Exercise and your menstrual cycle

Many women wonder whether it’s OK to work out during their period. The answer is yes, there is no medical reason to avoid exercising while you have your period. However, it’s beneficial to understand that hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle can have a range of effects on energy levels and exercise performance, and particular forms of exercise may be better suited to each stage of your cycle.


When you learn how to link exercise with the phases of your cycle, you are learning to work with your body and not against it. Working with your body is what I truly believe is the key to achieving optimal health and vitality.


The average menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days and has four main phases – menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.


The menstrual phase

During this phase, your uterus is shedding the lining it has built up throughout the month. The first day of your period is considered day one of your cycle, and this phase typically lasts between 3 and 7 days. At the beginning of your period, your progesterone and oestrogen levels will be at their lowest, which along with the loss of blood may cause you to feel more tired than normal.

How should you exercise during the menstrual phase?

You may have heard mixed messages about how you should exercise, or if you should work out at all while menstruating. Ultimately, what you choose to do is up to you and how you feel. If you choose to exercise during your period and are feeling low in energy, it may be a good idea to reduce the intensity of your workouts. Some suggestions to stay active during your period include restorative Yoga or a gentle yoga flow, walking or gentle cardio and lighter resistance training.

As we know recovery is just as important as working out, so why not time your recovery with your menstrual phase, by switching your higher intensity sessions to a walk or cycle and lots of gentle Yoga!


The follicular phase

Your period is over and you’re now in the follicular phase of your cycle. This phase actually begins on the first day of your period and continues until the beginning of ovulation, typically days 1 to 11 of your menstrual cycle. During the follicular phase, your body creates a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which signals to the ovaries to create eggs for the ovulation phase. After menstruation is over your oestrogen levels get a big boost as your body prepares to release an egg, which is usually associated with increased energy.

How should you exercise during the follicular phase?

With increased energy, the follicular phase is a good time to challenge yourself or try new things in your exercise routine. Some examples would be high intensity interval training (HIIT), boxing, adding hill sprints to your run and strength training. These would be great ways to exercise when your energy levels are high to build strength and improve your aerobic fitness.


The ovulation phase

The ovulation phase is just after the follicular phase and typically lasts for 3 to 5 days between days 12 to 17 of your cycle. During this phase, you’ll still have high levels of oestrogen from the follicular phase, while also having increased levels of luteinising hormone (LH), the hormone that triggers the body to start ovulating.

How should you exercise during the ovulation phase?

Similar to the follicular phase, ovulation tends to be a higher energy time. If that’s the case for you, then you can continue to make the most of this energy by getting some high-energy workouts in. It would be a great to time to switch up your exercise style too, if you’re a keen runner why not try a spin class or if you’re into boxing when not try an outdoor boot camp. Mixing up your sessions is also a fantastic way to challenge your body in different way!


The luteal phase

The luteal phase is the last phase of your menstrual cycle before menstruation begins again, typically lasting 12 to 14 days, between days 18-30, depending on your unique cycle.

During the first part of this phase, you’ll likely still have energy from ovulating, which may decrease the closer you get to menstruation. Also with the peak in progesterone levels during this phase, some women may feel drowsy.

How should you exercise during the luteal phase?

During the luteal phase, you can continue with your normal exercise routine, however you may find it difficult to complete each session with your usual effort and intensity. Exercises you might like to try during the luteal phase would be Yoga or Pilates and low intensity cardio exercise.


Track your period to know your cycle

To know which phase of your cycle you are in, it can be really helpful to track your period. You can do this the old-fashioned way by using your calendar or diary, or you can use a period tracking app (‘Clue’ is a popular one). When you start to track your cycle, it can be very empowering when you begin to notice the changes in your body, during the phases of your cycle. When you become aware of your pre – menstrual symptoms and know that your period is due, or when you feel your energy levels increase during the follicular phase.


I hope you’ve found this useful and feel more confident now, knowing you can exercise to work with your body during all phases of your menstrual cycle.


If you have any specific questions about this then get in touch, I’d be happy to help!

To your health and happiness

Áine x