Women’s bodies are beautiful, ebbing, and flowing with a cycle unique to each and every one of us. But let’s be honest, sometimes during your cycle, you just feel like crap. Like, when you have the PMS of the century, how could you even think about working out or exercising?
Take a deep breath, there are answers to why this is and how to make it suck just a little less during the not-so-great parts.
Because of the way your cycle range in length and flow, so do the needs of the body. This is especially true for my cysters with PCOS. Throughout the cycle, the female body enters into four different phases. With each of these phases, the follicular, ovulation, luteal, and menstrual, the abilities and strengths of the body shift to serve different functions. Meaning, sometimes you have got to slow down, and sometimes you can ramp it up!
As you move through the phases, you also will need to adjust your nutrition, and your movement differently. For example, you might need a completely different exercise for your luteal phase and a different exercise during your period.
I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s the truth, every body is a different body. Just like with nutrition, your period cannot cater to a one size fits all women’s exercise routine; instead, it may require an exercise more specific or designed to cater to where you are in your cycle.
Did I mention you’re going to feel amazing?!
When you start working out and providing movement that fits your body’s current needs, a catalyst takes place. Mentally and physically your body starts functioning on that celestial feel-good level. Plus, your body may respond with benefits such as easier periods, fewer or nonexistent cramps, a calmer mental state, and even weight loss.
Lemme say that a little louder for the ladies in the back of the room: relaxation, easier periods, less cramps, and even weight loss. Hello, please sign me up!
Let’s start serving our bodies and all they have to offer you, starting with these exercises catered to wherever your body is in your cycle.
Best Exercises During Your Period
Okay, let’s dive right in. I know what you’re thinking, seriously? Exercising during my period?
What’s Happening During My Period?
Well, feeling like crap may be one thing, but hopefully not! But what’s going on physically and molecularly?
What you are doing is bleeding and your hormones are at their lowest levels. Don’t sweat it though, these low levels are completely natural and are exactly what’s supposed to happen if you or your body chooses not to get pregnant that month.
During the monthly cycle, your uterus lining builds up to prepare for pregnancy, that’s what you see when you menstruate. If you don’t get pregnant, the two powerhouse hormones estrogen and progesterone begin falling. These very low levels of estrogen and progesterone tell your body to begin menstruation. And thus, your period begins. Welcome to cycle day 1 cysters.
Restorative Period Exercises
So, since your hormone levels are low, your body needs a little more TLC and care during these few days to a week. Time for some self-care, sign me up! Turn to restorative movements that nourish your body and allow you to rest and replenish.
Even if you’re feeling discomfort, movement can be super beneficial for your body. In fact, a strength and conditioning coach and founder and CEO of BIRTHFIT, Dr. Lindsey Mathews, said how “exercising at this time will enhance your mood and increase circulation.” Plus, some “Researchers have found that some women have fewer painful cramps during menstruation if they exercise regularly.”
That’s reasoning enough for me alone – goodbye cramps! Good riddance.
Try some of these period exercises to give yourself the self-care you deserve.
Talk a gentle walk. Climb into your favorite comfy gear (hello leggings, I love you) and enjoy a stroll outdoors. A walk keeps the workout mild but provides your body the opportunity to move, take that cramps.
Ride a stationary bike. The weather could be not so nice outside, or maybe walking isn’t in the cards. Instead, enjoy a calm bike ride at a gentle, non-resistant pace with your favorite binge show on – Netflix, and I get pretty serious around this time.
Feel like too much? Remember babe, this is all about self-care! Listen to your body and treat yo’ self how you want to be treated.
If you have any questions about what movement is safest for your body while experiencing intense period pain, it’s best to consult your doctor.
The Ideal Follicular Phase Exercises (& Ovulation)
What’s that? Estrogen on the rise? Welcome to the club girl, let’s dance. Plus, I heard someone new is coming to town soon, ovulation could be around the corner. She’s always a good time!
So, What is the Follicular Phase?
Your period has ended (see ya later) and this is the phase right before ovulation takes place, which is the release of the egg. We welcome this energy because ovulation is the main event and she brings the party with her.
This phase of your cycle is generally around one week, however, depending on your cycles and impact on your life, it may be longer. (Where are my PCOS cysters at?) It’s in this phase that ovulation can be delayed, which can, in turn, delay your period. Ovulation is different for every body.
There’s a lot going on here as your body prepares the ovary to release an egg. Your body, which was producing fewer hormones during your period is now producing FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and estradiol (estrogen). Remember the party? This is the new crew. These rising hormones can provide a spike in energy for some women, making this phase a great time to ramp up your exercises.
But, When Is Ovulation?
Pinpointing the day of ovulation is nearly impossible. However, we can identify a general window of fertility that points us in the right direction of a five to seven-day period that ovulation could take place. This is why we can consider exercising for ovulation and the follicular phase at the same time.
During your fertile window, an egg is released from a follicle or two on the ovary. . The ovulatory phase begins with a surge in more of our party hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. Luteinizing hormone stimulates egg release (ovulation), which usually occurs 16 to 32 hours after the surge begins. The estrogen level peaks then decrease as the surge induces ovulation, after which, the progesterone level starts to increase.
Your energy levels can peak here alongside your hormones, making it an excellent time to work out! Let’s get physical!
