So, it's that time of the month and your estrogen and progesterone levels are at an all-time low. Contrary to what most women believe, sometimes it's this hormonal shift that can give you extra strength to perform challenging exercises which you may otherwise find hard to accomplish at other stages in your cycle.
If you’re feeling cranky or experiencing debilitating cramps, bloating and tiredness, you may as well think of taking a break from the gym. Well, not quite.
Did you know that during the low hormone phase, women are known to recover faster and have a higher pain threshold? This is because the body is reset to a relaxed mode and it is not preoccupied in the ovulation process.
Sometimes you have an easy month, you are unfazed and you can stick to all your regular workouts. Other times, you might be having terrible cramps or you’re feeling sluggish and that is perfectly fine and you can skip your workout all together. Take a rest day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Learn to listen to your body.
Dealing with menstrual cramps
Cramps can be a deal breaker, but it depends on one person to another. Some people find that working out at a reduced intensity helps diminish cramps, others feel that exercising intensifies them.
Moderate intensity cardio, light weight training, yoga, dynamic stretching and Pilates certainly help relieve cramps, release endorphins (“feel-good” hormones that also reduces pain), help soothe your mood and leave you feeling less sluggish.
In fact, once you hit the gym, you may be surprised at yourself sailing through exercise routines with some extra strength, relieving the discomfort of cramps, lower back aches and also burning more calories!
I also know of a lot of women who take a sabbatical from the gym during this time fearing they may damage their uterus/pelvic floor muscles or bleed excessively. This is an absolute myth!
On the same note, don’t beat yourself up over it if you miss a workout during this time. You can always get yourself back into it as soon as you feel better otherwise the best decision is always going to be listening to your own body.
Now, let’s explore the other benefits of exercising during your period.
There has been no study no study so far which has found negative effects or health risks from working out during your period. Several studies have shown that training during the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle (beginning first day of your period) actually optimizes your results from resistance training.
Exercising helps combat PMS and is a mood booster.
Some people experience debilitating PMS symptoms like cramps and shifts in their mood due to the hormonal fluctuation. Don’t let this affect you. This is normal and all you need to do is ensure that you keep yourself active during this phase and not let this get the better of you.
Studies have proven that people experiencing depression or mood swings benefit from working out as it decreases these symptoms and boosts positive mood balance to a great extent.
Exercise eases menstrual cramps by way of enhanced blood circulation.
Exercise releases happy hormones aka endorphins that are also known to reduce the perception of pain. Exercising is also known to facilitate better blood circulation to the organs and relieve stress, anxiety. Stress is the number one reason for menstrual cramps in the first place.
Exercise beats fatigue and headaches.
When you feel low on energy but can’t sleep either, the best thing to do is to move. It’s when you don’t feel like doing anything that you ought to push yourself to move – it’s all in your head! The hardest part is the first 10 minutes. After that, you’ll notice a sudden surge in your energy levels. Get moving and get your blood circulation rolling!
High energy levels will beat that feeling of sluggishness in no time. The idea is not to beat yourself to the pint of exhaustion but just enough to tire yourself out to a good night’s sleep!
Exercise helps regulate irregular periods naturally.
I can personally account for this statement as being a PCOS sufferer for many years, I have had irregular/absent periods that went on for months.
Exercising alone has been a boon to naturally regulate the menstrual cycle and you can stay away from over-the-counter medications to combat this problem.
Being consistently physically active and pairing that with a healthy nutritious diet can help regulate a missed overdue period and bring it back on track. This way, you can see and feel a physical and emotional change as missed periods often lead to weight gain, depression and whole bunch of other complications!
So, if ever you think of taking a break from the gym during that time when in reality you could actually smash a workout, think again!