How does your period affect your exercise routine?

How does your period affect your exercise routine?

How does your period affect your exercise routine?

Most people know that the menstrual cycle can have an impact on your exercise performance, and not just during a period. Hormonal fluctuations can influence energy levels and performance throughout the month.

The thought that women should not exercise during their period is complete rubbish, as this is the time of the month when the benefits of exercise can be at their best.

There is endorphin and serotonin release during and after exercise, which can have an antidepressant, pain relieving and mood-elevating effect. And, as most women who exercise regularly will know, pushing beyond the sensation of feeling tired is usually beneficial as exercise alleviates this symptom.

On top of that, the endorphin release can have a painkilling effect, which may give you some relief from cramps. And, since exercise increases digestion, it can help with bloating too.

The start of the cycle

Both Progesterone and Oestrogen are at their lowest during a period, which can cause dips in energy. Rather than ceasing all activity, this is a good time to for your clients to listen to their bodies and potentially try some new workouts.

Interestingly enough, this also might a good time to do some strength training – and that applies all the way through until ovulation.

Some research has found that strength training during the follicular phase (days 1-14 of the cycle) resulted in higher increases in muscle strength compared to training in the luteal phase (days 15-28 of the cycle. Therefore, if they start paying attention to their cycle phases, you may find their strength training pays off the most in their follicular phase.

The middle stage

As they approach ovulation (around day 14 for most women), there is a surge in levels of Oestrogen and Testosterone, while progesterone levels remain stable and low.

The combined hormone surge usually has an enormously beneficial impact on general well-being, mood, energy levels and ability to exercise and train more easily.

Many female athletes report carrying out their best performances and most effective training during this phase of the cycle.

It’s a great time to work out at high intensity, potentially incorporating some heavy weight training.

Within these first 14 days, a woman’s body temperature stays consistent, her pain tolerance increases and her ability to digest and utilise carbohydrates is more efficient.

So, in other words, get them out to shift some steel and hit those personal bests within the follicular phase.

They might be more injury prone at this time. To use an example, women are around three to six more times likely than men to sustain an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Research suggests this may have a hormonal basis, with the risk at its greatest in the days leading up to ovulation.

More research is needed, but it’s worth doing longer warm-up exercises and not overstretching during your fertile window.

The luteal phase

As your client moves into the luteal phase of the cycle (the days between ovulation and your period), Progesterone levels start to rise and Oestrogen levels fall.

This is a more problematic phase of the menstrual cycle for many women, as Progesterone is generally seen as a depressant, compared to the mood elevating benefits of Oestrogen,

Not surprisingly, this phase of the cycle may have a negative impact on training and exercise.

You may want to drop the intensity of your workouts at this point, as your heart will be working slightly harder than normal and your body temperature will be raised. You may also fatigue quicker.

You might also see decreased endurance here, so if you’re training for, or racing in, an endurance event, try to opt for shorter workouts during this phase.

Scheduling rest days during the luteal phase might be a good idea, which of course doesn’t mean skipping training entirely. It just means being realistic about what’s achievable at this time, and not beating yourself up if there’s a slight dip in performance.

Tune into how you’re feeling

All this said, everyone’s body is different, and we don’t all respond to hormonal fluctuations in the same way.

You might find that energy levels vary depending on where you are in the cycle, or you might feel strong all month long.

This is not to mention that the cycle may be longer or shorter than 28 days – and if periods are irregular, the relationship between hormones and workout performance may be harder to track.

The important thing is for your client to tune into how they’re feeling. Simply put, this means easing off if they are tired and pushing harder if they’re on top form. Athletes have won their events, or scored personal bests, at all stages of their cycle, which should indicate that nothing is set in stone.

As female athletes, taking a closer look at how bodies change throughout cycles can be an incredibly helpful tool. When we understand this relationship with our clients, we can set them up with success in reaching their health and fitness goals.

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Osteopathy works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments, viscera and connective tissues functioning smoothly together Osteopathy takes a holistic, whole-body approach to healthcare.