The menstrual cycle causes a wide range of physiological changes in women that can adversely affect their workout routine. Certain types of exercises may be more appropriate for each stage of the cycle depending on how the hormones change during the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle is a complex process that's controlled by different glands and their hormonal production. It consists of four phases - menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and luteal phase. Common problems seen during these phases include emotional swings, fatigue, cramps, and painful periods.
According to recent research, exercising can be beneficial for easing cramps. As of now, there's no medical rationale that prevents women from working out during their period. However, hormonal effects on sleep, recovery, appetite, and stress can impact their workouts.
In this article, we will have a look on how to optimize your workout routine during your period for better results.
Exercise During Each Phase of Menstrual Cycle
This phase of uterine shedding can last from three days to a week. Moderate intensity exercises like yoga have been shown to be beneficial in offsetting premenstrual symptoms.
As your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest during this phase, you can experience lowered energy levels and motivation. Strength training and fast-paced workouts like HIIT can be difficult due to lower stamina and endurance levels.
Stick to low intensity cardio like walking, pilates, casual bike rides, or yoga during this phase.
As it begins on the same day as your period, the follicular phase initially coincides with menstruation. However, it goes on till the ovulation phase. Several hormones, including the luteinizing hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormone, are stimulated during this stage.
These hormones signal the ovary to start producing follicles. That causes a rise in estrogen levels and energy levels along with it. In this phase, you can ramp up the intensity.
The follicular phase may be ideal for:
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
- Strength training (heavy)
However, there's evidence to show that higher estrogen levels during the late follicular phase can predispose you to a greater chance of injury. So warm up properly before each lift, and pay attention, especially to the knee ligaments.
The ovulation phase is a brief window lasting between three and five days. The higher levels of estrogen make this period quite similar to the follicular phase.
Estrogen decreases inflammatory response to muscle damage. That means you can recover faster, and you will likely observe lower levels of soreness. You can continue to engage in weight training and high intensity cardio during this phase of the menstrual cycle.
The luteal phase marks the last phase of the menstrual cycle before your period starts again. Depending on your individual cycle, this phase lasts between 12-14 days, usually between days 18 and 30.
During the first half of the luteal phase, your estrogen is still high enough for you to power through high intensity workouts. These levels begin to drop towards the second half, which is characterized by a marked rise in progesterone. Higher progesterone levels can cause drowsiness and fatigue in some people.
The increase in body temperature during the luteal phase can negatively affect your energy levels and recovery. Scale down on the intensity during this period. Stick to lower impact routines like walking, swimming or yoga.
Track your menstrual cycle religiously using a calendar, diary or app. That will help you familiarize yourself with your physiological changes and exercise ability. Using this information, you can construct your own workout routine according to your needs, moods, and energy levels.