The Best Exercise For Each Phase of Your CycleMar 16, 2020
If you've ever tried to push yourself during a workout when you have your period, you'd know that your body just isn't capable of the same intensity as when you aren't bleeding.
But, have you noticed that your ability to perform certain types of exercise actually changes throughout your whole cycle, not just during your period?
Say hello to the hormonal fluctuations of your menstrual cycle!
Your hormones are actually amazing and they can help you do incredible things with your fitness - if, you understand a little bit about what your body is going through during each of the 4 phases of your menstrual cycle.
There’s actually certain types of exercise that are best suited for each of the phases, based on what you’re hormones are doing and how you’re likely feeling.
To help you get started with this, I've put together a really simple guide that will help you harness the power of your hormones and feel your best during all phases of your cycle!
Planning your workout around your Menstrual Cycle
The secret to maximizing (and enjoying!) your exercise, is to work with your cycle, instead of trying to fight it. And this means knowing when to push hard and when to go slow!
There are parts of your cycle where the best way to care for yourself is to actually be really gentle with your body.
At other times, you should take full advantage of your high energy and surging hormones by getting in a serious workout!
And remember - working out isn't a punishment so you shouldn't force your way through a gruelling work out when your energy is naturally low.
Look at exercise as a way of celebrating what your body can do and how you can move it to make yourself feel good (notice I didn’t say look good?)
Ok enough pep-talk, let’s get to the juice!
Here’s how you can plan your exercise around what your body really needs during each of the 4 phases.
How to Exercise During Your Period
You’re probably pretty familiar with this first phase of your cycle! This is when you have your period and likely feel a bit bloated and you might have some period pain. Energy is low, especially during the first day or two.
Your hormone levels are at their lowest when you first get your period, so you might not feel like exercising at all. And that’s ok! Be gentle with yourself and if moving from the couch to the fridge feels like exercise, then that will do ;)
However, some gentle yoga or a walk in nature is usually really beneficial for period pain and bloating.
You might notice that you get a small burst of energy a day or two into your period which you can take advantage of, but be really careful not to overdo it! For example, focus on improving your technique without a load.
Let your body be your guide and keep in mind that when you’re bleeding, that’s not the time to push yourself.
Menstrual phase summary:
- Go slow and be gentle
- Try yoga, walking, pilates, stretching, technique improvement or foam roller work.
- It's ok to do nothing!
Exercising in Your Follicular Phase
Once your period finishes you’ve moved into your follicular phase. You’ll probably feel lighter as the bloating disappears and your energy has returned.
Estrogen levels are rising and the higher they get, the more fantastic you’ll feel! You’ll probably notice that you’re motivation levels are increasing too!
A great approach to exercise in this phase is to build yourself up towards heavier weights and increase your intensity over time. The closer to ovualtion you get, the heavier and harder you can go!
The combination of high energy, motivation and desire to socialize makes group fitness or exercise classes a great option. Or, you might like to try something new!
Also, your metabolism is slower before you ovulate so higher intensity workouts can help to give your metabolism a boost. Try short, powerful workouts like strength training, sprints or HIIT.
Follicular phase summary:
- Build up to going 'hard & strong'
- Try HIIT, strength training, cross-fit, hot yoga, boxing classes, sprints, kickboxing and power workouts.
How to Exercise just Before & During Ovulation
The middle of your cycle is the ovulation phase and it’s when your body is most fertile and your energy levels are at their peak!
This short phase occurs when estrogen reaches it’s highest levels and there's a nice little spike of testosterone too. Together, these hormones put your body in the perfect state for strenuous exercises like plyometrics, sprints or weight lifting.
If building muscle is one of your goals, this is the perfect time to lift heavy or try for PB’s.
You’ll still be feeling really social in this phase and most women notice they have a lot of confidence around ovulation. Take advantage of this by trying something fun like a dance class, a team sport or do a challenging spin class with your bestie.
Ovulation phase summary:
- Lift heavy and try for PB's
- Think 'fun & social'
- Try group exercises, team sports, dance classes, long jogs with a friend and resistance training.
Exercising in Your Luteal Phase
Estrogen levels drop after ovulation and then both estrogen and progesterone rise. Progesterone becomes the dominant hormone so you’ll start feeling more relaxed and less motivated to attend bootcamp!
Reduce your intensity and focus more on aerobic workouts such as bike rides, trail runs or circuit workouts.
If you enjoy lifting, aim for moderate weights with more reps as you aren't able to recover as well during this phase.
Steady-state exercise is great here as your body is less able to quickly access glucose stores (which are required for short bursts of intense exercise)
If you’re prone to PMS then keep moving! Rowing machines, swimming and Pilates are also great options for this phase.
In the very late stages of the luteal phase, your energy and mood can really tank... listen to your body!
Also, the ability to activate your inner core can be reduced if you suffer from premenstrual bloating or cramping, so heavy lifting is not a good idea.
Try lighter and more relaxing movement like yoga, swimming or bush walks.
Luteal phase summary:
- Go steady & start restoring
- Moderate weights with more reps
- Yoga, bush walks, bike rides, rowing machines, swimming, elliptical machines & pilates workouts.
Exercising Should be part of Your Cycle Self Care
No matter what part of your cycle you're in, exercise can help you feel fantastic, especially when you base it on what your body actually needs. Taking this approach is all part of Cycle Self Care which you can read more about here.
Knowing which types of exercises are right for your body at each phase of your cycle will really help you get the most out of your workouts and help you to feel great all cycle long.
If you aren't currently planning your workouts with your hormones in mind, you're going to be amazed at what a difference this makes!
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