A female’s menstrual cycles are complex and are controlled by several glands and the hormones produced by these glands. Hypothalamus, a part of the human brain sources the pituitary gland to produce chemicals that trigger the ovaries to make estrogen and progesterone, the sex hormones.
Working out during periods may look like a tough task. Every female has a different period cycle. Some have intense pain and cramping during their cycle while others have lesser discomforts, comparatively. Surprisingly, if you work out as per the phase of your menstrual cycle, it can give you significant benefits. Read ahead to find out the most suitable workouts for each phase of the menstrual cycle.
Phases of the menstrual cycle
There are 4 main phases of the menstrual cycle:
- Follicular phase
- Luteal phase
1. Menstrual Phase
The first phase of the period cycle is the “menstrual phase”. It is the phase when the female gets her period. This phase begins when the egg from the previous period cycle is not fertilized. As pregnancy did not take place, the estrogen and progesterone levels drop.
The thickened uterine lining, which would anyways support pregnancy, is no longer required. So, it sheds which causes bleeding. During periods, the female releases a combination of blood, tissue and mucus from the uterus, which is discharged through the vagina. (Also Read: Why does period blood vary in color and what does it indicate? )
During periods, most females have the following symptoms:
- Tender breasts
- Mood swings
- Lower back pain or abdominal discomfort
Workout during the Menstruation phase- Keep Moving
You probably would feel like going full couch potato during your periods. Periods may be hard at times, but you do not need to entirely give up your routine. Make it easy. Work out as per the menstrual phase and it might actually benefit you! Additionally, you may feel less tired and instead feel refreshed and energetic.
During the menstrual phase, a female should keep moving to help curb cramping. Mild physical activity would also allow the body to recover appropriately. Since most of the energy is already credible on the lower side, light physical activities like a brisk walk or restorative yoga are low key ways of staying active. If back pain is a common period symptom, rolling out the glutes can be profoundly helpful to ease the muscle tension and bodily discomfort.
2. Follicular phase
The follicular phase begins with the first day of the menstruation phase and continues until the end of the ovulation phase. The pituitary gland is prompted by the hypothalamus to release follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH. The FHS stimulates the ovaries to produce 5 to 20 follicles, which drop on the surface.
Each follicle resides in an immature egg. Mostly, only 1 follicle matures into an egg, and the other follicles die. This can happen around the 10th day of a 28-day period cycle.
Workout during the Follicular phase- Go Hard, Go Strong
The follicular phase begins 10 to 12 days after the female stops bleeding and continues up to ovulation. This is the phase when the female’s body is ready to hit it really hard. The rise in estrogen levels means that the female will have the most endurance in this phase.
The female would feel motivated and packed with energy in the follicular phase. So, make the most of it and use it to your advantage while working out. Knockdown more rewards from high-intensity workouts such as plyometrics or HIIT during this time than the menstrual phase. Whatever workout you choose, pay extra attention to warm up and cool down before and after workouts, especially in this phase, since you are more prone to muscle tension and injuries during heavy workouts.
Also Read: Is white discharge a sign of period coming?
The release of a mature egg from the ovary is the ovulation phase. This usually happens mid-cycle, about 2 weeks or so before the menstruation begins. (Also Read: How can you check if your body is ovulating? )
During the follicular phase, the follicle is developing, which causes a rise in estrogen levels. The hypothalamus, a small region in the brain identifies the rise in estrogen levels and releases a chemical known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which coaches the pituitary gland to generate raised levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone).
In about 2 days, ovulation is activated by the high LH levels. Waves of small hair-like projection guide the eggs into the fallopian tube and towards the uterus. The life span of the egg is only about 24 hours. Unless the egg meets a sperm during this phase, it will die.
Workout during the Ovulatory phase- Stay Steady, Keep It Low
A female’s body is the most fertile during ovulation. During this phase, a female might observe her skin glowing more and having a good mood. The female should also slightly downshift her workout in this phase.
LISS or low-intensity steady-state cardio is perfect during the ovulatory phase as it involves a longer duration of manageable intensity workouts. During both Iyengar yoga or pilates, a slow deliberate pace is maintained. But still, these workouts have a consistently tough physical demand and attention to detail. The female also feels more social and cherished as she ovulates.
4. Luteal phase
The egg bursts from the follicle during ovulation. The ruptured follicle stays on the ovary’s surface. For the following 2 weeks or so, the follicle changes into the corpus luteum, which starts to release progesterone and small amounts of estrogen. The combination of these two hormones maintains the thickened uterine lining, awaiting a fertilized egg to implant.
If the female does not get pregnant, then around the 22nd to 28th day of the cycle, the corpus luteum perishes and dies. The fall in the levels of progesterone causes the uterine lining to fall away, which is known as menstruation. The period cycle then repeats.
Workout during the Luteal phase- Reflect, Recover and Restore
During the luteal phase, the female might feel more tired, exhausted, irritable, hungrier, which are the typical symptoms of PMS. If the female has Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), the symptoms of PMS are likely to be exacerbated. These feelings might make the woman want to skip workouts. But, it is a better move to focus on less strenuous and light workouts during the last two weeks of the cycle. Try brisk walking, stretching or light jogging during these days to keep up with your workout schedule without straining your body too much.