Workouts are like life. Sometimes you feel like you are absolutely crushing it, and other times you are seriously struggling to make it through. (Am I right?)
Turns out, you can blame your hormones for that. Yep! That’s right. Not only do hormones have an impact on our complexion, energy levels, food cravings, and moods, hormones also have an effect on our workouts. Each week of our cycle is best suited for certain workouts, so if you are looking for how you can better work with your cycle and not against it, here is how you can work out according to each phase of your cycle.
Stage 1: Menstruation (Days 1-7)
On the first day of your period, there is no need to push yourself to work out. Dr. Jessica Shepherd, OBGYN, founder of Her ViewPoint and U by Kotex partner, says, “I always encourage patients to listen to their body and do what feels right. If you’re tired and don’t have the energy, listen to your body and take a rest day.”
Our bodies are already hard at work, so if you feel like curling up in bed with a heating pad and skipping that 6 am sweat sesh for an extra hour of sleep, here is your permission slip to do just that. (Just be polite and cancel ahead of time so someone else can take your spot in class!)
During your period, if you really feel like moving, Shepherd recommends cardiovascular exercise like cycling, running, using the elliptical or walking—“anything that’s going to improve blood flow to the uterus. Mind-body exercises can also help with stretching, increasing flexibility and are good for pelvic floor relaxation. Yoga, Pilates or even a walk outdoors are great lower-intensity options.”
Shepherd goes on to explain that a good sweat session reminds us to rehydrate and increase water intake. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins which can induce ‘exercise euphoria’, and altered pain perception, which can help women with menstrual pain and cramps. Exercise can also help to improve sleep, which is vital during menstruation.
Stages 2 and 3: The follicular phase and ovulation (Days 8-21)
During the follicular and ovulation phases of your cycle, our bodies have a rise in estrogen, which gives us more energy to be ready to work, explains Shepherd, so go for a run, lift heavy, sign up for a HIIT class, take a hike and really go for it during your workouts.
Stage 4: The luteal phase (Days 22-28)
During the luteal phase, many women experience PMS symptoms, like bloating, breakouts, cramps, food cravings and mood swings. Shepherd recommends focusing on less strenuous activities and more cardio during this time to keep your body moving. Opt for some low impact cardio like biking, cycling, dancing, using the elliptical, hiking, swimming, taking a Pilates or yoga class or just walking.
“Movement helps increase oxygen delivery and decrease prostaglandin release which helps alleviate cramping,” explains Shepherd. All the more reason to find a way to move!
When it comes to working out according to each week of your cycle, consider working with your body instead of against. By honoring it, listening to it and respecting where your body is at during each week of your cycle, your cycle may even be better to you.