Exercise

Maximise your workouts by tailoring it to your menstrual cycle

Your menstrual cycle plus exercise can often equal misery, right? Everything your body is going through is enough on its own, who wants to add exercise to that equation? We’ve all been there at one time or another but there are definitely some perks to exercising while you’re on your period. 

Now, this isn’t going to be one of those blogs that tells you to put the chocolate down and make sure you workout every day of your menstrual cycle. We completely understand that a little bit of indulgence and rest can be the best thing for you during your time of the month. But if you still want to exercise and get your endorphins flowing, then keep reading! We are diving into everything you should know about exercising while on your period.  

A little bit about menstrual cycles

Before we get into it, let’s briefly discuss menstrual cycles.  

Generally, a full menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, with a little bit of wiggle room. Some cycles can range from 23 to 35 days. The first day of your period is the start of your menstrual cycle followed by the next 27 days until you begin your next period counting as a complete cycle.

Every menstrual cycle is unique but they all have the same phases – the menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. 

These phases make up each complete month of your menstrual cycle and they can make you feel differently throughout the month. 

The menstrual phase is from when your period starts to when it ends and your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels decrease during this time. It usually lasts for about 3-7 days but it can vary. This begins the follicular phase which starts on day one of your period and continues until ovulation and it’s usually about 16 days. During this phase, the follicle-stimulating hormone is released. 

During ovulation, the luteinizing hormone is released in response to the follicular phase’s rise in estrogen levels. You may notice your body temperature increase during this phase. 

And then lastly you’ll enter the luteal phase where there is a rise in progesterone and a slight increase in estrogen levels and then as this phase ends, these hormones will decrease. This is when you’ll experience all those fun PMS symptoms like bloating, headaches and cravings (large Cadbury bar anyone?).  

How does working out affect your period (and vice versa)?  

While you’re on your period, your body and hormones often feel like they’re going through the most! 

Any form of exercise can have subtle or extreme influences on your menstrual cycle depending on how your body reacts to physical activity. Your body is controlled by your hormones and physical activity can impact your hormone levels which is why your period can affect the way you workout. 

Want to know a secret though? You can maximise your workouts by simply going with your flow. According to Women’s Health advisory board member Stacy T. Sims, PhD, you can tailor your exercise routine to your cycle and you can find a way to perform at your best throughout the month.

 

Exercise

How to maximise my workouts 

Firstly, high-five for even thinking of hitting a workout while on your period because it can be tough. 

Your menstrual cycle causes your hormone levels to change throughout the month which in turn makes you feel stronger, more tired or moody depending on the time of your cycle. 

In the beginning

During the beginning stages of your cycle (this is when you’re on your period), your progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest which can cause a dip in energy levels and cause your emotions to go a little haywire. This is a great time to really listen to your body and see what it feels like doing. 

If you’re really struggling then do a slower form of workouts like going for a walk, doing yoga or even just hopping on the treadmill. This will keep your body moving, increase your endorphins and you should be feeling a lot better once you’re done. 

If you’re up to it though, you should try and include some strength training in your workouts. Research has shown that strength training during the follicular phase (days 1-14 of your cycle) results in increases in muscle strength compared to training in the luteal phase (days 15-28 of your cycle).

The sweet middle spot

During the middle of your menstrual cycle (this is usually during ovulation), you might find your energy levels increasing as your estrogen and testosterone levels increase again. This is the best time for high-intensity workouts and possibly even some heavyweight training. It’s time to take full advantage of your power! 

The end is near

And then finally you’ll move into the luteal phase. This is when your progesterone levels rise and your estrogen decreases. To be quite honest, this is the most problematic time of the month and this is when you begin experiencing the majority of your PMS symptoms.   

This is probably when you’re going to feel like sitting on the couch working through your watch list on Netflix rather than working out at the gym. But don’t give up on your physical health! 

Try to go for shorter workouts or keep your workouts the same but use lighter weights and less intensity. Be realistic about what your body is going through and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not performing at your best. 

Menstrual cycles can be frustrating but equally wonderful. They give you the opportunity to fully embrace yourself and all that you’re capable of. It’s just about making your flow work for you. 

4 SURPRISING BENEFITS OF COMPOUND EXERCISES (#2 IS AWESOME)

Compound exercises are known as the secret to building lean, strong muscles. If you have ever done some research into new workouts to add to your gym routine, then chances are you would have come across some of these incredible exercises.

Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle or improve your fitness, compound exercises can help you reach your fitness goal.