Best Follicular Phase Workouts
As the hormone party begins, our energy levels are ramping up. It’s time to level up your workouts. Which of these are totally your style are your period?
Do some light cardio. Feeling peppier? See how a light jog, brisk walk, hike, or bike ride suits you. The options for light cardio are endless and are totally an individual preference.
Take a pilates or Vinyasa yoga class. Breathe in, out, and burn. A faster-paced yoga or pilates class can be a fun segue from relaxation to energetic opportunity.
Enjoy some bodyweight or strength training. Ease into a routine using some light weights or bodyweight workouts, like this one from Sweat.
Exercising for Ovulation
During your follicular phase, you can also take advantage of exercises for ovulation. Tune in and ask yourself, what feels good? As a bonus for my PCOS ladies trying to conceive (TTC), channeling some of the energy and stress from trying can feel great. Use that energy to your advantage. What sounds good?
You’ve got options babe, enjoy the energy boost available to you during ovulation with:
Launch into a Hight Intensity Training workout. Let’s sweat it out!
Stop, drop, and dance it out! Maybe pop into a Zumba class or pull up your favorite dance workout video.
Turn up the intense cardio through a spin class or go for a run.
Even though you may be moving more and at more intensity, don’t be afraid to step back if you need to. If you’re not feeling up to a more intense workout, look back to your period exercises. A gentle walk or indoor ride may be a good alternative for simple movement.
Instead of forcing your body through a high-intensity workout it’s not ready for, look back to the follicular or menstrual phase movements.
Best Exercise for Luteal Phase
Ovulation has come and gone, and the luteal phase is here. Welcome to the last phase of your cycle before starting all over again. Self-care here I come!
What is the Luteal Phase?
Kick back and start to relax, the slope down the second half of your cycle has begun, as the Luteal Phase occurs after ovulation. This is also known as your premenstrual phase (yeah, you know who I’m talking about, PMS). But, she doesn’t have to be an unwelcome houseguest. During your luteal phase, progesterone flows from the follicle that released the egg during ovulation. This follicle will continue pumping out progesterone on a set amount of days that are specific to your menstrual cycle. After which, the follicle will dissolve, and the cycle begins again. In the meantime though, this progesterone should provide your body with what it needs to rest and prepare for pregnancy or your period.
Exercises for the Luteal Phase
Like I mentioned, this phase is rightfully dubbed the self-care weeks. You might experience PMS symptoms like bloating or fatigue. Taking this into account, your luteal phase is the time for opting for a more creative and soothing activity. It’s time to slow it down with some movements like this:
A gentle yoga class. Perhaps look into a restorative or Nidra class, breathe in, out, repeat.
Take a gentle stroll. We’re bringing this superstar back, enjoy some vitamin D and fresh air while providing yourself with some easy movement.
Rest and reflect. Your body is preparing for pregnancy or menstruation, both undertakings all their own. You could take this opportunity to relax and enjoy simple activities that boost your mood and bring you joy.
Despite the drive to train consistently, a woman’s cycle is built to serve her body in the best way possible. Even Les Mills presenter Kaylah Blayr, says “This is when I lift lighter weights, or even just walking. I choose my workouts depending on how I’m feeling”. It’s all about staying in tune with where your body is at this moment. We love a self-care queen.
As always, the most important thing is to do what feels right to you. When in doubt, reach out to your healthcare provider.
Where Am I In My Cycle?
Not sure where you are in your menstrual cycle? That’s okay! It’s totally unique to everyone.
Due to birth control choices, PCOS, or other menstrual choices or conditions you may need more guidance on where you are at in your cycle in order to sync up your exercises. And I’m happy to help!
There are several options to finding out where you are in your cycle that may be easier to access than others. Here are a couple of tried and true:
Cycle Tracking Apps
Fertility Awareness Method
When in doubt, ask your doctor.
Psst, if you’re on hormonal birth control, you may not be actively cycling. That’s okay if that’s what’s working best for your body at this time.
But, if you’re looking to break up with birth control, there’s guidance for that out there too, like my program that’s guided many women through the break-up. Like all break-ups, it’s not something you should have to go through alone. I’m here to bring the tissues and advice to guide you through it, together! I’ve got you cyster!
Your Cycle and PCOS
However, if you’re unsure of where you’re at due to irregular menstrual cycles because of PCOS or an associated menstrual condition, you’re not alone. It’s likely you’ve found this article looking for PCOS weight loss answers.
While there are exercises for PCOS, there are also other nutritional guidance and options to assist you in taking control of your PCOS weight loss goals.
If you’re dealing with PCOS, I’ve got you, babe. I’m just like you, and I’ve been in your shoes.
I’m a registered dietitian, fellow PCOS cyster, and women’s health expert, and I’ve made it my life’s work to help women understand the powerful connection between the female body systems and optimal health. I’m dedicated to providing evidence-based guidance that creates long-lasting health changes.
Join me in taking charge of your PCOS or pregnancy goals, set up a time to reach out, and see if one of my PCOS programs is the next step for you and your health journey.
Want to pursue some nutritional goals on your own first? Look into my tried and true VITA-PCOS supplements, thoughtfully designed with my own and other womens’ success in mind.
You’re not alone, and I’m ready to support you every step of the way in this journey.