Have you ever wondered if you can work out whilst you’re menstruating? Should you even engage in physical activity at all ? Especially if you have cramps and feel fatigued? I’ve worked with so many different women of all ages and physical abilities, and I’m here to say yes you can! And should! I’ll explain why. There are actually 4 distinct phases of the menstrual cycle. Each phase effects the body differently and impacts energy levels too. Understanding this can help to work out what exercises are best to engage in as well as things to consider whilst moving your body.
Menstrual Phase: Day 1-7 During the first phase of your menstrual cycle energy is typically low. This is because oestrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest point. Your body is using glycogen (stored fuel) as its preferred source of energy. The good news is although energy levels might be low, this doesn’t need to stop you from exercising! In fact, metabolically your body is actually burning fuel more efficiently, recovery is faster and pain tolerance is higher. Recent studies have even shown that within 10 minutes of exercising menstruation symptoms decrease, including reducing cramping, ease of back pain, improved mood as well as increased focus. This is the perfect time to get involved in low impact/ low intensity exercise.
Follicular Phase: Day 8-13 Energy levels begin to increase on day 8. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is released by the pituitary gland, and oestrogen levels rise to their highest point and progesterone levels to their lowest. . During this phase you can add strength and intensity to your workouts.. It is also a good time to include endurance training. It is critical leading up to ovulation you take time doing warm up and cool down as there is an increased risk of injury.
Ovulatory Phase Day: 14-21 Throughout ovulation energy levels are high and strength is increased. Luteinizing hormone (LH) is released, oestrogen and FSH reach their peak. Increased levels of progesterone alter metabolism and thermoregulationduring this phase. The ovulation phase is a great time to do some heavy lifting. If you’re looking to increase your weights, now is the time to do it! Keep mindful of safe practices, keep the increase incremental, and focus on good form. Towards the end of this phase you may notice that energy levels start to drop as hormone levels decrease. Listen to your body and decrease the intensity in your training and ensure sodium and electrolyte levels are kept up.
Luteal Phase Day: 22-28 Energy levels decline during the final phase of the menstrual cycle The heart rate is slightly higher and this can contribute to increased fatigue asthe heart is working harder to function efficiently. Hormones levels peak and then dropto restart the cycle. This sudden drop also causes energy levels to drop too. Its still important to exercise during this phase. It will assist with fluid retention and the dreaded bloating that most women experience in the leadup to menstruation. As Premenstrual Syndrome can commonly bring up on mood swings, exercise induced endorphins will really help lift your mood. Moderate intensity, cardiovascular based sessions are the greatest in the phase. I hope I’ve helped answer the question! We are all unique, and no two menstrual cycles are the same either. Some women will have limited symptoms, and others will have a rollercoaster of side effects. It is critical to listen to your body, and tailor your sessions to your individual needs.
Rest days are also an important part of any exercise program. If you would like to know more about this subject or you’re looking for support with your exercise program, come and see me at Pro-Form! I am passionate about supporting all women in their wellness journey and I would love the opportunity to discuss your needs with you.