Every woman’s body is different–but for some, the monthly cycle can have a noticeable effect on mood, physical energy, endurance, and more. If you ever wondered why some days you feel just so out of steam, and on other days feel on top of the world, your hormones might be the reason. Knowing why your body feels a certain way can be empowering, and can help you adjust your fitness routine for best results. Here is how to exercise according to your monthly cycle.
Week during your period
What makes you have your period? Simply put, the drop in your progesterone and estrogen levels sends signals that you’re not pregnant–hence the monthly period. The sudden decrease in these hormones makes you feel not only calmer, but can also make you feel stronger. Many women report feeling very positive during their period. On the other hand, you may also experience cramps and mood swings, which can be reduced by moderate activity. Steady running or other cardio workouts can reduce cramps and bloating. I don’t practice yoga during this time, since many schools of yoga (particularly Ashtanga) recommend staying away from inversions (any asanas where your head is lower than your hips) to prevent retrograde menstruation. Medical opinion on safety of inversions is still divided, with many arguments on both sides. Personally, I find even Downward Dog pretty uncomfortable during this time, but practicing inversions comes down to a personal choice. Relaxing poses like Happy Baby, Lizard Pose, and Child’s Pose can help relieve lower ab pains.
2 weeks following your period
Your energy levels are high, your skin is clear, your mood bright–thanks to low progesterone and estrogen. This is the time when you can really push yourself physically, and also reap the most benefits. Studies show that working out more during this time (and cutting back during the rest of the month) can actually improve your fitness significantly more than if you work out consistently throughout the month. Adding more sessions, and increasing the intensity will have the best results during your low-hormone phase. Incorporate High Intensity Interval Training, resistance training, and vigorous cardio. If you have wanted to try that new boxing class or challenge yourself with longer runs, this is the time to do it!
1 week before your period
Your fertility peaks about 14 days before the start of your period, and your hormones continue to increase until then…which means anxiety, irritability, hormonal breakouts, and loss of energy. 1 week leading up to your period, you can experience fatigue, bloating, even joint and muscle pain–and even a normally easy running course can feel like a marathon. Rather than straight cardio, this is a great time for exercises that combine aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. Try resistance training using weights, which releases mood-lifting endorphins. It’s also the optimal time for yoga, which soothes physical and mental stress. Group conditioning classes with uplifting music can give that motivational boost you need during this time. If you are really feeling low in energy, this is a good time to give yourself a meaningful day-off (you can always catch up in your high-energy phase). Meaningful day-off can involve brisk walking and light stretching, relaxing Epsom salt bath and meditation. This will also help curb cravings for unhealthy foods and regulate your moods.
Related: What You May Not Know About PMS
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