While it’s true that exercise is a great way to deal with period and PMS symptoms like bloating, it’s also true that sometimes you just don’t feel up to it. Have you ever noticed that your energy levels and exercise abilities change depending on where you are in your cycle? Working with your flow rather than against it when planning a period workout can make exercise a whole lot easier.
Rob Kominiarek, an Ohio physician who specializes in fitness and hormones, says that hormonal shifts during your period can affect your ability to exercise at optimal levels. For example, during the first week of your cycle, when you’re actually menstruating, your estrogen levels are lowest, which encourages your body to burn carbohydrates instead of fat. The takeaway? “Despite fatigue and muscle soreness, fast workouts are ideal and may feel easier on these days,” Kominiarek says. “This is the time to train and make gains in your fitness regimen.” Of course you should pay attention to your body and not push too hard! But the first week of your period workout is a great time to test your limits.
The next (roughly) 14 days of your cycle involve ovulation, which is a good time to slow things down a bit for your workout. Be sure to do plenty of warm-ups to loosen muscles and joints.
The luteal phase of your cycle, weeks three and four, involves a hormonal shift: your progesterone levels rise as your estrogen levels fall, which could lead to feeling more sluggish. In fact, according to Stacy Sims, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Stanford University, you’re actually less tolerant of heat because progesterone levels delay your sweat response, so it takes longer to cool off. The trick here, according to Sims, is to take it a bit easier with lower intensity exercises—an easy run instead of interval training, for example, or simpler yoga poses. Or, if you’re really feeling lousy, take the day off! Just make sure to get back on track as soon as you’re feeling better.
Being mindful of where you are in your cycle can make for a much more effective period workout. With a bit of planning, you can get the most out of your workouts—and still give yourself time to take it easy when you need to!
(Looking for specific workouts for the different phases of your cycle? Stay tuned….)