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Exercise for Your Menstrual Cycle


“By gaining an understanding of our monthly hormonal fluctuations, we can ramp up our workouts when our bodies are ready for it, and turn down the intensity when our bodies can’t tolerate as much of a physical load. When we learn how to cycle our exercise with our cycle, we’re using our female biology to our advantage — working smarter, not harder.” - Alexandra Rose, CPT


Everything about the above statement resonates with me especially now during Perimenopause. As your hormones fluctuate, so can your energy and mood, which affects how your body may approach fitness. When there may have been a time that I could ‘push harder’ during exercise, that same mentality does not work for me at this stage of my life. It is completely the opposite – if I push harder, especially through my ovulation stage where I DO actually have more energy, the instance of working into migraine for me are much greater. It got me to researching more into exercising for my hormonal cycle. It’s not easy to change your routine and slow down during certain weeks, however, it really does make a difference.


THE PHASES OF THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE

As our hormones ebb and flow over the span of 4 weeks, our menstrual cycle biologically has four distinct eras: ‘The four phases of the menstrual cycle are: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase’.


MENSTRUATION

Heading into your menstruation your hormones will be at their lowest. You might wake up for your Pilates class and think: I can not be bothered or go into a class and feel like it’s dragging. That’s when you know your hormones are lower and that your body might not be feeling it as much. Try Yoga, Pilates, walks and stretching during this time, nothing that is really going to get your heart rate up.


THE FOLLICULAR PHASE

During the Follicular phase, we’re looking at a little bit more strength: because your hormones are increasing – but not peaking. Pilates with more of a strength focus and light weights will be really good here.


OVULATION

During Ovulation is when you’ll be feeling quite fabulous. Oestrogen peaks, so this is when you can do higher-resistance gym sessions, HIIT, Circuit training or go for a longer distance run, advanced Pilates session and you’ll feel good doing it. Everyone is different though, so still pay attention to what works for you.


PRE AND POST LUTEAL PHASE

The Luteal phase is broken down into two phases, pre & post, because your hormones adapt so much in that time. With your pre-Luteal you’d be looking at still doing that high-intensity training, like a really big run or high intensity classes. Then in your post-Luteal, coming into your period, your hormones will start to drop and you’ll start experiencing PMS symptoms. It’s best to come back to that lower intensity movement like Yoga, Pilates and walks in that phase.


WHAT MOVEMENT FOR WHAT PHASE

This is a very general guideline of possible exercise intensities that may be beneficial during the hormone fluctuations around your cycle.


Menstrual

Light movements may be best during this stage. Pilates, Yoga, Walking.


Follicular

Try light cardio. Your hormones are still low, especially testosterone. This may cause low stamina. Pilates & light weights.


Ovulation

Try circuit and high-intensity exercises, as energy may be higher. HIIT, Circuit, Power Walking, Running/Jogging, Weights, Pilates in a more advanced setting.


Luteal (Pre & Post)

Pre Luteal energy may still be high - HIIT, Circuit, Power Walking, Running/Jogging.

Post Luteal energy levels may be low as your body is preparing for another period cycle. Light-to-moderate exercise may be best. Pilates, Yoga and Walking.


Again, learn to listen to your body. There is no 'one size fit's all' here. Our cycles are highly individual, so perhaps using a period tracker app and a diary to note changes that occur in your body when you exercise during certain phases both positive & not so positive.


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