength and have fun with Krissy’s Barbell Full Body workout or join Saman’s Focus program to feel refreshed and energised!
Top tip: The high levels of oestrogen can also make you more prone to injury, so pay extra attention to that form!
Luteal phase part 1
After the midway point of your cycle (day 14) comes the Luteal phase, which is dominated by a hormone called progesterone. It’s this hormone which might make you feel bloated and puffy. The energy that you felt in the first part of your cycle also starts to decrease meaning you may feel like you want to slow down a bit. It’s not all bad news though, as research has shown that during this stage your metabolism rises and your body is more likely to switch to burning fat throughout your workouts. This is because the combination of oestrogen and progesterone make it harder for your body to access glucose (your preferred energy source for your workouts). Although you’ll likely burn more fat in your workouts, the inability to turn to glucose as easily will make your workouts feel that bit tougher. Did we mention you’re more likely to get sweatier around this time too…
How to train?
Wow our bodies do a lot! If you find your usual workouts a bit of a struggle, scale it back to a level that feels right for you. Think about using this time as a way of maintaining everything you built during the first phase of your cycle. Adding or enjoying low impact cardio like walking, jogging, swimming or cycling will also feel great as you make the most out of your energy systems. If you’re looking for some motivation why not try Melissa’s Indoor LISS, this low intensity steady state cardio will be the perfect addition to your program or as a standalone workout to help you flow through this stage.
Luteal phase part 2:
As you approach the end of your cycle and get close to your period, all your hormones suddenly plummet. This sudden drop in hormones can be felt physically, mentally and emotionally and can leave you feeling sad, anxious and angry. Studies have also shown that around this time sleep quality is disrupted, meaning you may find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Although scientists can’t pinpoint the exact reason for all of this, studies have found that limiting alcohol, smoking and moving more can reduce all of these symptoms, with exercise in particular playing a vital role in your mental wellness.
How to train?
Listen to your body and show it the love and compassion it deserves. You may not feel anything around this time, but if you do feel lower than usual and suffer from the symptoms above, understand that you’re not alone and that your body is doing a lot. If your symptoms are more severe during this phase, try taking it easier with your weight training. Now is also a good time to enjoy long walks with close ones or simply relax with one of our nourishing yoga classes. Research has shown that moving throughout your cycle helps to ease any PMS symptoms, so if you’re looking for a way to ban the bloat and increase those happy hormones why not try Emily’s 8 Minute Arms, or alternately enjoy Jen’s Feel Good in 15.
The bottom line
You are unique and therefore your symptoms will differ from your best friend, sister or cousin. What’s important is that you tune in and listen to what you need. Remember we aren’t machines and our bodies are a complex system of delicate hormones which take us through a whole cycle every month! There may be days where you feel great and smash pbs, then there are others where you might want to take it easier and scale it back. Sis, you do you and you tailor your training towards what suits your body and your needs. Remember, we are here to support you every step of the way, so however you’re feeling and however you feel like moving, the EvolveYou app has something for you.