There are a lot of myths about periods and women’s stamina or ability to exert ourselves physically when we’re having a period. From myths like, ‘working out will lighten your flow’ to ‘you should avoid inversion yoga’, there are several mental roadblocks for women. But the truth is exercising during your period has a number of benefits, for both body and mind. It’s all about listening to your body and giving it what it needs.
TC46 connected with Pallavi Barman who is the Head of Marketing & Operations at HRX (actor Hrithik Roshan’s brand). Pallavi is a fitness enthusiast herself, and here she shares the reasons to work out during your period, the science behind it, and a simple guide to help you exercise with ease when you’re menstruating.
What’s The Correlation Between Menstruation & Fitness?
Do we know the average number of periods we face in our lifetime? We, women, spend about 3000 days on an average in our lifetime menstruating! Quite an investment of time and energy isn’t it? Now, these 3000 days are those when one ought to take great care of oneself so all necessary TLC must be planned, made available and deployed.
But before we move on, let’s break down our cycle in a way that we begin to start understanding it better, thereby decoding our body, mood swings and energy levels along the way.
What Are The Phases Of A Menstrual Cycle?
There are 4 distinct phases of our menstrual cycle and learning about our cycle will help us work with our cycle and not against it.
My earlier post emphasized the importance of hormones in a woman’s body. In this post too, there will be a substantial discussion on hormones. Since this complex cycle is regulated and controlled by hormones largely estrogen and progesterone namely, it circles back to managing these sex hormones. The four phases are:
This is the dreaded time, the release, as we know it. Cramping pain, discomfort is commonplace. The uterus wall disintegrates when nothing plants itself on it and is released out of the system as blood and clot. Needless to say, this time is associated with the lowest energy and strength so tune in to your body’s meters and amp up the rest and lower down the activities. Since we are faced with a loss here, let’s talk of food, which is blood building and imparts energy simultaneously. Foods rich in iron, zinc, and water all help in replenishing the blood loss. Rajma, beans, mushroom, watermelon are some examples of fortifying food, which can be consumed during this phase. Ideally, if you can stay active, work it out in the open, feel some fresh air and take in some pure oxygen. A simple walk or jog will feel great. And if you have the strength to lift, by all means, go and lift but keeping it light may be a good idea.
This is technically the most chill part of the cycle when you and your body are at their best! Ideally starts one-day post menstruation onset, and continues till ovulation. The brain starts to prompt the generation of FSH or the follicle-stimulating hormone which in turn directs the ovaries to produce follicles, each of which host an immature egg. One of these lucky ones mature and become ‘the egg’ ready for a reception if at all. The secretion of estrogen and testosterone also get the uterus wall to start thickening in preparation for pregnancy in case. Now, conduct an experiment and check your weight and shape right after menstruation during this phase. I bet you will feel the lightest and weigh so too and those abs will also pop ever so often during this phase. This is the golden time for self-appreciation and feeling awesomely in shape and fit. This can be attributed to the carriers of high energy levels and happiness – Estrogen and Testosterone. This is the time when you feel like going out more, wearing that well-fitted dress, feeling a bit adventurous and much more confident. See how O & T control you! Incidentally the food choice you make also tends to stay clean because your brain function is better than most days and you are able to think clear and logically. Food consisting of iron and B12- salmon, or any other fish, chicken, leafy greens, beans, nuts, lentils, berries and fresh fruits all help this cycle very well. Incorporate exercises in this cycle where you can push your extreme. If you are a runner, plan your PB, if you lift go for the max reps, if you CrossFit, kill them those AMRAPs.
This is the time when we are most outgoing! Well because the body has a mature egg ready to mate and how else do you find a mate if you don’t venture out (applicable to single women indeed!) I often feel like a glass of wine or two and let my hair down and dance. I feel naturally attractive and think I look my best. Try this for yourself and reach out with answers. Let’s hear why? The mature egg is now released from the surface of the ovary – we are midway the cycle here—approximately 2 weeks before menstruating. Estrogen and Progesterone (most potent sex hormones) usually peak at this time and they make you look lovely! The good-hair days and the good-skin days usually happen here. Food should be kept clean and fuss-free – load up on fibre-rich food, fruits, antioxidants, berries, coconut, guava, broccoli, asparagus and so on. Let’s say we keep it to good and clean carbohydrates mostly while in this phase. The workout routine can remain the same. Keep pushing yourself, keep working your way with your usual training routine because our friends O & P take good care of our digestion and bone health; energy levels and brain function well.
