What if we told you that the exercise you do around your period, could determine how likely you are to hit your weight loss goals?
Not only that, but working with your body’s hormone fluctuations throughout the month could help to reduce PMS symptoms, boost energy and improve your productivity and relationships.
It’s a win-win all round.
The new Phase & Function program by P.Volve, has been designed to work with your body’s hormonal patterns to help you feel your best throughout the month.
Your period hormones
For women, there are several hormones involved in the menstrual cycle, however oestrestrogen and progesterone are the key players here.
Dr Suman Temari explains that, “when it comes to the cycle, oestrestrogen promotes growth of the endometrium; the internal lining of the uterus, and stimulates the growth and ovulation of the follicle; the release of an egg”.
She adds that progesterone keeps the lining of the uterus thick, ready for the impregnated egg.
However, if an egg isn’t fertilised, the uterus lining is shed, causing a “period” and progesterone levels fall.
The four cycle stages
Essentially, your month or “cycle” is split into four stages, starting on the first day of your period.
Menstrual – Days 1- 4
Follicular – Days 5 – 13
Ovulatory – Days 14-16
Luteal – Days 17-28
Different workouts and styles of exercise will work best within different stages of your cycle, as will different intensities and workout lengths.
The below is based on an average 28 day cycle, however this will fluctuate among women. Take the below examples as a loose guide.
Using birth control? The phases of your cycle still apply, as do the workouts.
THE MENSTRUAL PHASE: Yoga and strength training
The menstrual phase is your actual period. That phase we all look forward to!
Period cramps, sore boobs and fatigue; just three of the irritating period symptoms that accompany your monthly bleed.
During this stage, the hormones progesterone and oestrestrogen are at their lowest, and your energy levels will also drop so you’ll likely feel tired.
You might find that just the thought of exercise is tiring, but exercising during this phase can in fact boost energy.
As your energy increases, start to incorporate strength training as the rise in oestrestrogen will make you feel stronger and ready to tackle a more challenging workout
Ensure you’re getting early nights, staying hydrated and eating anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish (salmon, sardines and mackerel), berries, broccoli, leafy vegetables like spinach, dark chocolate (hoorah!) and mushrooms too.
Alexia Acebo, Lead Trainer at P.Volve, recommends scheduling your workouts for the evening as cortisol levels naturally fall during the first few days of this phase.
After the menstrual phase, move your workouts to earlier in the day.
“Start out with recovery centered, gentle movement like yoga and walking.”
Towards the end of the menstrual phase, your energy will start to improve thanks to a rise in oestrestrogen.
“As your energy increases, start to incorporate strength training as the rise in oestrestrogen will make you feel stronger and ready to tackle a more challenging workout.”
THE FOLLICULAR PHASE: High intensity workouts, cardio and strength training
This is YOUR week; the goddess week. Throughout this phase, oestrestrogen is on the rise, so you’ve got energy and should be feeling more alert.
Alexia explains that you’ll find yourself craving more intense movement, getting sweaty, and trying something new!
“It’s a great time to let your heart rate rise and try something new like a group fitness class with a friend where you have the chance to get nice and sweaty. Continue to alternate strength and cardio during this phase.”
Cardio can include running, cycling, rowing or even some time spent on the cross trainer.
Midday might be the best time for you to workout here as your energy is at its highest, however this might not be the most convenient time. Opt for a pre-work workout instead.
Start alternating between longer strength training and cardio workouts, to build muscle and burn fat. On rest days try a gentle walk or yoga session.
Alexia explains that there are studies linking a greater likelihood of ACL injuries – a type of knee injury – during this phase, so don’t skimp on form.
If you’re weight training, have a friend check your movements or film yourself and watch the videos back.
THE OVULATORY PHASE: High intensity training
Thanks to oestrestrogen being at its peak along with testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone, an egg is released from the ovary.
This can leave you dealing with ovulation pain, tender breasts and spots but on the flipside, you’ve got serious energy during this phase.
Get your workout done first thing and use the energy to really push yourself; up the intensity of your workouts and work at your max!
Alexia recommends any type of circuit training that’s quick, challenging, and demanding.
Keep that form strong and make sure you warm up and cool down to help keep your body injury free.
Taking a rest day? Go for a gentle walk or try a yoga session.
THE LUTEAL PHASE: Cardio and strength training
It can feel that after ovulation, things just seem to go downhill. That’s because oestrestrogen levels decline, while progesterone rises, hitting its peak right before your menstrual phase kicks in.
Alexia explains that during this phase, you might start by feeling fairly extroverted, yet become introverted as the phase progresses.
“Listen to these internal cues so you don’t risk getting unnecessarily irritated. In other words, be cool.”
At the start of the luteal phase, opt for cardio and high intensity workouts, then, if you start to feel PMS symptoms setting in, as well as a decline in energy, as you approach your menstrual phase, slow down a little.
Go for more strength-based workouts as well as yoga and stretching.
Alexia adds that after ovulation, your body temperature rises, so aim to avoid overheating.
Exercising outside on a hot summer’s day might not be ideal right now, whereas an air conned gym could be a wiser option.
“Keep workouts to 30 minutes or less to keep stress levels in check for optimum hormone balance.”
Plus Alexia recommends moving your workouts to later in the day as you approach your next period.