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Working Out and Your Menstrual Cycle

Exercise and our menstrual cycle is more linked than most people realise. If you do a HIIT/ cardio workout one week and the next can barely make it through, it’s not because you’ve lost your stamina and endurance all of a sudden, it can be to do with your current menstrual phase. And while the scientific research and information is limited, it has been found that you should do differenttypes of exercise depending on your menstrual cycle phase. 

The menstrual cycle is divided into 4 stages; menstruation, follicular, ovulation and luteal.

1. Menstruation

Of course as women we know the harsh reality of periods. For some of us it can be debilitating with cramps and more symptoms like nausea and vomiting. The last thing on your mind is a Combat Queens workout because you can’t even move enough to readjust your hot water bottle. For other, the lucky ones, we have minor symptoms but can still workout. For this period (pun intended) low impact cardio, low volume strength workouts, Pilates and Yoga are recommended. Oestrogen is low which can affect our energy levels. This is because you are able to move your body and get that endorphin release and sweat without putting the body under too much stress. 

2. Follicular 

As your oestrogen levels are high, this has a good effect on energy levels and allows you to push yourself more in your workouts. For this phase, workouts such as HIIT, circuits and strength are recommended cause you should be able to perform better.

3. Ovulation 

During this phase oestrogen and testosterone are high as this is the most fertile phase. This again means increased energy levels alongside an increase in mood. Therefore, for these phases you should take advantage of this and push yourself in more vigorous exercise. 

4. Luteal 

This is the dreaded PMS phase where we feel constantly enraged and hungry. There is evidence to suggest that during this time the metabolism increases which can have an effect on hunger levels. During this phase progesterone rises along with oestrogen and can have an effect on the effectiveness of oestrogen. Progesterone is more of a ‘calming hormone’ and promotes sleepiness and therefore can affect our energy levels during this time. Therefore, low impact or LISS (low intensity steady-state) exercises like walking or yoga or Pilates is recommended for this phase. 

There is no one size fits all for this. As we know every woman we talk to has a different experience with their menstrual cycle. The most important thing is to know your body and listen to it. You might find that what works for you might not work for someone else. So do you Queen and listen to your body.