If you’re a woman who exercises, you’re probably well aware that fitness motivation during your period can be low, to say the least. Menstruation can give way to intensely fluctuating emotions that make you want to curl up in bed and binge on Netflix instead of making your way to the gym.
Fluctuating hormones during a woman’s menstrual cycle can significantly affect energy levels and exercise. There are, however, different types of exercise that are better than others during each phase of your menstrual cycle. Knowing what type of exercise best benefits the hormone changes and energy spikes and crashes throughout each month can help you get the most out of your workout.
Creating an Exercise Routine around Your Menstrual Cycle
One of the latest trends in women’s health and wellness is cycle syncing, a concept based on the idea of tracking your monthly cycle to gain a deeper awareness of the rise and fall of your hormones each month, and then planning your life around these inevitable hormone fluctuations.
A woman’s menstrual cycle lasts approximately 28 days and is broken down into four different phases. With a better understanding of what’s happening with your body and hormones during each phase, you’ll gain a better understanding of what type of exercise will make you feel your best.
When you know why you’re tired and don’t feel like getting much movement, it can be much easier to incorporate simple exercises that support your energy levels and overall well-being. Same is true for making use of excessive energy levels experienced during certain times of the month.
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Best Exercise for Each Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle
Phase One: Menstruation (days 1-5 approximately)
The first phase of menstruation is when you’re on your period. When you’re bleeding, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. Along with the blood loss you experience, these low hormone levels can also cause a decrease in energy levels.
If you’re like a lot of women who feel fatigued during the first few days of her period, it’s best to take it easy when it comes to exercise. Some of the best exercises during menstruation include very light cardio, walking, light stretching and yoga. You might consider a simple CBD-inspired yoga routine that supports stress while gently moving the body.
Phase Two: Follicular Phase (days 6-14 approximately)
During the follicular phase, bleeding stops, and estrogen and progesterone levels begin to rise. Typically, this is connected to an increase in energy and can be an excellent time to engage in more intense exercise. It’s also a great time to switch up your regular exercise routine and try something new.
With all the increased energy during this time of the month, you might consider vigorous aerobic exercise, high intensity interval training (HIIT), boxing, or power yoga. Each can help you make the most out of increased energy levels while you build up full body strength.
Phase Three: Ovulation (days 15-17 approximately)
Ovulation is the process of releasing eggs. During this time, estrogen levels are at their highest, and testosterone and progesterone rise. You’ll still experience an increase of energy during the ovulation phase, and it’s best to make the most of it by getting in some strength training.
The small surge in testosterone during ovulation can be excellent for lifting weights and building up strength. This is a great time to pick up those kettlebells or take a CrossFit class.
Phase Four: Luteal Phase (days 18-28 approximately)
During the luteal phase, estrogen and progesterone levels are elevated. If a woman’s egg has not been fertilized, hormone levels begin to drop, and the menstrual cycle starts over. What does this phase mean for your energy levels? Energy typically starts out elevated as you move into the luteal phase but begins to decline as you get closer to menstruation.
Progesterone levels spike to their peak during this phase, causing some women to feel somewhat tired. While you should stick to your normal exercise routine during the luteal phase, you might find you don’t complete it with the same intensity or passion as you did the week before.
The fourth phase of your menstrual cycle is what some refer to as PMS. You might be extra emotional, suffer from a dip in self-confidence, and have ridiculous food cravings, all of which can be attributed to your hormones. During this phase, focus on gentle movement. Yoga, Pilates, swimming and long, leisurely walks are all perfect for those who experience symptoms of PMS.
Start to Track Your Cycle
In order to coordinate your exercise routine to best fit each phase of your menstrual cycle, it’s important to begin to track your cycle. There are several apps that can help you do it, or you can do it old-school and track your cycle on your calendar beginning the first day of your period.
Cycle syncing can help you become much more aware of the changes that take place in your body throughout each month. You’ll begin to notice how each phase of your cycle affects your energy level, mood, emotions, and dietary preferences. This can allow you to make slight adjustments to feel your best.
Engaging in the Best Exercise for YOU During Each Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle
You know your body better than anyone. While there are definitive changes in hormones during each phase of your menstrual cycle, you know your body better than anyone. A big part of tuning into your cycle means listening to your body. There’s no one-size-fits-all routine when it comes to the best exercise for each phase of your cycle. What’s best for you might not be best for your best friend during her cycle. If you find you have more energy during the luteal phase, by all means do what feels right for you! Any type of exercise, even if it’s a gentle walk or an easy bedtime yoga routine, is better for your health than not exercising at all.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.