The fatigue, bottomed out hormones, and spew of blood seeping out of your vagina are all the perfect storm to keep you lying in bed in #netflixandchill mode and out of the gym/away from your workout. What if I told you that working out on the worst days of your period is actually one of, if not the best things that you can do to mitigate cramps, bloating, fatigue and all those other period symptoms?
I know the feeling - working out on your period can be and usually is the absolute last thing that you want to motivate yourself to do. Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes, and I know many women, including some of my clients, that would prefer to skip the gym or forgo their workouts all together because of good Ol’ Aunt Flow being in town. But contrary to popular belief there are so many female health benefits that come from exercising on your heavy flow days, or anytime during menstruation.
Exercise releases endorphins, you know those feel good chemicals that we all hear about making you happy with exercise? These endorphins are released by the brain, spinal cord and other areas of the body and link to receptors in the brain. Endorphins reduce the sense of pain and act as a slight sedative. They also reduce stress, which we all know can be at an all time high during your period.
Cortisol is the hormone in your body that is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels to regulate metabolism and acts as an anti inflammatory. Cortisol is at its highest in the morning (it’s actually the hormone that wakes you up) and can raise or lower depending on your stress levels (i.e. the more stress you have the more cortisol in your system to help you deal). High levels of cortisol can increase the severity of cramps because high cortisol levels results in the drop of progesterone and estrogen and often leaves estrogen in excess. Excess estrogen increases cramping in the uterus. Exercising will naturally help you release stress levels in a healthy way so that you can say goodbye to those cramps!
Not all exercise is related equal however. During menstruation all of your hormones bottom out and it is, as you know, difficult to exert a lot of energy or effort. You might be asking yourself, “is it okay for me to continue working out while on my period? Is it okay to lift weights while on my period?” The best approach is to plan your training schedule around your cycle and give yourself an easier/modified week three days before your period, and the first three days into it. To do this effectively you need to know when this is all happening.
One of the best things about modern technology is that we have the access to period tracking apps so that we can better predict this for ourselves and it is right at our fingertips. My favorite period app to use is Kindra. There are TONS of tracking apps out there but I prefer this one because it is simple and effective and I like the way that they display the graph of your cycle based on what you enter into the app. Another tool I love is the new FitBit Charge 3 or FitBit Versa for its period tracking abilities.
Regular exercise boosts self esteem and improves the quality of sleep and it doesn’t hurt to have any of that in your life while on the bleed. Working out while on your period also increases circulation of the blood and will remove excess water (aka bloat) in the body. Bloating happens when PMS begins, initiated by your body’s natural response to not becoming pregnant. PMS starts when estrogen and progesterone drop. This causes the body to retain extra water and salt. This series of events causes the slowing of bowel movements and increase in blood flow to the uterus which both cause swelling and bloat in the abdomen. Movement is key to getting the blood circulated through your body and ‘cleaning’ out the bloat in your system.
So to answer your questions…
YES, you should workout on your period no matter if you have a light, medium or heavy flow.
YES, you should move/workout all the days of your period.
YES, you can be a regular human during your period!
The most important thing when it comes to working out on your period is that you know when it’s coming so that you can prepare and plan for it and that you listen to your body and what it needs during this time. Your body is an amazing organisim. We as women get to experience a renewal of ourselves every month with this process. Your period is a vital sign from your body and it is telling you so much. You have the potential and ability to work with it and master it by optimizing exercise, diet, sleep and stress.
Focus on light resistance training using body weight or bands and practice a lot of yoga during this time to be gentle with yourself. Here is one of my favorite gentle flows to help with PMS and period symptoms. During this 6-7 day phase before and at the beginning of my period I like to take things slow and focus on body weight, BUT I know some of you out there will want something a bit more intense so here is another simple yet effective yoga flow for you!
Your period shouldn’t stop you from living your life, and regardless of cramps, flow or mood you will benefit HIGHLY from movement. It is so important to tune in and learn what you need and when you need it so track and listen to your body’s signals and adjust as you go through this awesome learning process. Your body is an amazing organisim and it is time to teach yourself about it!
What are your thoughts on periods and exercise? Tell me in the blog comments how you take care of your health during different stages of your cycle!