Once the egg finds no mate, our friend O & T starts receding knowing they have little work to do now. And that’s when the trouble sets in. The PMSing days are here- bloating, cravings, indigestion and moodiness- all of which is actually a sign of hormonal change occurring in the body. It’s a very conspicuous phase and if you notice yourself well you can easily recognize this time. Don’t try going against the tide, recognizing and respecting the time and eating everything in moderation. Vitamin B, calcium magnesium and fibre rich food help in reducing sugar cravings and water retention. The workout should continue since it adds endorphins in the scheme of things bringing in certain mood upliftment at least. In fact, I PMS really bad and I channelize all my foul pent up energy in training very hard in this phase. Well it may sound like punishment but it isn’t really—it’s just my way of balancing my inner tumultuous state but one can push as far as your body can take you.
What Are The Benefits Of Exercising On Your Period?
Exercising is a lifestyle change and a way of life. It’s akin to watching TV, cooking, bathing. Under no circumstances do I propose not moving around and being inactive unless the body really needs and deserves that break and rest. So the movement should be in conjunction with the bodily state and energy levels, rather proportional to it. The extent to which one can stretch her is dependent on the body’s conditioning. For some, a 5k run is the goal and for some, 5k run is a starting point. If feeling excessively weak while menstruating, please check yourself and avoid injuries due to falls or dehydration.
Training has a long term accrued benefit. The benefits shine through over a period of time in every aspect of physiology and anatomy over a period of time starting with a timely cycle (26-28 days). It’s all like a giant feedback loop. When the body is mobilised, internal organs work like well-lubricated machinery setting the involuntary functions right. When the functions are performed well as per the natural benchmark, the hormonal secretion is balanced, when the hormonal secretion is balanced, the body works right. When the body is working at its optimum, your performance abs agility only improves and so does your overall outlook and personality. There are enough and more resistances and frictional impediments in the outside world, why increase internal ones when one can simply move about and sort those?
What’s The Preferable Mode Of Exercise When Menstruating?
Choice of exercises during menstruation completely depends on the body. Remember exercising during this period can’t reverse anything or defy the natural outcome of internal functionality, exercise can merely stabilize things. See this as a voltage fluctuation in your circuit. Well, when that happens you can only use a stabilizer to ensure the appliances don’t collapse but there is nothing that can be done at a voltage supply level.
Yoga typically is like working inside out as opposed to weight training that is working outside in. It’s always good to incorporate back stretching, back bending, Surya Namaskar, Chakrasana, Halasana kind of asana which work on the abdominal organs. Trying to combat bloating and water retention at this time may be counterproductive so don’t invest in that thought at all and instead invest in a Spanx for those days.
If you are one of those who needs to pop a pill or crunch on a hot water bag, please book yourself a spa or a head massage and simply enjoy your downtime without feeling any productivity anxiety.
What Are Some Myths About Working Out When You’re On Your Period?
The biggest myth that menstruation carries is around a woman being impure and almost untouchable—guess most of us may have experienced this with or around other fellow women in our company, if not ourselves. The reason why this was hardcoded (even in) religious books was to make people aware of the hormonal juggernaut a woman goes through and the amount of rest her body requires once every month for 3-5 days. It was a tradition ideally designed with the intention of giving women a legit break from family rearing and chores. However, it took an ugly shape as an oral tradition to wisdom dissemination would have it. So please don’t assume that you are weak or incapacitated. It’s your body’s way of kick-starting after a hectic cycle and the body does it periodically so beautifully—allow it and help it to stay on track by making the right choices
Quick 30-Minute Circuit Training Routine For A Tough Day
- 20 jumping jacks
- 20 high knees
- 20 butt kicks
- 200 jump rope/skipping
- 50 air squats
- 50 sumo squats
- 50 lunges
Round 2 x 2
- 30 sit-ups
- 20 burpees
- 10 push-ups
- 3 minutes – eyes closed deep breathing
- 20 Anulom Vilom
- 50 Kapalbhati