A guest post from Anna Cousins, an online personal trainer
Hormonal changes associated with your period can lead to fatigue, emotional swings, bloating and increased muscle aches. And this is definitely something that should be taken into consideration when planning workouts, and likewise, when taking part in any competitive sporting activities. However, having a period does not mean that a fitness regime has to stop altogether, rather if you plan ahead and listen to your body, working out during this time is entirely possible – and indeed beneficial. The key thing is not to expect too much and to be mindful that it may well feel harder both emotionally and physically on those days. Notice this and accept it.
The ups and downs of your cycle
Women definitely perform differently depending on where they are in their cycle. For instance, around ovulation, women will likely smash a workout and feel strong. However, whilst on their luteal phase, their energy will deplete and it’s likely that they will only perform at about 60% of their capacity. This is when people start getting frustrated with their performance and then give up. As previously mentioned, if you take note of this and accept it, you’re unlikely to have any surprises and it shouldn’t impact your motivation too much.
Diet plays a big part
Changing your diet whilst you are on your period can really help with energy levels. It’s vitally important to include lots of nutrient-packed fresh ingredients at this time. Eating little and often will keep your blood sugar stable too. Likewise, be sure to include protein in every meal; this can help keep you fuller for longer. Including plenty of iron-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables will really help too. Also make sure you are drinking lots of water and try to avoid processed foods, alcohol and caffeine too. During your period you’re going to crave starchy and sweet foods but try to avoid them if you can.
Pain and symptoms
You might be surprised to know that exercise actually improves blood circulation in the pelvic area, meaning less menstrual pain, so it’s definitely worth giving it a try. In terms of alleviating symptoms, using the time to focus on stretching, doing Pilates or Yoga is a really good way to release and help with those niggling issues such as lower back pain, headaches or tummy aches. One pose that is great for period cramps is child’s pose; this flexes your reproductive organs, as well as releases tension in your back, shoulders and neck.
What exercises to try
Ultimately, if you feel fine, you can carry on with your current workout schedule, just know that you might not perform as well and that’s ok. However, if you are feeling a little more fragile during this time then a long walk, a gentle swim or some yoga stretches are great, but so too are some light cardio workouts and even running. The key is to do something you enjoy and that feels good. If you’ve got particularly strong menstrual cramps or are feeling down, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the mental and physical strength to push yourself through a 5k run. If that’s the case, try some yoga instead. Listen to your body.
A workout or physical activity will also make you feel better overall, mainly because exercise stimulates endorphin production in your body. These feel-good hormones not only relieve the symptoms of PMS, but they will make you feel much better and even improve your sleep too.
Most importantly, don’t skip a session all together; just do something a little more achievable like a stretching or Pilates session instead. That way you won’t feel like you have let yourself down, and of course your body will thank you too. If you are struggling for motivation, then consider investing in some stylish gym clothes that make you feel and look good, whether you are on your period or not. Sounds crazy, but it will make you feel 100 times better when working out.
Understand your body
The best thing you can do is to understand your body better. Track your energy levels and how you feel emotionally and physically throughout your cycle so that you can plan ahead and be prepared for any energy dips. Don’t beat yourself up about it if you can’t take on a strenuous session. There’s always tomorrow..