It’s the last thing you want to do when the Red Baron flies into town. Even your most enjoyable forms of physical activity can take a backseat to the discomfort and overall blahness of menstruation.
It seems like your body is telling you to take some time off. Here’s the rub, your period is the time when you should be working out consistently to optimize on hormonal changes that can maximize your physical gains. “The more active you are [overall] and more regular you are with your activity, the better your periods end up being—less cramping, less heavy flow,” explains Stacy Sims, PhD, an exercise physiologist for USA Cycling Women’s Track Endurance Program.
There are tons of benefits which include beauties such as reduction in headaches, fatigue, and anxiety. Also, when you work up a sweat, expect to banish some bloat because when you sweat, water is forced to leave the body. Hence, you don’t have to go out to the pub in your yoga pants. You also can go harder with your period workout and feel more powerful because your hormones are doing their equivalent of a fast and furious salsa.
Why it works
During your period and the week after, you have less estrogen and progesterone in the body which makes you feel more powerful, and you tend to push yourself further as a result. This also creates a boost in pain tolerance and muscle recovery, so you will not only go harder, but your results will be more significant due to the fluctuation in body chemistry during this time. Body temperature also decreases during menstruation, so you are less likely to overheat and quit before you have hit your maximum (it’s ok – it’s the thought that counts, right?). Finally, exercise increases endorphins in the body, and they distract us from pain. It’s almost like your body wants you to put down the Cherry Garcia and work out during your period. Hmph…stupid science-backed reasoning (putting spoon down).
Period Plus One Week = Wonder Woman Workouts
Here are a couple of ways you can make some metaphorical lemonade out of Mother Nature’s lemons (but have real lemonade too, the lemons act as a diuretic to help bloating. Listen to Lemonade while you’re at it for extra femme power and to bring it all full-circle).
Strength: Now is the time to add extra LBS and reps to your current workout. Level up to the next stack or grab that 25-pound kettlebell and add a few extra swings. You’ll get the physical benefits and even more importantly, feel like a sexy beast after!
Cardio: Try HIIT workouts during these days to access the carbohydrate and glycogen stores that are usually less “open” to being used. It’s easier to access them due to reduced estrogen and progesterone; thus, you can burn more fuel (fat reserves) during this time. A simple way to add HIIT to your current cardio is by adding 45-second sprints every few minutes.
Yoga modifications: While yoga is ideal during this time and hot classes are infinitely more tolerable with the dip in body temperature, be careful to avoid inversions. Inversions are any poses which put your head below your heart. Examples would be headstand, handstand, plow, and a down dog that is held more than a few seconds. How could something as snuggly and loving for the body as yoga make you pause? Yoga inversions can cause something called vascular congestion in the uterus (think of it as a stuffy nose in your hoo-ha) which then causes excess menstrual flow which equals more cramps. Boo.
So, the next time you see that monthly mischief maker, head to the gym and fight back!