By Cayla Clement
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
Exercising daily has many benefits, from stress-release to weight loss and is optimal for your overall mental and physical health. When coordinating your exercises with different phases of your cycle, you can elevate the benefits of your workout routine even more and combat any negative hormonal fluctuations.
Firstly, there are different stages to your menstrual cycle, even when you aren’t actually on your period or PMSing. These four phases include: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. During all of these four phases, your hormones fluctuate, which can lead to hormonal shifts,emotional and physical changes, and it affectsthe way your cells and metabolism work.
Here are somespecific exercises for you to focus on during each phase in order to navigate all the changes in your body as well as tooptimise your workout:
During the menstruation phase, the part of your cycle where you are actually ‘on your period’ (this phase lasts anywhere between three to seven days), your carbohydrate/glycogen fuel stores are more easily accessible; therefore, high intensity workouts are easier and more beneficial when done during your period. Exercise also helps manage crampsand mood swings.
During the follicular phase, which begins as soon as menstruation starts and ends when you begin ovulating, your uterus begins to produce five to 20 follicles, which house immature eggs, and your uterus lining thickens in preparation for possible pregnancy. Usually only one egg actually matures and is able to be fertilized. Specifically about a week after your period, your oestrogen increases while your progesterone remains low. Oestrogen helps build muscle, so during this time, full-body and weight training regimes produce better results in toning, building muscle, and overall health, while usually Progesterone slows this process down.
Ovulation, which starts about 2 weeks after your period ends and lasts about two days, is the perfect time to get pregnant. The mature egg is released, ready to meet the sperm. While ovulating, heavy-weight training (fewer reps and heavier weights) is preferable. Oestrogen levels peak at this time of the month and muscle building is most effective. However, be sure to include a warm up and cool down and ensure you recover with warm baths, hydration, a good diet and supplements if necessary and plenty of rest to heal any muscle tears.
During the luteal phase, the lining of the uterus thickens, and hormones called HCG are produced and spread out to make sure a fertilized egg is maintained in the uterus. This leads to pregnancy if the egg is met with sperm. If you are not pregnant, the outer shell that held the egg dies, leading to a drop in progesterone, and the unfertilized egg’s lining results in your period (menstruation). During this phase, you will want to focus on cardio as your body is now burning fat rather than carbohydrates and glycogen. Water retention and fatigue during this time can make cardio more difficult, so opt for low-impact exercises such as swimming, water aerobics, bike riding, or walking. Although you may feel burnt out more quickly than during the other phases, if you power through your body will thank you.
So, if you want to optimize your workout and reduce hormonal and physical discomforts, try exercising around your cycle. To keep things more simple, there are plenty of apps on your phone, such as Flo, that track your cycle and explain what phase you are in and what’s going on in your body.