How to Sync Up Your Exercise Routine with Your Cycle
As women, we get a lot of confusing messages around fitness, exercise, and weight. This probably isn’t a surprise to you—if you’re a women in the 21st century, you’ve likely been subjected to countless magazine articles, Instagram posts, infomercials, ads, and more telling you to push your physical limits...but love your body as it is. And always strive to be thinner, fitter, and stronger...but not too strong lest society deems your body masculine. Feeling crazy yet? You’re not alone.
A great story in the New York Times last year called What Exercise Science Doesn’t Know About Women really hit home for me with the point that the misinformation and conflicting messages we see proliferated in magazines and ads are due to one simple fact: we know very little about about the actual effects of exercise on women’s bodies. Scientists often rely on male subjects for studies, particularly in the exercise-science realm, and when they try to recreate men-only experiments with women, the results can be quite different.
The reality is, weight-loss supplement manufacturers, gym owners, and magazine editors don’t understand the inherent wisdom of your body—but whether or not you realize it, you do! Your body is completely unique and intelligent and all you have to learn to do is tune into its ever-changing needs.
When it comes to exercise, it’s so important to change your routine according to where you’re at in your cycle. Sometimes, you can’t always push as hard as you might want to or feel like you should, and other times, the pushing can feel really good and benefit your body and mind. While science works to catch up with the wisdom of women’s bodies, there are ways you can work with your own endocrine system and hormonal changes to reap real benefits from exercise.
How do you cycle-sync your exercise?
Those familiar with my work know that I talk a lot about cycle syncing your eating habits, but I’m also a huge advocate of cycle syncing your exercise. I have been an avid exerciser for the past 18 years and the longest I’ve ever really gone without daily exercise was when I developed pretty intense sciatica during the third trimester of pregnancy and had to walk with a cane for 2 weeks. Other than that long break, I have been walking, running, hiking, biking, dancing, taking group fitness, and practicing yoga and Pilates for almost two decades.
But variety really is the spice of life: just as I vary my diet every day, I don’t do the same workouts day in and day out. In fact, that’s one of my secrets to having lost 60 lbs. so effortlessly—not only did I sync up my eating to my hormones, but I also synced up my workouts to my cycle! It works like nothing else you’ve tried because it’s working with the flow of your hormones, not against them, which is so often why weight becomes “stubborn.”
To really get the most out of optimizing your hormones and health, you should change up your workout routine to fit your cycle phase in much the same way as you do your diet. Your body is primed for different kinds of activity across your cycle, just as it’s looking for different kinds of nutrition through the four phases. You’ll lose more weight and feel fitter if you tune to what feels most natural.
How to exercise for each phase of your cycle:
- During your period - Napping and spa treatments are a form of exercise! Deeply restorative to your adrenals and reducing inflammation. You should have one week every month where you indulge your inner goddess creature and pamper - and menstruation is a great time for that. Yin Yoga and Kundalini Yoga are also excellent in addition to walks in nature.
- Follicular phase (the week or so after your period) - This is the time for cardio and fun new things in your workout routine. Your hormone levels are naturally lower this week, but on the rise, so have fun, dance, but keep it under an hour since your stamina is slightly less due to less testosterone.
- Ovulation - This is the time for HIIT group fitness classes or intense sessions with your trainer. Testosterone and estrogen are at their peak so you’re in the mood to be with people and go hard with your workouts and for as long as you’d like. SoulCycle anyone?
- Premenstrual phase (also called luteal phase) - Strengthen and lengthen - weights, pilates, intense yoga are ideal at this time. With progesterone entering the game and estrogen and testosterone beginning to wane, it’s all about the mind game of working out - pushing yourself hard but not longer than 30 minutes. Do the hardest super sets of strength training or your most intense yoga inversions, or your most intense set on the reformer and push yourself to get it done because your hormones will help you do just that. Keep it to no more than an hour.
- If you’re not menstruating at all, or are very irregular - If you’re someone who hasn’t had a period for months (or even years), you might want to consider adjusting your workout routine or easing up on it. In some cases of amenorrhea or irregular cycles, over-exercise is a big factor. Extreme exercise, prolonged workouts, and intense cardio can interfere with your sensitive adrenal glands, forcing them into high stress mode. Disrupting your cortisol disrupts your ovulation. Stress hormones affect your reproductive hormones in a major way and impact your cycle. Instead of pushing yourself to the limits, experiment with a different approach. You don’t have stop completely, but incorporating some gentle yoga or freeform dancing, and doing in community with other women will help calm your nerves and restore your hormonal balance, in addition to being fun. Kundalini or restorative yoga are great options, as is dancing around your bedroom.
*Crave more hormone help?*
If you’re needing some health upgrading, it’s time you started you looking into what’s going on with your hormones. Alisa has designed a 4 day hormone detox and evaluation to help you understand exactly what’s out of whack and how you can start getting back to balance so that your hormones no longer have to suffer.
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