Can I train on my period? A question so many women need answering! As women, we all tend to fear that horrible time of the month when the dreaded period arrives. I know for me the thought of a period makes me feel sick. The thought of exercising on your period could be frightening. Battling the stomach cramps, choosing your clothing colours and that extreme bloating really doesn’t begin to describe the start of it, so having to work out during these times can be hard.
However, did you know that exercise around your menstrual cycle can actually be very beneficial? HOW? WHAT? WHERE? I hear you ask…After hours and hours of research, I’m about to tell you how best to train around specific times of the month.
Benefits of Exercise During Your Period
- Reduction of PMS symptoms (bloating, weight gain and fatigue)
- Improved mood
- A better night sleep
- Boosted metabolism
- Combat fatigue
Week One: Increased Pain Tolerance = Less Muscle Soreness (Day 1-5)
This is week 1 in your cycle, also known as menstruation, essentially when the bleeding first start. For me, this is the worst week. I tend to cramp really bad on my first day and feel like a sack of spuds. This stage can last for many days but is dependent on the person. The average is usually between 3 days and one week.
At this stage, there is a decrease in hormone production, predominately oestrogen and progesterone. This helps your body cope with muscle ache, e.g. the menstrual cramps. This would be the perfect time to book into a body pump class or perform weight training for conditioning. You’ll find you’re able to deal with more strain and stress on the muscles making it one of the best times of the month for training hard!
Conditioning ‘Full Body Blitz’ Circuit!
Here’s a cheeky workout that I love! It involves six exercises repeated one after the other. All you need is a set of dumbbells so can be performed at home, you don’t even have to get out of your PJ’s! Great right!
Perform the following two times around, four sets of fifteen reps, with thirty seconds rest between sets.
- Wide Arm Press Ups
- Bodyweight Squats
- Dorsal Raise
- Tricep Dips
- Squat Jumps
I tend to feel rubbish in week one of my period, at least for the first few days anyway. I do train through it, and usually, end up feeling a lot better after exercise. My greatest symptom is bloating which tends to make me feel a bit frumpy. I find exercise helps give me that confidence boost I need. Try drinking some herbal teas which will help combat these cramps, and avoid fatty and salty foods.
Week Two: When Strength Training Is Most Effective! (Day 6 to Day 14)
The follicular phase which is week 2 is the best time to inject some strength training. This starts on the first day of your period, so there is some overlap with the previous phase. It then ends when you ovulate. This is the stage where your pituitary gland release’s a hormone called FSH. This stage can last from anywhere between 11 and 27 days. According to researches, your insulin sensitivity is higher at this stage.
You’re essentially able to regulate our blood sugar more efficiently, which is AMAZING!. It’s now when you can eat more carbs, have a little bit of sugar, and even a cheeky glass of wine ;). We want to consume more of the foods that will metabolise estrogens, such as high fibre foods and leafy greens.
Regarding exercise, this is the stage where you want to focus on your strength training as this means bigger muscle gains. Theory suggests that we have a rise in testosterone levels thus meaning muscle GAINES! Why not hit a nice heavy weights session at this stage to gain some muscle bulk. However, on a side note, this stage has been known to also coincide with a rush of oestrogen which can put your knees at risk of damage so looking after your knees is important at this stage. Avoid lots of impact jumping and running on uneven surfaces as this will put your knees at risk.
Mega ‘Strength Gainer’ Circuit!
An example workout you could do would be a nice all-around strength-based circuit. You could start with having around 6 stations, you want to make sure you focus each station on something different so that you are targeting the whole body. An example could be;
Perform the following two times around, four sets of six reps, with one-minute rest between sets.
- Sumo Squats
- Shoulder Lateral Raise
- Tricep Extensions
- Bicep Hammer Curls
- Clean and Press
This circuit seems quite straightforward, but trust me you will definitely feel the burn! Perform this circuit three to five times per week, with at least one rest day in between each session to allow your body time to recover. I manage this circuit well throughout my whole cycle apart from week 4. I find that it has just the right intensity so that I’m able to keep my form, but I’m also able to challenge myself.
Week Three: Maximise Cardiorespiratory Gains! (Day 14)
Welcome to the metabolic shift, the luteal phase! This is the time where your progesterone and oestrogen levels are at their highest. This can result in mood swings, but on the upside, you can burn around 30% more fat during exercise as fat tends to be the preferred fuel. This is the perfect time to channel your ‘distance demon’ and get some miles under your belt.
You will want to consume foods that are going to support your liver due to the rise in oestrogen. For this, we are looking at anti-inflammatory foods such as almonds and whole fruits. These types of foods reap incredible health benefits which we know have an impact on your hormones.
Jump on a treadmill and go for time, 30 minutes plus. Make sure you go at a comfortable pace, around 60% of your max. You can gradually start to increase your speed and work on lowering your time. If you prefer to run outside, then you can always track your run on various apps on your phone. A great app is Map My Run.
You could also try this cardio blitz 😉
Treadmill Interval Training
One minute at 50% max pace, followed by one minute at 75% max pace. Repeat for 60 minutes (thirty mins slow, thirty mins fast)
Week Four: Switch up Your Diet and Incorporate Holistic Workouts Into Your Training (15 -28)
Entering the latter stages of the period, known as the luteal phase and your body’s core body temperature is about to rise. Be prepared for tiredness, and fatigue! Your aim now is to stay cool to maximise results. One way to help keep cool is to change up your diet! Try replacing starchy carbs like rice, with extra protein, and also foods that help produce serotonin, like leafy greens, buckwheat and also spinach.
I’d recommend taking part in Yoga Or Pilates during this week! This form of exercise can help reduce anxiety and stress as well as improve your flexibility. Yoga and Pilates also help improve core stability and posture, it can help relieve tightness in the upper traps and neck, which are common places that we hold tension, leading to muscle ache and soreness. I find Yoga releases the tension and what’s more, helps give me a better night’s sleep.
I have to say that I really struggle during this phase which is really not ideal when you’re trying to hit Zumba sporting a bloated belly! It hardly makes me channel my inner J-Lo!
A nice calming Yoga session, however, will help me forget that I look three months pregnant!
If you’re training for a big event, or aren’t affected, then by no means change your training! These recommendations are for people who struggle with exercise. If you are training for an event or following a plan and still struggling, then you can always change up your schedule a little by swapping 1-2 of your sessions for a bit more of a low-intensity workout.
So What Is the Best Way to Train on Your Period?
Remember, research has shown us that there is no reason why we can’t train as normal throughout our whole cycle. However, there are times during our period as I’ve mentioned that we may feel more prone to tiredness, more bloated and suffering from those PMS symptoms.
Here are some key points!
- Week One: Increased pain tolerance means you can push yourself that little bit harder and complete a high-intensity full body workout. Focus on herbal teas to combat those cramps and ditch the fatty foods no matter how hard the cravings are!
- Week Two: Focus on strength training. Increase your intake of leafy greens and high fibre foods to help metabolise oestrogen.
- Week Three: Go for gold and maximise your cardio gains. Eat foods that will support your liver including almonds and whole fruit.
- Week Four: Holistic workouts are a ‘win-win’ and will combat mood swings. Take time to unwind and relax. Swap starchy carbs for extra protein and add foods that contain serotonin such as leafy greens and buckwheat.
Love and Health HP