Before we get into the excellent benefits of compound exercises, let’s first explain what exactly these are…

Tell me a little more about compound exercises

Compound exercises are movements that incorporate and activate multiple muscle groups.

Isolation exercises (another common term in the world of fitness), target a specific muscle group (here’s looking at you, bicep curl).

Both these types of exercises have fantastic benefits and have their own place in any training plan, however, compound exercises are a great way to get more done in a shorter period of time.

There are 2 different types of compound exercises:

  1. Single movement compound exercises: These include the activation of multiple muscle groups in one single move. Some examples include a squat, lunge or deadlift.
  2. Double movement compound exercises: These are 2 moves that create one exercise, such as a bicep curl into a shoulder press.

Why you should include compound exercises into your training routine

Did you know that one of the biggest reasons people give up their training routine is because they just don’t have the time?

While isolation exercises are great for those who have the time or inclination to slowly build a muscular body, these ‘one muscle’ movements are not effective enough to maximise the calories burned in a workout. And not only that, but if you stick to isolation exercises only, you are missing out on a lot of the benefits of compound movements.

The truth is, everyone should include compound exercises into their fitness plan.

The 3 main categories of fitness that compound exercises are extremely effective for include:

  1. Cardiovascular
  2. Strength
  3. Flexibility

Now it’s time to get into the exciting part of this article (are you ready?)

4 benefits of compound exercises

The benefits of compound exercises are incredible.

They activate multiple muscle groups, which help you to gain more strength and also burn more calories. Compound exercises help improve your balance, coordination and also strengthen your abdominal muscles. But before we give all the details away, here are the 4 main benefits…

1. Burn more calories

Compound exercises make you work harder, sweat more, move more and use more energy.

The more muscles you use during a workout, the more energy you expend. This means that compound exercises can help your body to burn more calories in a shorter period of time.

2. Spend less time working out and more time making gains (or shredding down)

Whether you are on the gain train or wanting to slim down and lean out, compound exercises will help you reach your goal, and in half the amount of time.

Compound exercises are a great way to get in a full body workout in a short amount of time. Only have 30 minutes to squeeze in a workout? No problem. Download a quick and effective compound workout plan and get to training!

Did we mention that you can also burn more fat doing compound workouts?

3. Improve your intramuscular coordination

When you move and activate several muscle groups at the same time, this inevitably works on your coordination.

Over time, your muscles will start to remember (muscle memory) the movements and apply this strength and coordination to other situations and activities.

A large number of pro athletes include compound movements into their training regimen to do exactly this. Professional mountain bikers who need a lot of balance and coordination to ride over technical sections find that compound exercises improve their dynamic balance and movement skills.  Gymnasts are also athletes who rely heavily on their own ability to balance and maintain a strong core.

4. Improved cardiovascular system

Your cardiovascular system refers to your heart and blood vessels. Cardio exercises are any exercise that raises your heart rate.

The thing is, our bodies were created to move. To keep your muscles in good shape, you need to move them. In time, this movement will develop stronger muscles that lead to a healthier, more efficient body.

Because compound exercises are targeting a number of muscles at once, these movements can easily increase blood flow and as a result, your heart rate will increase to meet this demand.

Your heart is a muscle. The more it works, the healthier it gets.

Where to start

Knowing what compound exercises to include in your workout routine can be tricky. One of the most important things you need to ensure is that your form is correct (to not suffer from any injuries).

If you want to know where to start, then get in touch with our team and we can help design a personalised training and eating plan for you. One of our professional and qualified trainers can also guide you along the way.

To get you started, have a look at this blog post on 1 PIECE OF EQUIPMENT. 10 MOVES. ALL THE SWEAT.

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8 REASONS WHY EVERY WOMAN SHOULD LIFT WEIGHTS

Maybe you’ve thought about lifting weights. Maybe you’ve even done some dumbbell curls or picked up a barbell. But every time you hit the iron though, you feel unsure, insecure, and a little fearful.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the horror stories: lifting heavy weights makes women bulky, it’s dangerous, it’s bad for your joints, and once you have muscle, you can’t stop lifting or it will all turn to fat. It’s all BS, and it feeds into stereotypes that are keeping too many women from experiencing the profound benefits of resistance training.

It’s time to put that fear and uncertainty aside. The fact is lifting weights does none of those awful things. What it does is help you to live in a healthier, stronger body.

When you sit down to list your fitness objectives, you may be surprised to learn that that strength training will not only help you reach them, but may reach them faster than performing cardio exercise alone.

