Should you exercise on your period???
There are many benefits to exercising during your period. Working out can help: Decrease the pain of cramps by releasing endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), increasing blood flow, and by loosening muscles in your lower abdomen, back, and thighs. Rid your body of excess water so you aren’t bloated.
But to dig deeper, the question I am entertaining is there a specific type of exercise that could optimise your exercise routine or anything you should be avoiding?
To kick things off, I have very limited knowledge let alone understanding of the menstrual cycle. Yet, th majority of members I train are all women! So this was an area of interest for me to understand what is going on and to hopefully break down some barriers so that my current (and future) members would feel comfortable to discuss this, so that we can optimise your health and fitness programme and get the most out of your training depending on what stage they might be on with their period.
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is ready to divulge that informatio, and I defnitely do not expect them to. But, if knowing thst we can have that conversation if needed means that you feel more comfortable training with me, then that is a huge plus!
Anyway, here’s what I found out about the stages of the menstrual cycle:
Basically, this stage is your period (shedding of your uterine walls).
- The Follicular Stage
This phase starts on the first day of your period and last for around 2 weeks, ending with ovulation (stage 3). During this stage, your brain sends hormones to stimulate the production of follicles on the surface of an ovary, essentially preparing you for pregnancy.
This stage is when a mature egg is released from the ovary, moving along the fallopian tube towards your uterus. This happens at least once a month and usually 2 weeks before your next period.
- The Luteal Phase
After ovulation cell in the ovary release progesterone and oestrogen (hormones). At this stage, your body is prepared for pregnancy and is thickening the walls of your uterus. If pregnancy does not happen, then the cycle repeats itself and you move back on to the menstruation phase.
Now, this is where my research really comes in handy. So, we know the stages of your period, but how can exercise impact your period and is it different for each stage?
There is a really interesting article from Whoop (wearable tech company) that discussed a similar topic titled “Why You Should Exercise on Your Period” which is one of the main sources I read and listened to (they have a podcast) that sparked my intrigue into helping women understand your bodies more and how exercise can positively impact you at different stages of your life. Initially, they highlight the psychological and physical benefits of exercising on your period including mood regulation, pain reduction, increase blood flow which relieve any cramping or muscle aches. Even more interestingly, they found that aerobic training before your period starts can actually relieve your symptoms from the onset! Additionally, they found that you can even push your workouts even harder on your period, as your body has a higher pain threshold during this time.
More research has actually supported this, and it is even recommended that on your period is the best time to be aggressive with your training and challenge yourself. Trying High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or increasing your weights can actually have a really positive outcome as your body utlised carbohydrates mor effectively during your period. So as long as you are feeling up for it, go for it.
Overall, there was no real difference at what stage of your period you train/exercise, as long as you get something in!
Don’t get me wrong, there is an abundance of evidence and discussion around how to sync your workout routine around your menstrual cycle to maximise the effectiveness of your exercise routine – but that is another topic for another day.
It is important to note that you have to listen to your body, and you will know yourself when to push and when to rest. Ignore the myths that you should exercise on your period. Embrace your body and go for it!
Whilst this isn’t a common topic around the gym or even within my own sessions, I hope that this information gives you comfort in knowing that you can exercise (and even go hard) whilst on your period! You can lift heavier weights. You can run further and achieve more whilst experiencing difficult symptoms. Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to hold back at any time of the month.
Not sure how to start with an exercise programme? My email is always available firstname.lastname@example.org
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