When to Kickbox, Do Yoga, or Just Sleep, According to Your Menstrual Cycle

No woman really wants to let her period dictate her whole life, but when it comes to exercise, changing your routine depending on where you're at in you menstrual cycle might actually be your best bet for staying healthy and staying in shape.

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It sounds strange, but if we told you this meant that once a month your daily exercise was to get an extra hour of sleep, would you listen?

Thought so.

This idea of finding and working with your cycle comes from Alisa Vitti, functional nutritionist, founder of FLOliving.com, and author of WomanCode. Vitti has found that women's bodies respond differently to workouts depending on what their hormone levels are like on any given day. That means that some days, gentle yoga is going to be the most beneficial to your body while on others, it's a high-intensity boot camp that's best instead.

"It has to do with the fact that I'm having you work with your hormonal patterns, so you're working out in an optimal way," Vitti notes. "For example, you have a natural surge of testosterone during ovulation, and therefore more energy, making it a great time to do a group fitness HIIT training type class."

Vitti also notes that listening to your body so closely helps women avoid injury and work within their body's ability.

"By varying the intensity and duration of your workouts based on your cycle, you never run the risk of pushing past your adrenal reserve and causing a more serious adrenal and thyroid imbalance," Vitti explains. "Many women already have this when they are trying to start or stick with an exercise routine."

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So what does that routine look like, exactly? Vitti explains more thoroughly on her website, but it basically looks like this:

Follicular phase: Yoga or something similar. Should involve gentle stretching and cardio.

Ovulatory phase: Interval training.

First part of luteal phase: High-intensity cardio, plus muscle-building activities.

Second part of luteal phase: Restorative yoga, Pilates, or another activity that will relieve tension.

Menstrual phase: Sleep! Add in gentle walks, but shoot for as restful and uninterrupted sleep as possible.

And throughout your cycle ...

Tune into and give your body what it needs: Vitti says that more than anything, acing your cycle-based exercise routine means listening to your body. "I always first look to my hunger, energy, and mood to asses how well I'm managing my blood sugar, which is a key indicator of the endocrine system," Vitti says. "Then, I look to my bowel movements and skin to see how well I'm absorbing and breaking down food and toxins."

Vitti also pays attention to her cycles and makes sure everything is regular and in check month-to-month. If nothing is off, then she knows what she's doing is working.

If your hormones are different from one day to the next, it makes total sense that you shouldn't feed and treat your body the same way day after day. Plus, your exercise regimen is already invariably tied to your cycle and uterine health: Too much or too little exercise can be rough on your body's regular cycle, and swinging too far in either direction can cause endometriosis, missing periods, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Blech.

That said, tracking and listening to your cycle will generally be your best bet. Vitti has had enormous success with it, and she's not the only one.

 

Image © Squaredpixels/iStock

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