Now don’t get me wrong, yoga and spinning definitely have their place in a well-rounded fitness routine (and are both things I regularly do myself). But if you’re feeling a bit stuck in a rut and not seeing the results you want, strength training could be just the thing missing from your training regimen! Here’s why:

 

  1. MORE EFFECTIVE FAT LOSS

Think weightlifting only benefits those who want shirt-ripping arms? Think again.

Although many people consider weightlifting only a means to add size, when compared head-to-head against cardiovascular exercise, resistance training comes out on top in the battle to burn calories.

How is that possible you ask? It boils down to your body’s ability to burn fat during and after an intense weight-based exercise session. After a heavy bought of strength training, you continue to consume additional oxygen in the hours and even days that follow. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC.

When your body uses more oxygen, it requires more caloric expenditure and subsequently boosts your metabolic rate.

 

  1. MORE MUSCLE = MORE CALORIE BURN

As you increase strength and lean muscle mass, your body begins to us calories more efficiently. Daily muscle contractions from a simple blink to a heavy squat contribute to how many calories you burn in a given day. Sitting burns fewer calories than standing; standing burns fewer than walking, and walking burns fewer than strength training.

The more muscle contractions you experience during a day, the more calories you’ll burn. If you have more lean muscle mass, you’ll have more muscle contractions and hey presto, burn more calories!

 

  1. CURVES

Now endurance-type training can definitely help you lose weight, however that weight comes in the form of both fat and muscle. If you’re losing both fat and muscle, you can lose your lovely curves as well. In contrast, regular resistance training will help define your arms and shoulders, build your glutes and tone your legs, promoting a more hourglass body shape.

So if its curves you’re after, strength training is what you need to create and sustain them.

 

  1. QUALITY SLEEP

Strength training and sleep? Yip, you hear right! Numerous studies have shown how regular resistance training or high-intensity training, particularly when done in the morning, greatly improves sleep quality, aiding in your ability to fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake less often during the night.

 

  1. INCREASED ENERGY

Remember that EPOC we mentioned earlier – the fact that resistance training causes an increase in energy expenditure hours after you train. Well, a study published by the National Institute of Health suggests that the consistent increase in energy expenditure, even after a minimal strength training session, may positively impact energy balance and fat oxidation. Who knew grabbing a barbell could have the same energy-boosting effects as an afternoon cup of coffee?

 

  1. HEART HEALTH

Studies found in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning have shown that those who lift weights are less likely have heart disease risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, a large waist circumference and elevated glucose levels.

Pumping iron is actually so effective at reducing your risk of heart disease that it has since been approved as a healthy form of exercise for those at risk from the American Heart Association.

 

  1. BONE HEALTH

Both bone and muscle mass naturally decreases as you age. However, due to their declining levels of estrogen, postmenopausal women are at even greater risk for developing weak, porous bones and osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise, such as resistance training, has been proven as an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass, and subsequently decrease the risk of osteoporosis. And remember, the earlier you begin weightlifting, the greater chance you have to maintain bone health later in life.

 

  1. STRESS RELIEF

Exercise, in general, is a great way to manage stress. Researchers have consistently found that those who regularly strength train tend to manage stress better and experience fewer adverse reactions to stressful situations as those who do not exercise.

In addition, resistance-training studies on older adults show that moderate-intensity weightlifting improves memory and cognitive function. So next time you need to blow off some steam, hit the weights.

 

LIFT LADIES, LIFT!

All of us want to feel strong, determined, and confident in everything we do: from fitting into jeans, to moving heavy furniture, to playing with kids, to dealing with a stressful career. Resistance training can benefit all these aspects of your life. So be sure to put it in your fitness plan and feel stronger, healthier, and more confident!

 

REFERENCES

Roveda, Eliana, et. Al. Effects of endurance and strength acute exercise on night sleep quality. International SportMed Journal. 2011; 12(3): 113-124.

Kirk, Erik P., et. Al. Minimal resistance training improves daily energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010; 41(5): 1122-1129.

Magyari PM, Churilla JR. Association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome among U.S. Adults: 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov; 26(11): 3113-7.

Cardoso, Crivaldo Gomes, et. Al. Acute and chronic effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on ambulatory blood pressure. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010; 65(3):317-325.

Muir JM, Ye C, Bhandari M, Adachi JD, Thabane L. The effect of regular physical activity on bone mineral density in post-menopausal women aged 75 and over: a retrospective analysis from the Canadian multicentre osteoporosis study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Aug 23; 14: 253.

