Clapham Personal Training: How to exercise at that time of the month

Posted by Ben Simpkins on March 8, 2017

It’s not fun, your hormones are out of whack, you get stomach cramps and it is just a drag! So how do you keep up with your exercise and nutrition plans when you get your period? Thankfully there are ways to work around it if you are listening to your body correctly and get the timing right.

Stages Of The Menstrual Cycle

Days 1-5 Menstrual Phase

This is when the period begins and you may start to experience cramps which are caused by the contraction of the uterus and the abdominal muscles to help move the menstrual fluids.

Days 6-13 Follicular phase

This stage does also begin on day 1 of your menstrual phase but it will last until around day 13, this is where the egg is developing in the follicle. During this stage the body released endometrium which helps line the uterus ready for a pregnancy.

While going through these two stage your oestrogen levels begin to continually rise from day 1, until they hit a peak at day 14 when the egg is released.

Day 14 Ovulation

The egg is released into your fallopian tube and it works its way towards the uterus, it stays in the tube for 24 hours and if it is not penetrated by a sperm it begins to deteriorate, at this point your oestrogen levels peak and you begin to release progesterone.

Days 15-28 Luteal phase

This phase lasts until the end of the cycle, the body releases more progesterone which causes the endometrium to thicken, this is in case an embryo is implanted. The raised levels of progesterone raises the bodies temperature which is why you may feel hotter at a certain time of the month and with the raised level of oestrogen too, your milk ducts in the nipples will dilate which can lead to swelling and tenderness.

If the egg is not fertilised or a fertilised egg doesn’t implant, then it will begin to break down over 14 days and your levels of oestrogen and progesterone will drop, then a new menstrual cycle will begin.

How to train around your period

In the initial phase while your oestrogen levels are raised, so is your insulin sensitivity so this is the best time to look at having slightly more carbohydrates in your daily intake. As your body is using the carbohydrates more efficiently you should have more energy to lift heavier and to focus more on your strength training. This doesn’t mean you can have more sugary foods though, keep to your nutritional plan and ensure that you are working hard enough in your sessions.

During the Luteal phase when progesterone is the more dominant hormone makes your body more insulin resistant leading to your body wanting to store extra body fat, especially as it is preparing for supporting a fertilised egg. During this stage you should look at cutting your carbohydrate intake down and increasing your healthy fat and protein intake to keep you at your ideal calorie requirement while reducing the chance for fat storage.

During this stage you may feel slightly less energetic so it would be a great time to look at working on your cardiovascular training as it has been shown that it can help reduce the symptoms of PMS. You may also want to look at working on a higher rep range with a slightly lighter weight to ensure you are still getting in a form of resistance training.

The next training post we put out will look at your diet during your menstrual cycle.

What happens if I miss my period?

First of all check if you are pregnant, this is one of the main reasons but what if yourtraining is having an effect on your body??

Amenorrhea is where you have an absence of a period and this can be bought on by over training and malnutrition, excessive stress and training can lead to the body missing periods, if this continues over multiple months this can increase your risk of osteoporosis which is already an issue for many women.

So the best thing for you to do is look at getting an exercise programme you can follow for 45-60 minutes and ensure that you are eating enough calories for your daily activity, do not stop exercising though as we have stated before, it can help with the symptoms of PMS

Anything else?

Listen to your body, you will get to know what you need to do, what helps and what makes your symptoms work but just look after yourself. It is a tough time of the month and some people get hit worse than others, so do what is right for you.

Go for walks, take baths, get massages, take time out to work on you, do some stretching, take up a hobby, meet up with friends and just try to find ways to keep you feeling good. Keep your stress levels as low as possible as raised cortisol levels will have a direct effect on the oestrogen and progesterone levels which are needed for a healthy menstrual cycle.

I hope this helps you understand your body a little bit more and it means you can work on tailoring your exercise a little bit more from here on in, as I stated as well the next training post will be based on your nutrition during your cycle and what you should look at doing during each phase to achieve your results. Remember don’t stress, it will happen every month so just accept it and adjust your routine to help you, not hinder you.

You’ve got this!

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