WHICH EXERCISES SHOULD YOU DO DURING YOUR PERIOD?
Paradoxically, exercise can help alleviate PMS and other discomfort that might stop you from working out during your period.
Just because it’s that time of the month shouldn’t put a damper on your fitness plans if you know when to do what type of workout.
The fitter you are, the less PMS symptoms you’re likely to experience – that’s what a study has found, and many health experts back this up. Think of the typical discomfort you face during your menstruation such as bloating, fatigue, and crankiness. When you sweat, it helps relieve some of the water retention and at the same time, your body produces endorphins to lift your mood. These feel-good hormones, coupled with increased heart rate and improved blood flow during exercise, will also energise you.
It is indeed a strange paradox in that the reasons you’ll feel like not wanting to exercise are the very benefits you get from doing so. The key lies in understanding the menstrual cycle and its effect on your energy levels, among other things, so that you can tailor your workout to suit each phase.
The 4 Phases Of Your Menstrual Cycle
Phase 1: Menstrual Phase
The first day of your period marks the start of this phase, when your uterus sheds its lining. It’s normal to feel more tired than usual, and like you just want to curl up inside your shell and shut out the rest of the world.
Your energy level> At its lowest, as progesterone and estrogen dip, and your uterine sheds its lining.
Your workout> Opt for exercises that let you go slow and take it easy. Yin yoga or long and slow walks are ideal as you still get to sweat it out without putting your body through rigorous moves. Stretching exercises and restorative moves will also be beneficial to release tension in the lower back and pelvis. If you still want to keep up with your strength training, scale back and use lighter weights than you usually do.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase
After your period ends, you enter this phase, named after the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) that your body produces during this time. FSH tells your ovaries to create eggs, housed in the follicles, for the next phase of your menstrual cycle.
Your energy level> Estrogen levels shoot up, giving you a big boost of energy. You are typically at your strongest during this time, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. That’s because estrogen tends to make you feel more extroverted, assertive, and self-sufficient.
Your workout> This is the best time to engage in HIIT workouts. You can also make the most of your high energy levels by increasing the weights in your strength training exercises.
Phase 3: Ovulatory Phase
The egg that your body was incubating during the Follicular Phase gets released. Over a 3- to 5-day period, the egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus.
Your energy level> With both testosterone and estrogen on the rise, you will continue to enjoy that surge in energy, especially in the mornings. Not only that, you will likely look your best and feel your most confident during this phase.
Your workout> Continue to push the intensity of your workouts. It’s the best time to explore cardio workouts if those are not part of your routine, or switch up your usual styles by adding Tabata or circuit training to the mix.
Phase 4: Luteal Phase
As the body prepares to start another cycle, estrogen and testosterone levels begin their decline whereas progesterone will peak. This is when PMS symptoms start to show.
Your energy level> This phase usually lasts 12-14 days. You may continue to feel strong and energetic in the first half and then you’ll notice a gradual dip in energy. You might also experience higher body temperatures during this phase, which can cause you to get exhausted faster.
Your workout> Keep at your usual pace and intensity for as long as your body can take it. Once it shows signs of slowing down, you should start scaling back. Many women find that they’re more sluggish in the mornings during this phase and so change to working out in the evenings. Yoga, Pilates, a leisurely swim are ideal.
In general, the consensus is that you can and highly recommended that you workout during your period as exercise alleviates discomfort and over time, helps regulate PMS symptoms as well. So don’t let that time of the month slow you down but if you’re really not up for it, don’t force yourself. Ultimately, the decision lies with you and the most important thing is to listen to your body.