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How to Exercise in Sync with Your Menstrual Cycle

How to Exercise in Sync with Your Menstrual Cycle

Hormone levels change dramatically depending on which phase of your cycle you are in, and this process affects your brain, body, energy, skin, etc. 

One thing that is rarely talked about in the fitness industry is how hormones fluctuations affect ones ability to exercise at the same level every day. People with periods are not meant to exercise the exact same intensity or style throughout the month.

This does not signify that your metabolism is broken - it's not. People with periods are meant to operate differently than cis-male's. If you are someone with a period - ignoring your cyclical biochemistry is harmful to your reproductive organs, fitness, and health. 

 

Your partner (if they do not have periods) may be able to, but when you learn to listen to the whispers of your body, and honour all the phases of your menstrual cycle, you should eat and exercise differently through the month. 

Learn how to get in sync with your cycle! 

 

In the fist half of your cycle, your body is prepping for potential fertilization. We call this half of your cycle the luteal phase and ovular phase. In the second half, your immune system slows down and begins to shed the uterine lining. We call the second half of your cycle the follicular phase and menstrual phase. 

In the first half of your menstrual phase, your body has higher levels of testosterone which leads to higher abilities to build muscle and more balanced blood sugar levels.

During this time it will easier and more efficient to loose fat and you will have better endurance levels. Your energy increases in the second half of your menstrual cycle as your testosterone and estrogen levels dip. This means your endurance decreases, as well as the potential for muscle gains. 

A few days after the start of your period, or as your period ends, you can start to focus on heavy strength training, HIIT style cardio, and faster-pace classes. 

As you reach the luteal phase and come closer to the menstrual phase, your body gives you signals to slow down. This is where we change our style of training and switch from high-intensity workouts to more mindful modalities.

The day before your period, and the first or second day, giving your body permission to rest with gentle yoga, walks, stretching, and foam rolling helps bring your body back into balance for menstruation.

When you honour these phases, you lessen the intensity of cramps and other menstrual symptoms. Painful menstrual cramps, and even breakouts are a signal that something is out of balance.

 

On the flip side, if you continually miss your period, and you are exercising intensely or dieting, this is a sign of the “female athlete triad”. This is dangerous and can lead to prematurely low bone density.

If you push yourself extra hard in cardio during the second phase, since your body is ALREADY burning extra calories, your body releases more cortisol which has the opposite effect that you are looking for with cardio. Your body will hold on to stored fat, especially in the midsection. If you choose to do cardio in the luteal phase, keep it low-intensity, and do half the amount you would normally do.  

Resistance training should be different in the second half of your cycle. Choose to focus on longer rest periods, prioritizing form over amount of weight lifted, and even switching to a modality like yoga or pilates. 

 If you are feeling burnout in the second part of your cycle, that is normal. Try a rest day with foam rolling, mobility, and adding an epsom salt bath to rejuvenate your body. The extra magnesium will do wonders for relaxing your body and easing cramps.

During your menstrual cycle, your uterus grows slightly, and the lining of the wall thickens from the influx of hormones and blood flow. The weight of your uterus typically increases from 4 ounces to 8 ounces which can cause a slight tendency towards a posterior pelvic tilt (a slight arch in your back). This can prove troublesome when attempting heavier  lifts including squats and deadlifts so it's better to focus on form over heaviness to avoid injury. 

I hope that all of this information gives you more compassion for yourself. Your body is incredible. There is not something wrong with you if you wake up feeling differently during the month. That is NORMAL.  

The more you allow yourself to flow with your cycles, the more you open up your body to better workouts, higher cognitive power and creativity, and better moods.

Your body is gifted with the incredible ability to create another life, and is why our bodies are wise in how we change and flow through the cycles. “And I said to my body, softly, “I want to be your friend.” It took a long breath and replied, “I have been waiting my whole life for this!”—NAYYIRAH WAHEED”

Makayla, known as Merkayla, is on a quest to empower others to find their voice and live their soul's purpose. Her mission is to empower you to believe that your body & soul can heal, no matter what it has survived, and that you have an inner sexy siren waiting to be released through liberating movement, music, and humor. In August of 2016, Makayla was told that she would never dance again from a life changing circus-accident and injuries, and sent her down a path of figuring out how to put her body back together. Not only did she make a full comeback, she is stronger and understands more about my body than ever before. She feels more in touch with my body, how it moves, appreciating every inch of it.  

 



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