I have always wondered about the correlation between my period and my exercise routine. Because every time I get into a good habit of exercising and eating well, my period comes. If you’re a woman, you’ve probably experienced days when your period has impacted your physical activities. The adage “consistent hard work and you will reach your goal” is compromised for women having to go through their menstrual cycle. For women, you have to consider more than just healthy nutrition and regular exercise. Hormonal swings, energy levels, and physical performance are normal attributes women have to worry about every month. The question of how to stay on track when menstruating is a frustrating one that most women have. Speaking for myself, it feels like most of the time I’m exercising off my period bloat, and this cycle just keeps going around and around. So I have learned about the process of the menstrual cycle and the effects it has on a woman. It’s the most healthy habit to listen to your body’s signals. Because if we are trying to take care of our bodies, we should know what’s best for them.
The Menstrual Phase: Days 1 to 6
The menstrual cycle begins when you get your period. This phase is called the menstrual phase. Your period can bring on uncomfortable physical symptoms. For instance, low energy levels, cramps, joint and muscle pain, headaches, and the most fun of them all, mood swings. The uterus is shedding its built-up lining. Menstruation usually lasts 1 to 6 days.
With progesterone and estrogen levels at their lowest and the loss of blood, you will be sluggish and more tired than usual. It is recommended to drink tea for cramps as well as avoid caffeine, foods high in fat, salty foods, and alcohol when menstruating. However, it is suggested that you exercise whilst on your period since it can alleviate symptoms. It is better to reduce the intensity of your workouts during this phase.
- LIT – Low-Intensity Training
- Light Strength Training
The Follicular Phase: Days 7 to 11
This phase technically starts with your period but continues until ovulation. During the follicular phase, your body creates a hormone known as follicle-stimulating hormone. This signals your hormones to start producing eggs. Preparing your body for the next phase, ovulation, estrogen levels rise, resulting in a boost in energy.
When estrogen levels are rising, it is best to incorporate cruciferous vegetables and high-protein foods to metabolize estrogen. They include amino acids that are necessary for the liver to produce estrogen. Hormone levels are rising, so during this phase, you are capable of challenging yourself in your workouts. Since your hormone levels are still on the low side, you might not have the stamina to do long workouts, such as running.
- HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training
- Strength Training
- Light Cardio
The Ovulation Phase: Days 12 to 19
Ovulation is the process of producing eggs. Your body also has built up estrogen and hormones from the follicular phase. So when an egg is released, estrogen and testosterone levels peak, causing a boost of energy.
To support your estrogen, eat anti-inflammatory foods such as berries, fish, vegetables, nuts, and dark chocolate. You could feel stronger, more competitive, and more confident with a higher pain tolerance. This is the best time when you have the stamina and energy to go hard in your workouts and feel good.
- Long Runs
- HIIT – High-Intensity Interval Training
- Circuit Training
The Luteal Phase: Days 20 to 28
The luteal phase is the last phase of the menstrual cycle. During this phase, there is a peak in progesterone levels. Therefore, your energy levels will gradually fall, and you may feel drowsy. Progesterone could also disrupt your sleep, which will contribute to your falling energy levels. This hormone also stimulates a lower heart rate. So you could also have cardiovascular difficulties and an increase in body temperature. The change in estrogen levels causes you to retain water and sodium, so you might feel a little bloated and gain weight.
Make sure you drink a lot of water to flush out the retained sodium, so your body can release fluid. To fight drowsiness, eat foods high in magnesium like spinach, oats, almonds, and dark chocolate. During this phase, you should take it slow and lower the intensity of your workouts.
- LIT – Low-Intensity Workouts
- Light runs
- Long walks
All in all, everyone’s menstrual cycle and body are different. So to be fair, if you feel strong enough to get through a tough workout, you should do it. But don’t push yourself beyond your limits. It’s good to give your body a well-needed rest. Being injured or sore will prolong your exercise even longer than a couple of rest days. Work with your body, not against it.