At Clementine we are big fans of exercise during our period, since exercise can actually improve some symptoms all of us go through. However, during the menstrual cycle, hormones fluctuate a lot, and so does mood, energy levels, and physical endurance.
So how can you change your workout to fit even the days you have serious PMS? We investigated that for you. Check it out.
How to exercise during the period and the other phases of the cycle
First, we need to have in mind that your cycle, although divided in two essential phases, has some more divisions. The menstruation happens during the follicular phase, and PMS happens during the luteal phase.
The follicular and luteal phases do not overlap, as they are separated by ovulation. Considering an average 28-day menstrual cycle, these are our tips to optimise exercise during your period and the rest of the cycle:
Days 1-5: the menstruation
You might have heard from a grandmother that doing exercise during your period was bad. This is not right but has an actual explanation. Menstruation happens the first days of your cycle and generally lasts 3 to 7 days.
During these days, you bleed, and it is common to feel more tired than during the rest of the cycle, as well as to have menstrual cramps, tender breasts, insomnia, poor concentration, irritability and generally low energy levels. And because of the low energy, strenuous exercise during your period should be avoided.
So, if you tend to have low energy during the first days of your cycle, we recommend that you go a bit easier on your workout. Some great ways to exercise on your period are to do some yoga, light cardio, swimming or light weightlifting, in increasing intensity.
Days 5-11: the mid-follicular phase
As your menstruation ends, you will feel your energy levels rise. And this is no coincidence: your oestrogen levels are on the rise too. The follicular phase is great for high-intensity workouts and heavyweight training.
During the 7-10 days between the end of your period and ovulation you feel ready to take the world. So, it is the perfect time for strength training, heavy weightlifting, cardio exercise, and those sprints you love.
Days 12-16: ovulation
Ovulation generally happens around the 14th day of the cycle, and the few days before and after it are your fertile days. Around this time, oestrogen peaks and testosterone spikes.
And while your energy is still high, the oestrogen peak might make you more prone to injury. So, during this short phase, turn more to aerobic training with less intense workouts, and remember to warm up very well. Try powerful bike rides, trail runs and circuit-style training.
Days 17-23: the mid-luteal phase
During the mid-luteal phase, it’s time for both progesterone and oestrogen levels to increase. During this part of the luteal phase, your body temperature rises slightly.
This time is perfect for endurance and strength training. Just beware that you might overheat easily during these days. Nevertheless, take advantage of the (still) high energy you feel during the mid-luteal phase, and exercise similarly to days 5-11.
Days 24-28: the late luteal phase
In the last days of your cycle, PMS kicks in. That’s when oestrogen and progesterone start falling and hit an all-time low. These days are the most difficult ones to work out, given all the symptoms.
However, since exercise actually can help with PMS, it is important you exercise at least a little bit. In the last days before a new cycle, it’s advised to do some restorative exercise, such as yoga or pilates. Swimming and some light cardio might work, but in decreasing intensity.
And to help you keep track of what day it is, check some useful apps to track your period and your whole cycle.
What to eat to support the exercise during your period
As you know, food can have a big impact on working out. Know which foods complement your menstrual cycle and workouts best.
The period days
During your period, the days you bleed, your body can feel low on iron. So, iron-rich foods like fish are a safe bet.
However, since you might experience some cramps, it can never hurt to load up on magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, and bananas, for example, to help alleviate some of the cramps.
The follicular phase, especially after the period is over, is the energy phase. To boost it up, complement it with colourful salads, smoothies, whole grains, such as brown rice, and Omega-3 fats.
Since oestrogen is rising, probiotic-rich food can help your body break down and metabolise it. Try some fermented foods, such as kimchi, yoghurt and kombucha. Be sure to load up on fresh, raw veggies and many fruits around ovulation.
The second and last part of your cycle is a “waning phase”. During this time, you might want to eat vitamin B–rich foods that help your brain produce serotonin.
Your body might also be low on calcium, so don’t miss your dose of leafy greens. Fibre is always a good nutrient, and especially during this time when you’ll have more cravings. As such, eat your fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
But beware that towards the end of the luteal phase comes the bloating. Avoid foods that are gas-inducing and don’t abuse the fibre. Also, certain teas can help with bloating, like fennel and turmeric infusion.
But, as always: do what feels right for you.
Do you normally exercise during your period? What are your go-to-workouts during the different phases of your cycle?
Take care, Of yourself. Of your planet. Of your body.