Period Power: How to tailor your workouts to your menstrual cycle.
Have you ever noticed how one week you can power through an entire workout easily, and then the next you’re struggling through it? This could be due to what phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in.
Did you know that the term “menstrual cycle” doesn’t only refer to when you’re on your period? It actually refers to
the various phases that your body goes through throughout the month.
Every phase that you go through has an impact on your energy levels, hormones and even your motivation. But there are some fabulous ways for you to maximise your workouts by tailoring them to your cycle.
Little PSA before we get into it, this isn’t going to be one of those blogs that tell you to put the chocolate down and make sure you train every day of your menstrual cycle. A little bit of indulgence and self-love can be the best thing for you during your time of the month.
But if you’re looking for ways to keep active and get the endorphins flowing, then we’ve got the best tips for you.
Everything you need to know about menstrual cycles
Most of us have experienced a complete menstrual cycle but do we understand them and what our bodies are going
through? Let’s take a look.
Generally, a healthy menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, varying here and there from person to person. Some cycles range from 23 to 35 days, it all depends on your body. 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. The start of one period and the start of the next count
as a complete menstrual cycle.
Every cycle is unique, but they all have the same phases:
● Menstrual phase
● Follicular phase
● Luteal phase
These phases make up each full month of your menstrual cycle, and every phase comes with its own side effects.
The cycle breakdown
The menstrual phase is from when your period starts until it ends (this can be from about 3-7 days, but this can vary). During this phase, your oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels decrease.
Next begins the follicular phase, which starts on day one of your period and continues until ovulation, which is usually about 16 days. During this phase, the follicle-stimulating hormone is released. Once the follicular phase is complete, your ovulation will begin. During ovulation, the luteinizing hormone is released in response to the follicular phase’s rise in oestrogen 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 oestrogen levels (the complete opposite of what happens during the menstrual phase). As this phase ends, these hormones will decrease. This is when you’ll experience all those fun PMS symptoms like bloating, headaches and cravings (trying out every product in the Chuckles range probably sounds like the best idea right about now).
Training and your period
Some weeks you feel on top of the world, some weeks you’re exhausted or feel weak. This is all due to the change in your hormones throughout the month. Sometimes, working out is the absolute last thing you feel like doing.
Any form of exercise can have a small or big impact on your menstrual cycle, depending on how your body reacts to physical activity. Everyone reacts differently, and some have a more severe reaction to their hormone change than others.
What many don’t know though is that you can maximise your workouts by simply going with your flow. According to various studies, you can adjust your exercise routine to your cycle. By doing the right workouts at the right time of the
month, you’ll still smash your workouts throughout the month.
How to maximise your workouts
As we’ve mentioned, your hormone levels change throughout your menstrual cycle which in turn makes you feel strong, tired, energetic or moody – it all depends on the phase of your cycle.
The beginning phases
Firstly, high-five for even thinking of doing a workout while on your period because it can be tough.
This stage of your cycle (when you’re on your period) is when your progesterone and oestrogen are at their lowest. This may cause your energy levels to decrease, and your emotions could go a little wild. Make sure you listen to your body during this phase and see what it needs and what you feel like doing.
If you’re really struggling with your energy or motivation, try doing slower forms of workouts like going for a walk, doing yoga or even just hopping on the treadmill for a little. By doing low-impact activities, you’ll still increase your endorphins and keep your body moving (which can often help alleviate any cramps you experience).
If you feel like doing something more, though, strength training is a fabulous option during this phase. Some studies indicate that strength workouts during the follicular phase (days 1-14 of your cycle) can result in higher muscle strength compared to when you train during the luteal phase (days 15-28 of your cycle).
The middle phase
When you’re halfway through your menstrual cycle (during ovulation), you might find your energy levels increase as your oestrogen and testosterone levels increase again. The ideal time to focus on high-intensity workouts and even some heavyweight training.
This is the time to take full advantage of your strength and energy!
The final phase
Lastly, you’ll enter into the luteal phase, which will cause your progesterone levels to rise while your oestrogen
decreases. To be very honest, this is the most problematic time of the month, as this is when you begin experiencing the majority of your PMS symptoms.
The couch and Netflix are going to start calling your name, and the gym will seem like a very distant memory. But don’t give up on your physical health completely.
Opt for shorter workouts, low intensity, or keep your workouts the same but use lighter weights for fewer reps. Be
realistic about what your body needs, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not performing at your best.
Exercise is not the epitome of looking after yourself, though. Self-care is a holistic journey which includes eating nutritious meals that are satisfying and filling.
Menstrual cycles are a frustrating but equally wonderful part of our lives, don’t let them take over, though.
Make your flow work for you, and remember to put your needs and your wellbeing above all else.