A Guide To Tailoring Workout Routines During Your Menstrual Cycle

While menstruation still carries a lot of taboo around the world, we are also seeing a new movement of that seeks to empower and educate people about periods and how to better take care of themselves. Cycle tracking is the new habit that many menstruators are adapting to hack their hormones and train optimally during certain periods of the month.

On average, a menstrual cycle is 28 days, which involves 4 key phases to which we can expect different hormones affecting our motivation and energy levels. Tailoring an exercise routine with your body’s natural regime can be the difference between staying consistent on your fitness journey or giving up due to irregular mood and motivation.

This article discuss the various stages of the menstrual cycle, how to train during each phase, and how to overcome any obstacles that you may be facing during each stage. Overall well-being is the end goal, so consider trying the following workouts during each phase and see what difference it makes:

Menstrual Phase (Days 1-7): Recharge and Restore

Welcome to day one of your menstrual cycle. During your menstrual phase, your body is expending energy to shed the uterine lining, which is when you would expect bleeding to happen. This is a time to prioritize rest and rejuvenation. Engage in gentle exercises such as yoga, stretching, or walking to promote blood flow and alleviate cramps. Whilst a lot of stress is already being put onto your body to shed the lining, now is not a good time to engage in high-intensity interval exercise.

Listen to your body’s signals and avoid high-intensity workouts, allowing yourself the space to recharge. Although it might be tempting to curl up into bed and avoid all forms of exercise, make sure you are at least engaging in daily walks. Spend time in nature and feel cleansed physically and mentally.

Follicular Phase (Days 8-14): Rise and Energise 

As your body prepares for ovulation, your energy levels start to rise compared to the levels they were at during the menstrual phase. This is an excellent time to slowly incorporate cardio workouts, strength training, and more intense activities into your routine. Whilst your energy won’t be at its peak, it would still be a beneficial time to attend fitness classes such as spin, full body workouts, and full body stretch classes to prepare yourself for greater intensity as the month progresses.

Take advantage of your increased stamina and focus on building muscle, improving endurance, and boosting overall fitness levels.

Ovulatory Phase (Days 15-17): Embrace the Peak

Ovulation marks the peak of your fertility and most importantly energy. You’ll likely experience increased confidence and strength during this phase. Now would be the best time to engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit workouts, or power yoga to challenge yourself. Your body’s capacity for exertion is at its highest, making it an ideal time to push your limits and achieve new fitness milestones. It is important to keep in mind that your hormones may differ from others due to contraceptive pills and other hormonal effects that may cause irregular cycles.

Do not feel discouraged if you do not experience this peak during your monthly cycle. If you are making an effort to engage in daily exercise and challenge your cardiovascular health, you are already doing a lot, so be proud!

Luteal Phase (Days 18-28): Balance and Flow

During the luteal phase, your hormone levels shift, and you may experience mood fluctuations and bloating. As your body is preparing for the shed of your uterus lining, your hormones can leave you feeling discouraged and disheartened. Focus on workouts that support your mental well-being, such as Pilates, swimming, or low-impact aerobics.

It is completely normal to lose your sense of purpose at this stage but don’t let this stop you. These activities can help alleviate stress and reduce discomfort, allowing you to maintain a steady fitness routine throughout the month. Some people also report feeling a boost of energy during this phase right before menstruation, so also listen to your body and what you’re capable of during this time of the month.

Tailoring Nutrition to Your Cycle

Just as your workouts should align with your menstrual cycle, your nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting your fitness goals. During the menstrual and luteal phases, consume nutrient-rich foods like leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins to provide your body with essential vitamins and minerals.

In the follicular and ovulatory phases, consider increasing your carbohydrate intake to support energy levels and performance during high-intensity workouts. The carbohydrates you consume should be whole grain, and processed, inflammatory foods should be avoided as they can lead to greater inflammation and discomfort during menstruation.

Listening to Your Body

While syncing your workouts with your menstrual cycle can offer numerous benefits, it’s essential to remember that everyone’s body is unique. Pay attention to how you feel and adjust your routine accordingly. Some people might find that high-intensity workouts during their menstrual phase feel empowering, while others may prefer lower-friction activities. The key is to foster a strong mind-body connection and honor what your body needs at any given moment.

Tips for Consistency and Success

1. Track Your Cycle: Use a menstrual tracking app such as Flo to monitor your cycle and anticipate changes in energy levels and mood. Looking at what stage of the cycle you are currently in will offer insight as to why you feel the way you do, and what action you can take to ease any symptoms.

2. Plan Ahead: Create a workout schedule that aligns with your cycle, adjusting intensity and activity type accordingly. Book ahead for fitness classes that suit the time of the month you are in. This way you will be held accountable for attending, and still engage in some form of activity even during your lowest periods.

3. Practice Self-Compassion: Embrace self-care during your menstrual phase and avoid pushing yourself too hard if you’re feeling fatigued. Cousin too much stress on your body can do more damage than good, so stick to lower-intensity workouts if this happens.

4. Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential throughout your cycle to support overall health and workout performance. Make sure you are drinking at least litres of water a day. Consider getting yourself a 2-litre water bottle to stay on top of this if necessary.

5. Celebrate Progress:  Acknowledge your achievements and fitness milestones, no matter how small, to stay motivated and empowered.

Finding the workout that works for you cycle

Overall, by embracing the different phases of your menstrual cycle, you can expect to hack your habits and optimize your workouts depending on your hormone levels. Remember, the goal is not perfection but rather a holistic approach to well-being that honors your body and its remarkable abilities. So, lace up your sneakers, put on your comfiest heavyweight hoodie, and embark on a path of empowering workouts that celebrate every stage of your menstrual cycle.