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How to Exercise as per Your Menstrual Cycle

Discover the correct way to assist your body through the different phases of the menstrual cycle and exercising the right way throughout them.

How to Exercise as per Your Menstrual Cycle

The dreaded monthly cycle brings inconvenience- pain, dizziness, low energy, mood swings, sweet cravings, etc. Every woman has a distinct cycle, and sometimes the same woman has a different type of menstrual woe every month. 

Thankfully, women have the inbuilt strength to conquer their period every month while retaining the same levels of productivity and efficiency as every man. 

With the menstrual cycle, comes along some myths that we South Asian women especially have had to endure and debunk in the face of patriarchy and tradition. It’s different for every culture- not touching plants, not touching pickles, not going inside the kitchen, not having a bath, or going swimming, etc. 

While we have managed to get rid of these notions largely, in some cultures the pendulum has swung too far. A pattern has been seen in every argument related to a woman’s capabilities- either she is weak to a subhuman level, or she’s strong to a superhuman level.

Both of these notions inevitably turn out to be against the woman’s favor. 

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When it comes to exercising during periods- much has been said. Earlier, women were not expected to exercise during their period at all, citing a completely ‘weak’ body that could not handle even a brisk walk. Many myths such as harm to the reproductive system are cited for this.

How to Exercise as per Your Menstrual Cycle

Come to the feminist movement, women were expected to overcompensate and exercise the same way, every day of the month, without any regard for their menstrual cycle even if she feels weak or tired, almost as retaliation for being underestimated.

While we shed these thought processes to make decisions about bodies without external influences, it is time to now workout smarter instead of working out harder.

A balance has to be struck-and the answer is in cycle syncing. 

What is Cycle Syncing? 

Cycle syncing is the art of aligning both your nutrition and exercise regime according to the particular phase of the menstrual cycle that your body is currently in. 

Cycle syncing customizes your workout and nutrition exactly to your body’s needs. It boosts metabolism, eases PMS, and helps the female mind and body to have a more balanced month without hindrances if done consistently.

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The menstrual cycle is measured from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period.  The average length of a cycle is 28-29 days, but it varies from woman to woman. The examples below are given as per a 28-29 day cycle but numbers may vary. 

The four phases of the menstrual cycle are menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.

Menstruation:

Menstruation is your actual period, which lasts from 3-8 days depending on the individual. Earlier, many women believed that no physical activity should be done during your period. However, this is completely false.

Energy is at its lowest- so it is important to honor your body and listen to it, and rest as needed. High-intensity workouts 

Breaking your exercise routine for a week and resuming again can put your body in a very stagnant phase, especially if the other 3 weeks of the month are rigorous physical activity. This puts the body through a yo-yo of sorts. 

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However, engaging in low-impact, restorative practices such as light exercising, like yoga, stretching, pilates, swimming, and light walks helps the body to stay active whilst preventing the ‘shock’ it is given when a workout is resumed immediately after.

Follicular Phase:

The follicular phase or the pre-ovulatory phase typically lasts through days 7-14 of the menstrual cycle. It involves the maturation of the egg that is to be released during the ovulation phase and is typically the longest phase of your cycle. 

While the body recovers from the menstrual phase, energy is on the rise as the body produces more estrogen and progesterone. 

The body feels more active and ready to pursue higher-intensity physical activity. It is important to not rush into exercise and take it just a notch higher so as to not overwhelm your body. 

Dance, running, biking, and light strength training are good ways to enjoy your follicular phase, to challenge your body mildly into increasing its strength for the next phase.

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Ovulation Phase:

Ovulation is the main event of your cycle, where the ovary releases the matured egg. 

 Many believe that menstruation is of primary importance, but they do ignore the fact that your period only comes if you ovulate. This is especially important during baby planning and supporting your hormones through imbalances like PCOS/ PCOD or endometriosis. 

Ovulation is your happy time! All hormones collectively are at a high, and libido especially shoots up as a signal for your body to prepare for pregnancy. This is the most active phase of your menstrual cycle and calls for activities such as HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), endurance training, spinning, and heavy-weight training to challenge your body. 

Luteal Phase:

The luteal phase is the last stage of your menstrual cycle during which the uterus thickens to prepare for possible pregnancy. 

If the egg isn’t fertilized, hormone levels slowly start declining to allow the menstruation phase to start. Energy levels start declining and it is around this time women start experiencing symptoms of an impending period such as bloating, water retention, cravings, and mood swings. You burn up to 16% more calories during the luteal phase 

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Your body is naturally hungrier after ovulation. A rookie mistake that women make during this phase is to restrict themselves due to fear of additional hunger and bloating. It is important to nourish your body with high protein, wholesome foods that nip sugar cravings and mood swings. 

In the first half of the luteal phase, hormones are still charged and allow the body to continue some high-intensity workouts. In the second half, it is wise to slow down to prepare for the menstruation phase. 

Additonal care during the luteal phase prevents and reduces PMS symptoms and cramps during the menstrual cycle. 

While workouts are usually done to ‘punish’ your body for the mere act of eating, cycle syncing allows you to strengthen, rejuvenate, and recuperate as per your needs, accurately. 

Most importantly, it does not use standards that are set for another body with different needs. Cycle syncing forces you to only care about exercise standards with yourself, and to be better than you were last month.

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Written By

While she was born in Mumbai and raised in the UAE, Atiya strongly believes she grew up in a completely different world - the World Wide Web, like many other Gen Zs. Rarely ever seen out of home and a hardcore introvert, Atiya reaches out to people via ink and paper. She strongly believes in very few things - one of them being the influence and power of the written word. When she's not writing, she's usually bookmarking fashion inspiration, reading, gardening, or working out.

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