Stone M, Stone Meg, Sands W. Psychological Aspects of Resistance Training. In: Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2009. p. 229-241.

WANT FAST FAT LOSS? THE HIIT VS LISS FACE-OFF

HIIT and LISS are acronyms for High-Intensity Interval Training and Low-Intensity Steady State respectively. They are two commonly used cardio styles and differ greatly in both practical application and physical effects.

HIIT consists of short, all-out sprint intervals alternated with periods of low-intensity recovery periods. An example would be a 30 second 100% effort sprint followed by a 1-2 minute steady pace walk, repeated 10 times (think sweat, LOTS of sweat). LISS, on the other hand, would involve a constant low-to-moderate paced walk, jog or bike ride at an intensity level that still raises your heat rate but allows for casual conversation.

HIIT, like weight training, is a form of anaerobic exercise, meaning it burns glucose for energy without oxygen being present. During bouts of HIIT training, your body’s fuel burning systems are put under a lot of stress. In order to meet the energy demands you are putting your body under, your body responds in two ways, 1) by increasing the activity of fat-burning enzymes to help free up available energy and 2) by increasing the mitochondrial capacity in your muscles. Mitochondria are the energy-producing units of your body. HIIT thus signals to your body to increase the total mitochondrial density in your muscles, meaning you have more fat-burning units at your disposal.  All of these metabolic adaptations have a cascading and synergistic effect, resulting in enhanced metabolic and fat loss activity over time.

What this means in real-life is that by doing HIIT your body is becoming more physically efficient and effective at turning on and utilizing its fat burning mechanisms and that this fat loss process is not only kept elevated for hours after your training has ended- termed the “afterburn” effect- but rather that these fat-burn changes are stable and lasting.

In contrast, due to the lower-intensity nature of LISS, this cardio strategy does not pose this same metabolic strain, thus limiting its fat burn potential to solely those minutes (or hours) you actively spend at the gym. Your body also has the tendency to adapt quickly to LISS exercise, meaning you will eventually burn fewer and fewer calories following the exact same cardio workout. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should ditch LISS cardio all together. LISS cardio has many heart-protective and general health-promoting effects that should not be ignored (I personally find it quite therapeutic going for long runs or walks every week). All I’m saying is that slaving away for hours every day on a treadmill or bike hoping to see the physical results you want is not the best approach to cardio if your goal is fat loss.

So who wins? Well if your goal is to lean down and get fit fast- HIIT is your best cardio investment strategy that will ensure you get more burn-for-your-buck in return.

Happy sweating!

WellBe Company

A GIRL’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE WEIGHT SECTION

An iron jungle filled with torturous looking equipment, the unmistakable smell of insecurity, B.O. and ego hanging thick in the air.

A gorilla pit of overly muscular men, far too fond of a tan bed, deep V, their reflection in a mirror and the word “china”.

Where the only thing louder than the bang of the dropping weights is the grunt of the alpha males dropping them.

Sound familiar?

The weight section of a gym can be a scary and intimidating place, especially to a female starting out on her strength training journey. But don’t let this scare you away! Here are some of my top tips you can use to make it out of there alive:

  1. Scout it out. Make sure you know the layout of the gym so it’s easy to navigate to find the equipment you want.
  2. Go in with a plan. Have your workout printed out or an e-copy on your cellphone.
  3. And always have a Plan B. Often times (especially during peak hours), gyms and gym equipment can be very busy- have an alternative option for any exercise so you’re not left waiting around.
  4. Research form. Make sure you know how to correctly perform the exercises. (YouTube videos have helped me a lot!)
  5. Dress comfortably and in something that makes you feel confident. Whether that’s a baggy T and tights or booty shorts and a crop top- do what works for you.
  6. Make sure to bring a sweat towel. No one likes using a machine that’s still sweaty from someone else! Gym etiquette goes a long way.
  7. Bring along some ear phones. Listening to some music while you workout helps you stay focused, motivated and distract you from any potentially intimidating feelings or unwanted advancements.
  8. A cap can help. It’s the adult form of “peekaboo”- if you can’t see them, they can’t see you (bonus- it’s a great way to hide a bad hair day!)
  9. Buddy up. There’s safety in numbers. Having a friend there with you can also help you push harder while training and keep you accountable in keeping your workouts consistent.
  10. Just have fun and do you. You’re there for yourself at the end of the day.

Happy sweating!