Cramps, fatigue, mood swings – periods can be a lot to deal with, and depending on how you experience them, they can get in the way of training.
If you’ve ever found that your workouts are hindered when you’re due on, you wouldn’t be the only one. A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that over 41% of women in the UK believe that their menstrual cycle has a negative impact on exercise training and performance.
But what if we told you your cycle could benefit training? Working out on you period doesn’t have to be all blood, sweat and tears. All it takes is working in sync with the different phases of your cycle. Here’s a handy guide to each phase of your cycle, and how to maximise your workouts accordingly.
DAYS 1 – 7: YOUR PERIOD
During your period the hormones oestrogen and progesterone are at their lowest, and it’s common to experience low energy levels, cramps, joint and muscle pain, and headaches. So, it’s understandable if the only lifting you want to do on your period is lifting blankets.
If your period is cramping your style, opt for low-impact, low-intensity workouts, but get your body moving if you can. This is because research seems to suggest that exercise may relieve some period pain.
There’s not enough empirical evidence to definitely prove that working out can relieve period pain, but we know that exercise releases endorphins, neurotransmitters produced naturally by your pituitary and central nervous system to cope with pain or stress. They are often called “feel-good hormones” because they increase your pain threshold and boost mood. It’s also believed that endorphins reduce the effect of prostaglandins, the chemicals produced during your period to contract your uterus which cause cramps.
DAYS 7 – 14: FOLLICULAR PHASE + OVULATION
Once your period ends, this could be the perfect time to get the most out of strength training and hit new PBs. In the follicular phase, oestrogen and (to a lesser extent) testosterone levels start to rise again, meaning way more energy.
In this phase your body is able to access carbohydrates (your body’s preferred source of energy), and glycogen more easily, helping burn more fat. A 2014 study also suggests that strength training during the follicular phase may result in a larger gain of lean body mass, AKA gains.
Your body temperature is also lower in the first half of your cycle, so your nervous system won’t tire as easily as it normally would. This means your period may be the perfect time for a HIIT session like Reshape, Ride or Rumble.
DAYS 14 – 28: LUTEAL PHASE
After ovulation you enter the luteal phase, AKA the onset of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This is the time to focus more on cardio, as some research shows a direct correlation between aerobic capacity and the severity of PMS symptoms (especially ones like bloating and constipation).
Your body temperature rises in the luteal phase and stays high until the start of your period, so make sure to stay hydrated when you workout.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s your body and your cycle, so whatever kind of workout you choose to do (or not do) is entirely up to you! The important thing is listening to your body and honouring your energy levels.
Written by Liv Cassano, Content Editor at Daye. Date is a female health R&D company on a mission to bridge the gender gap in medical research and innovation, and raising the standards in gynae health. Follow Daye on Instagram @meetdaye, and check out more of their articles on their blog, Vitals.