If you’re like most women, you reach a natural slump every month where it is just grueling to stick to your typical workout routine. You drag yourself to boot camp, feel drained afterwards, and wonder what you’re doing wrong. Or you feel just too tired to stick to your routine, and end up skipping your workouts altogether for a week. This is because your body’s needs in terms of exercise vary pretty dramatically throughout your cycle. In this installment of our Perfect Period Series we’ll be delving into the best forms of exercise to keep you in alignment with your natural hormonal patterns, which will decrease PMS symptoms, boost weight loss, balance your hormones, and help you feeling amazing and energized all month long.
Exercise in Your Follicular Phase
7-10 days from the end of your period to just before ovulation.
After your period ends, you will likely experience a gradual increase in energy, which corresponds to the rising levels of estrogen in your body. Although you won’t be at your absolute peak energy, levels will be high, making this a great time for rocking some cardio. Opt for running, swimming, group classes, dance cardio classes, or anything new. In a few weeks, it will be much harder to motivate yourself to switch up your routine, so if you’ve been itching to try a new class or workout, now is the time!
Try Tracy Anderson’s Dance Cardio DVD for a super fun, challenging and sexy workout.
Exercise in Your Ovulatory Phase
3-4 days in the middle of your cycle around the time of ovulation.
As your body prepares to ovulate, your system gets flooded with all kinds of fun, energizing hormones like testosterone. In addition to feeling sexier and being more attractive to the opposite sex, this phase also brings with it your highest energy levels. This is the perfect time to rock some high intensity workouts like boot camp, plyometrics, Crossfit, or high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is the time to really go for it, and luckily, your body will be craving the intensity, so it’ll be easier to motivate, and you’ll feel best afterward.
Try Insanity Fast & Furious for a quick and intense interval workout!
Exercise in Your Luteal Phase
10-12 days from after ovulation until the start of your period.
You may still be running on maximum energy for the first few days of your luteal phase, but as estrogen starts to decline, you may feel yourself getting a little more mellow. It’s super important to stay in tune with your body and try not to fight against the signs it’s sending you. If the thought of a hardcore workout is kind of a turn off to you in this part of your cycle, that’s a sign to take it down a notch. Opt for workouts that are a bit slower and focus on strength training. Pilates Reformer sessions, barre classes, ballet workouts, vinyasa yoga and weight training are going to feel really good in this phase, especially if you’re trying to conceive. Stay away from anything high-impact that requires lots of jumping around. As you move closer to your period, you may want to lighten up the workout even more– a Pilates mat class or yoga class might feel best! But do make sure to move your body in the weeks leading up to your period to minimize PMS symptoms (in combination with the awesome food choices we talked about in Eating for a Perfect Period)!
Try the Pure Barre Workout for an amazingly effective toning and fat burning routine!
Exercise in Your Menstrual Phase
3-7 days of your period.
The absolute worst thing you can do for your menstrual health is to ignore your body’s signals, scarf down some Advil and force yourself to hit your boot camp class or go running during your period. With the sharp drops in estrogen and progesterone that correspond with getting your period, it is perfectly natural to feel a drop in energy and to need a little TLC. Listen to your body, and hit a restorative yoga class (or better yet, do a little restorative yoga at home!) or simply do some walking. Moving your body during your period can help to minimize symptoms, and it will simply help you feel better, more energized, and happier! But if you’re in pain and need to take pills just to get to a class, you’ll serve your body better by staying home and showing yourself some love.
Try the Restorative Yoga Practice DVD for an awesome, calming at-home practice!
As with everything, be mindful of your body’s needs. Some people just aren’t constitutionally suited for hardcore, boot camp-like workouts (people like me, for instance!), and that is totally fine! Whatever your max is, your ovulatory phase is the time to do it. Some people hate yoga (though I firmly believe that those are the people that need it most), and opting for Pilates and walking in the luteal and menstrual phase, respectively, is perfectly fine. The key is to move through your cycle in harmony with your body, and not force it into any behaviors that are going to add up to fatigue, PMS, and the need for medication later on.