Working out on your period can be a punish but studies show that exercise is also a pretty effective pain relief.
When it comes to menstruating, our bodies change over the month, which means we need to treat it differently at various times. Changing up your exercise regime in line with your cycle means you can reap better benefits from your workouts as you’ll be working with your body.
Carol Morris and Elizabeth Chapman from Lunette Australia, the menstrual cup manufacturers, have broken down the month and provided corresponding exercises to complete each week to make sure you’re feeling as best you can — even when you’re struggling with raging PMS.
Day 1-7: Menstruation
The lowdown: According to Morris and Chapman, at this stage, your oestrogen and progesterone are pretty low, so “your body is using more glycogen (stored fuel) as its energy source”. You’re probably also feeling bloated and a bit crampy but your mood should improve as the week goes on.
The workout: If you’ve got the energy, this is the time to go hard on your workout. According to Morris and Chapman, “this low-hormone phase actually makes you a little more ‘manlike’.”
“Cramping and backache aside, this week is the perfect time to push yourself with the most demanding exercises in your routine. Add in a few more reps, or one more exercises, and really push yourself. Metabolically you are burning fuel more efficiently, recovery is faster and pain tolerance higher.”
While you might feel a little crampy at this point, studies have shown “that within 10 minutes of exercising cramping reduces, backache is eased, mood improves and mental alertness increases,” Morris and Chapman.
Day 8-14: Proliferative phase
The lowdown: At this point in the month your levels of oestrogen are starting to rise and you’re burning fat as your fuel source, rather than glycogen. In terms of mood, you’re most likely feeling much more energetic.
The workout: You might not have as much strength this week, but you can still push yourself a little when it comes to exercise.
“Keep up the high strength and intensity but now is also a good time to add in some endurance work while your body is burning a little more fat,” Morris and Chapman said.
But, be careful about going too hard with new exercises.
“Although you’re still smashing out epic workout sessions, make sure you take your warm-up and cool-down stretches seriously. As you creep closer to ovulation your chance of injury can increase,” Morris and Chapman said.
Day 15-21: Luteal phase
The lowdown: Things might have taken a bit of a turn here, especially when it comes to your mood. You’re probably feeling like you have less energy and motivation and this is because your hormones are peaking. “Your high progesterone levels alter metabolism and how you handle heat,” said Morris and Chapman.
The workout: Take it easy. “Your energy levels and concentration will be a little lower,” said Morris. “This week is a good chance to concentrate on some more endurance-focused exercises. Pair it with yoga or a stretch session.”
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Day 22-28 Luteal phase continued
The lowdown: This is the hell zone for many people. You’re probably feeling moody and a little anti-social as well as bloated thanks to a slump in oestrogen and progesterone.
The workout: While slothing on the lounge and watching Netflix might feel like all you can manage, try and incorporate some movement where you can.
“Exercise will help improve fluid retention and bloated middle,” said Morris and Chapman “And the endorphin release that comes with exercise will actually lift your mood so that only half the people in your life will get their heads ripped off this week. Turn to mid-high intensity cardio sessions that will increase your heart rate such as cycling, jogging, and power yoga.”
As our bodies are all different in their own wonderful ways, so are our individual menstrual cycles and this is merely just a guide. “While most health practitioners would suggest that exercising to help with menstrual cycle symptoms is better than doing nothing, tailer your sessions accordingly and listen to your body,” Morris and Chapman said. “This includes adding in rest days!”