Updated: Jul 6, 2020
We have already looked at how you should be eating for your menstrual cycle. Everything goes in cycles. Life, the moon, the tides, the school year, pregnancies. Everything. If everything has a cycle, doesn't it seem silly to go to the same spin class, 5 times a week, every week, for years on end? Some days, you are too achy and tired to spin for an hour. Other days, you have so much energy that you want to hit a Body Pump class afterward. If you learn to listen to your body and move with it, and not against it, your workouts can be more impactful and have less of a stress on the body.
Phase One: Bleeding
This part of the cycle is rough. You are in pain. You ache. You are exhausted. Why push yourself to do an hour of cardio, or even 30 minutes of HIIT? Your body has a job to do in days 1-7: shed the uterine lining effectively. As you bleed, your body loses some of its iron store. Iron is your rigid, brittle, stable, and magnetic mineral. You probably feel the opposite of this during the 7 days of bleeding: floppy, unstable, and polarizing. If your son or daughter came to you, achy and bleeding, would you push that little one harder and ignore the wound and the pain? Of course not! So treat yourself with the same kindness.
What are "kind" exercises?
Not Doing a Damn Thing (thanks, Amanda).
Phase Two: Follicular Phase
Ok, you have cleared the red hurdle. The Diva Cup is cleaned and put away. Estrogen is beginning to rise, but so is testosterone. Testosterone is produced by your ovaries and adrenal glands. It is a steroid hormone, and is a hormone classified as an androgen.
On our Steroid Hormone Metabolic Pathway chart, you can see that testosterone is metabolized from DHEA, which is synthesized from pregnenolone, which is made from cholesterol (gasp!) which is made from B5 and dietary fats: animal foods!
Women, most of us want to encourage our bodies to make testosterone. It helps build muscle and gives us a libido.
(Note: if you have PCOS, you make too much testosterone. You want to take steps to reduce testosterone by regulating blood sugar.)
To encourage your body to make testosterone, use days 8-14 of your cycle as your lifting days. Women should Lift Heavy Things. But not all of the time, and not all of the days. Specifically, your body is primed to create lean muscle mass and burn fat through anaerobic activity at this point in your cycle.
Take advantage of it.
Go to Body Pump.
Check out Girls Gone Strong.
Grab a kettlebell.
Do a resistance band workout.
Grab a tire and flip.
Shameless, I agree.
But grab something heavy and lift it, ladies. Listen to Pink or Eminem or Lacrae while you do it and enjoy feeling powerful.
Phase Three: Ovulatory Phase
Ah, ovulation. The good Lord has instructed us to be fruitful and multiply and you get to enjoy this fruit during the ovulatory phase! Lucky you.
During ovulation, you should feel somewhat invincible. You feel strong, secure, sexy, and calm. You have energy, drive, and peace. Ergo, this is a wonderful time to practice your cardio.
Running is not inherently bad.
Running every day for an hour or more for years or decades is bad. It messes with your cortisol. And by proxy, it messes with your estrogen and progesterone and testosterone. But that is another long-winded, nerdy blog post.
During the ovulatory phase, your body is strong. Therefore, you can run for a week without adverse effects. You know what I mean. Run each day for a bit. Don't run for a whole week. There are people who do that.
I like interval running.
Sprint for 10 seconds.
Walk for 30 seconds.
Jog for 20 seconds.
You can do this for 20-40 minutes, depending on your fitness level. It is ok to do this 3-5 times the week you are ovulating. Please take a rest day every two days.
Phase Four: Luteal Phase
It has begun. PMS week. If you have been taking your PMS supplement trifecta and eating well, this week may sneak up on you like a thief in the night.
If you haven't, let me be the first to tell you: your husband is not as bad as you think he is. I am speaking from personal experience.
Do you know that this is a real text I sent to my husband this week? Please ignore the dark cloud over my headache-d head, darling. It will only be three more days until we like each other again.
So, during the luteal phase, you may be a bit....delicate. Cranky? Exhausted? Done? In my practice, this is the point where I have had women literally tell me they want to run away and join the circus. I do not think they were kidding.
Give yourself the gift of movement and peace. There is nothing physiologically or structurally wrong with your body at this point. Estrogen is super high, fo sho, but you are eating broccoli to combat that, right?
Here is the luteal phase workout:
1 hour of walking, alone or with a partner.
Or a dog.
You need time:
-away from life
-with someone who makes you laugh
-doing something gently physical
Oh, please tell me you remember my oft-quoted Elle Woods phrase?
Lace up your workout shoes, grab the man you married and love 21 days out of the month, hook up the dog's leash, and just go. Make the kids follow behind you on bikes and scooters. Go ghetto and take your speaker with music. Get you that Vitamin D, sunshine, fresh air, and steps.
If you feel up to it, this is the week you can go crazy with your gym pass. Let it all out on the spin bike. Rock your leotard on the step class steps. Take a morning and evening barre class. Take it out on your exercise so you don't take it out on your family.
But then, rest well. Take your magnesium, take a bath, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Stop working at 5 pm. Stress makes PMS worse. I guarantee it.
What do you think? If you take a month and track your cycle, and your symptoms, and your energy, could you match up with this plan? Let us know on Facebook.