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Working out on your period and cycle syncing workouts. What you need to know.

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

If you’re curious about creating a workout routine that supports your menstrual cycle, start here!

For those of us who have menstruated, we are all familiar with our periods getting in the way of work, school, social plans, and other commitments. But should it be seen as an inconvenient disruption or instead a guide showing how we can best live in alignment with our bodies?

In recent years, the idea of "cycle-syncing" has risen in popularity. The concept is to adjust your exercise regime according to where you are in your cycle rather than sticking to one rigid plan for the entire month. Doing so reportedly helped the U.S. Women's Soccer team win the World Cup!

So, if you're ready to take your menstrual, physical, and mental well-being into your own hands, buckle up. We're diving into what you need to know about the four main cycle phases, how to track your cycle, working out on your period, and cycle syncing workouts for optimal health benefits.

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Cycle syncing workouts: How it can help

Before we dive into the how of cycle syncing, let’s start with the why.

While men run on a 24-hour hormone cycle, similarly to the sun, women operate on a cycle ranging between 21-35 days, more like the moon. Within the month, your body goes through four main phases, which we will explore later. You can think of these phases as the different seasons of the year: winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Depending on where you are in your cycle, you can experience different levels of energy and motivation, moods, symptoms, and more, all of which affect how you can show up during your workouts. If you’ve ever felt unusually out of breath or tired during exercise you usually breeze through, you know exactly what I mean.

Being in tune with our cycles means acquiring greater respect for our bodies and knowing how to support them best. Women weren’t made to maintain the same energy levels throughout the month, and we shouldn’t feel guilty or lazy when we need a bit of extra rest.

Adjusting our lifestyles according to our cycles where we can, for example, with our workouts, is better for our recovery and overall physical and mental health.

How to track your cycle

The first step to cycle syncing your workouts starts with tracking your cycles. Here are a few ways you can keep track of where you are in your cycle:

  • Download period tracking apps like Clue, Eve by Glow, or Period Tracker Period Calendar. These apps can do most of the work for you. All you have to do is input your period dates and symptoms throughout the month.

  • Doing things the old-fashioned way? No problem. If you have any notes about when previous periods started and ended, keep those handy. If not, take note of the first day of your next period. This will be day one of your cycle.

  • Throughout the month, take note of your symptoms, including how heavy or light your bleeding is, energy levels, bloating, cravings, breast tenderness, and any other patterns.

  • Lastly, and very importantly, understand the phases of the menstrual cycle, their typical lengths, and how they affect your body.

If this feels overwhelming or like too much work, just take it back to basics: Listen to your body. How does it feel, and when.

Phases of the menstrual cycle

Now, let’s get into what you need to know about the menstrual cycle phases and some ways you can work out during each. While everyone's menstrual cycle is unique, they all consist of four main phases and typically last between 23-35 days.

Phase one: Menstruation

That time of the month. You may feel sluggish or experience cramps, lower back pain, headaches, bloating, craving, breast tenderness, and mood swings. Your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest, and your body is preparing to shed your uterine lining and release an unfertilized egg.

Typically, this first phase of your cycle lasts between three and seven days.

Working out on your period

Ever wondered if you should work out on your period? The short answer is yes!

Despite wanting nothing more than to curl up on the couch and hibernate until spring, working out on your period is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind.

A 2019 study from the Cochrane Library found that consistent workouts can have a “large effect on reducing menstrual pain intensity compared to no exercise.” So while we might be feeling sluggish, getting in some low-intensity exercise can go a long way.

You can think of your period week as the winter phase of your cycle. Energy levels are low, and you’ll likely be better off opting for less strenuous workouts.

Here are some exercises for working out on your period:

  • Yoga and stretching

  • Low-intensity strength training

  • Walking and light cardio

Phase two: Follicular

Next, we emerge out of our winter hibernation into a more lively spring during the follicular phase. You’ll likely feel more energetic thanks to a boost in estrogen levels.

This part of your cycle begins around day six and lasts until ovulation around day 14. The rise in estrogen levels causes the lining of your uterus to thicken in addition to an increase in a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which causes your ovaries to grow. Eventually, your follicles will create a mature egg ready for release.

Working out during the follicular phase

More energy means more time to play. This is a great time to set challenges for yourself or try new ways of moving your body. Here are a few ideas:

  • Heavier weight strength training

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

  • Running, dancing, boxing, or other high-energy cardio workouts

Phase three: Ovulation

The shortest phase of your cycle is ovulation. Your estrogen levels stay high (woohoo, energy!), as do luteinizing hormone (LH) and FSH. On around day 14 of your cycle, LH will trigger your ovaries to release a mature egg, usually within 24-48 hours.

Common signs of ovulation include a heightened sense of taste or smell, increased sex drive, bloating, and mood changes.

Ovulation is considered to be the summer of your cycle. This is when you’re likely to feel most energetic and playful, and it’s a great time to get a good workout in.

Working out during ovulation

Ovulation is essentially an extension of your follicular phase, meaning your estrogen levels are elevated, and you’ll have more stamina. You can continue with the same workouts you had during your follicular phase or look into group fitness classes or a running group to really capitalize on that vibrant social energy.

Phase four: Luteal

From around day 15-28 of your cycle, you’ll be in the luteal phase, the longest part of your cycle. You’ll spend roughly the first week with around the same energy levels as you did in your follicular and ovulatory phases and feel a decline in the latter half.

In this phase, a mature egg travels through your fallopian tubes to your uterus, where progesterone helps prepare it for pregnancy. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop, your uterus sheds its lining, and you begin your period.

Following the seasonal nature of the menstrual cycle, the luteal phase is a lot like fall. Your body is slowly winding down to prepare for winter.

Working out during the luteal phase

During the luteal phase, you’ll want to really rely on your body’s signals to guide your workouts.

Since you’ll spend the first half relatively energetic, you may want to continue working out as you did during the follicular and ovulatory phases, but as time goes on, you may find it more difficult. This is normal and a sign that you may want to shift down a gear.

Here are a few ways to workout during the luteal phase:

  • Strength training with lower weights

  • Yoga

  • Barre

  • Pilates

  • Low-intensity cardio

Cycle syncing workouts: The bottom line

At the end of the day, cycle syncing workouts is less about following a scheduled protocol and more about tuning into your body’s needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cycle syncing, just as no two women or menstrual cycles are alike.

Tracking your cycle is a great way to understand where your body is in your cycle, but if you experience different symptoms or have more or less energy than you are “supposed” to, honor that. Give yourself the freedom to adjust your training according to your body’s needs. She will thank you for it!

Sculpt & Glo Fitness

Hey, I’m Luan from Sculpt & Glo Fitness. I teach group fitness classes and provide personal training to everyday women like you. My mission is to help busy women and moms gain confidence and find their glo wherever they are on their fitness journeys (including the very beginning!)

I believe fitness is not a chore, it’s a choice! If you’re ready to take the leap, I’d love to help you realize your fitness goals.

If you have more questions about starting your fitness journey, schedule a free consultation call.

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Phone. 417-619-0391


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