Going through menstrual cramps can be a terrible experience, and working out is not exactly the most attractive thought when you feel like there’s a knife constantly stabbing you in your abdomen. Before your period, you may feel like your body is being sapped of its energy, and subsequently proceed to hang up your exercise clothes, and indulge in that bag of chips. But research has shown that energy dips are not exactly very significant, and your body is actually more than capable of handling its usual workload!
Cramps happen because your body produces prostaglandins, which are hormones that stimulates your uterus to contract, and shed its lining. But this contraction of the uterus is experienced as menstrual cramps. Exercise can increase the levels of beta-endorphins in your body, also known as your own natural painkillers, can combat the discomfort of your menstrual cramps.
So exercising when you’re on your period is or slightly before is not just totally doable, but really good for you too! However, of course certain moves are more beneficial than others, so this guide is here to help you navigate the world of fitness even when you’re on your period!
1. Practice yoga before your period starts
While you may feel like you don’t have enough energy to do even the simplest tasks before your period, your body is actually more than capable of working out. So instead of wallowing in self-pity on your bed all day, continue with your regular work out routine, or if you’re feeling up to it, increase the intensity of your routine! Activities like yoga can be really good for you as it gets your heart rate up, and produces those endorphins that are so useful in fighting your cramps. In addition to that, sweating helps you get rid of excess fluids, that reduces the irritating bloating you experience before your period. We have an article on yoga right here!
However, because hormones like progesterone spike before your period starts, you will become less tolerant of heat, as your sweating response becomes slower. As a result of this, it will take longer for your body to get rid of excess heat. So be wary of things like hot yoga during this period of time, as the heat may make your feel sluggish, and even more tired.
2. Do moderate intensity cardio on the first few days of your period
On the first few days of your period, you may want to give your body a slight break from your usual routine, but this doesn’t mean that you should stop working out altogether. Instead, light- to medium-intensity workouts can be really beneficial for you. Once again, the endorphins released by this type of aerobic activity will help diminish cramps, but will not tire your body out too much that you feel completely wiped out. Recommended exercises include jogging, brisk walking with an incline, zumba, and moderate-intensity biking.
To test if your workout is truly moderate-intensity, make sure you are sweating, but try holding a conversation while you are doing that activity as well; if you can’t speak a sentence before feeling short of breath, then your workout may be too intense.
Note that not all yoga poses are created equal when you’re on your period, when you’re on the first few days of your period, inversion poses, such as handstands, shoulder stands, and head stands, should not be practiced. Doing these poses when you’re on your flow causes vascular congestion in the uterus, and results in excessive menstrual flow (basically meaning that you bleed way more than you do normally). So try to stay right-side-up when you’re on your period, at least for the first few days at least!
3. Target them abs when you feel cramped up
Light abdominal exercises target the same muscles that cause PMS. So doing things like crunches can be really helpful. If you feel like changing things up, try the Boat Pose, where you are sitting on the floor, with your knees bent, and with your feet on the floor. Lean back slightly keeping your back straight, and lift your feel so that your shins are parallel to the floor. Press your knees and feet together, and slowly try to straighten your legs. Your body should resemble a “V” shape. This pose really targets the abs, and helps with period pains.
Stretching your abdominal muscles, back, and hips can really help to relieve menstrual pain as well. Yoga poses such as the camel pose, cobra pose, pigeon pose, cats pose, cow pose, fish pose and butterfly pose (refer to picture) can feel amazing when you feel all cramped up! In case you haven’t seen our article on yoga, you can find it here!
4. Up your workout intensity a few days into your period
So you’ve made it to the fourth day of your period, congratulations the worst is behind you! When you’re on your period, the levels of female sex hormones in your system are at their lowest, and this increases your metabolism. After the first few days, you’ve gotten over your period slump, and this starts to make you feel more energised during exercise, you may even start to feel that your usual workout routine is becoming a bit too easy.
This is when you can up the intensity of your workout a tad, and take on activities that are slightly more vigorous. Feel free to go for that hot yoga class, and sweat it out. Or up your cardio game, with high-intensity workouts, or weight training!
Hopefully this guide helped you make more sense of how you should plan your workouts before and during your period. So don’t let those cramps get the best of you, throw on some workout clothes, and show them who’s boss!
Check out our neat summary below! (We have a bunch of other infographics here.)
Chen Wei Chua
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