PMS is a thing. Go with the flow to overcome those annoying period cramps!
Tailoring your workout routine to your menstrual cycle will help you reach your full potential. This advice isn’t only applicable to fitness fanatics. Anyone who menstruates can maximize their workouts by learning more about each phase of their cycle. Find out how to tailor your workout routine to your monthly cycle for maximum results.
Any time you’re in doubt, use this guide to tweak your month-long sweat seshes. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel!
How Should You Exercise During Your Menstrual Cycle (Days 1-5)?
When it comes to working out during your period, you’ve probably received mixed messages. You may have heard that exercising creates an inflammatory reaction. While this is in part true, it’s not completely accurate. According to research, an inflammatory reaction may occur in sedentary individuals who suddenly become active but rarely occurs in active individuals.
You may have also heard that exercise can reduce dysmenorrhea—otherwise known as period cramps. Evidence suggests that frequent exercise—not just during menstruation—decreases period pain.
But at the start of your period, you might be feeling pretty miserable. And no wonder—there’s a lot going on down there. Not only are your estrogen and progesterone levels at an all-time low, you might be experiencing pain or cramps.
While exercise is the last thing you want to do, it’s the best thing for you. Now is the prime time to build strength and gain muscle, especially since your testosterone levels are relatively high.
Just remember—go at your own pace and do whatever workout feels good to you. It may be a good idea to opt for low-impact—non-jumping—workouts like yoga, Pilates, light strength training and stretching during your menstrual cycle since you may experience lower levels of energy.
How Should You Exercise During the Follicular Phase (Days 1–11)?
Yay, your period is over! While the follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and continues until the beginning of ovulation, the magic happens from the end of your period until three days before ovulation.
During this time, your body creates follicle-stimulating hormones (FSHs), which produce eggs for the ovulation phase. Each of these eggs is housed inside a follicle. After menstruation is over, your estrogen levels get a big boost of energy as your body prepares to release an egg.
Because your estrogen levels spike, you’ll feel much more energized. At this point, you’ll be able to work out harder and recover more quickly.
Now’s the time to amp up your training intensity. During the follicular phase, opt for high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training and intense cardio training. Bust out that jump rope or take a Gymondo class to really push past your limits!
How Should You Exercise During the Ovulation Phase (Days 12–19)?
Woo-hoo! Another high-energy time! The ovulation phase follows the follicular phase— typically days 12 to 19 of your cycle. During this phase, you’ll experience high levels of estrogen, increased levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and FSH. FYI, LH triggers ovulation.
Now, you’ll want to capitalize on high-energy workouts. You may want to add on to what you did during the follicular phase. Try switching up your cardio routine, mix in some Tabata-style HIIT training or add strength circuits to your routine. If you really want to bump up the intensity, grab your dumbbells and try Gymondo’s Triple Strength program.
How Should You Exercise During the Luteal Phase (Days 20-28)?
The luteal phase is the last phase of your menstrual cycle—before menstruation. This phase typically lasts 14 days. During the first part of this phase, you’ll still have loads of energy, but the closer you get to the start of your period, the less energy you’ll have.
Progesterone levels are at an all-time peak during this phase, which may lead to fatigue. While you can continue with your normal workouts, you may experience more difficulty completing them at the same intensity. It might be the perfect time to practice yoga or Pilates to release muscle tension and increase your overall strength.
Aerobic exercise has also been shown to be beneficial during the luteal phase. In a recent study, aerobic exercise was found to relieve PMS symptoms when performed three times a week for 12 weeks or more. If running isn’t your thing, opt for low-intensity cardio training like walking, swimming or biking.
Pushing yourself to your absolute max during the luteal period might not be possible for everyone. Instead, opt for low-intensity cardio exercises instead.
Start Tracking Your Period
It’s important to start tracking your period so you can determine which phase you’re in. There are plenty of ways to do this—the old-fashioned way (pen to paper) or using a menstrual cycle tracking app.
By tracking your period, you’ll become more familiar with your cycle, understand how it works and most importantly, determine how each phase impacts your mood, energy levels and performance.
It’s important to note that everyone responds differently to their menstrual cycle. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to working out.
You may be one of the lucky ones who has crazy energy throughout your entire cycle. If that’s the case, you won’t need to adjust your training. But if you feel miserable during menstruation yet have loads of energy over the other three phases, you’ll probably want to adjust your training around your period.
And if you’re struggling to fully grasp your cycle, start tracking your period. It’s a great way to determine what exercises you should be doing and at what time. Above all, do what feels good to you. Just remember—any exercise is better than none, even if it’s a light stretch. Implementing healthy habits now will lead to a lifelong pursuit.
Gymondo offers workouts for every phase of your cycle. Explore yoga, Pilates, HIIT, cardio, strength training and more. Start your free trial today and discover 30+ fitness programs, 300+ workouts and 1000+ foodie-grade recipes.