If you are a woman who has a menstrual cycle, have you ever noticed or considered that the type of exercise your body craves varies through the month?
Last week, I pulled the pin on TWO gym classes – one of my main forms of exercise during the week! I love these sessions, but they have been ramping up the intensity as part of their programming, and when I looked at the list, my body just kept screaming ‘NOOOO!’ at me. When I stopped to listen and take note of where I was in my cycle, I released I was in the later stage of my luteal phase, and my body was craving slow and gentle movement. So I cancelled a class and did a self-paced (i.e super relaxed) session on my Pilates reformer instead, with a big focus on stretching, slow breathing breathing and flow. It felt so good!
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule; no two bodies are the same… But it can be such an interesting experiment to take mental (or written) note over a few months of what your body is telling you and what it seems to crave when it comes to exercise.
If this is all new to you, here is a little ‘cheat sheet’ of different types of exercise that often correlate with the different stages in our cycle.
Your Menstrual Cycle & Exercise
- Menstrual (3-7 days)
Energy is often low at the beginning but should start to pick up toward the end. You might find you want to skip the session altogether (and take a nap instead) or just go for a gentle walk, pilates, yin yoga, or a stretch/mobility class. (GLOW Women – this is when you say ‘Please go easy on me today! and you take a few more breaks between exercises)
2. Follicular (7-10days)
This can be a great week to try something new or mix up the routine. You could try a new class or a new/challenging movement. (GLOW Women- this is when you say YES to that squat rack of mine you’ve been staring at for weeks with fear in your eyes)
3. Ovulation (3-5 days).
With energy to burn, this is the time to crank things up a notch! Eg. you could increase the intensity by increasing reps, weight or reducing rest periods to get puffing and a bit more of a sweat up. (GLOW Women- this is when you ask for a few more of those timed circuits I like to throw your way sometimes, and the heavier resistance band while you’re at it)
4. Luteal (10-14 days)
You will probably steel feel energetic and great at the beginning of this period, but towards the end of this period, you might be craving all things slow and steady -flowing Pilates, gentle Yoga, walk or swim.
How to get started
As a starting point, you could make a little note each day of where you are in your cycle, how you’re feeling in your body and what your energy levels are like, then you can go ahead and adapt your exercise routine accordingly! Hopefully you will find you enjoy your exercise more and your body loves you for it!
As always, please get in touch if you’re lacking inspiration and need help developing an exercise routine that keeps you feeling strong and well!