The gym may be the last place you can imagine yourself when your period arrives. I get it.
During that time of the month where you’re bloated, in discomfort and generally feeling ‘meh’, anything that involves moving feels 10 times harder.
For some women (the lucky ones) the first few days of the cycle doesn’t effect them. These (super) women are able to go about their day as if nothing is happening. In true female manner we can begin to compare ourselves to these women, suddenly wondering if we ‘should’ be training while “on”. The adverts by sanitary product companies don’t help our confusion either, I know they mean well with the women in the adverts, but it can make us feel like we ‘need’ to be like that.
So should we be training on our period?
There’s been studies on this topic to determine if we should or shouldn’t train when we have our period, the result is that there’s no right or wrong answer: it all depends on the individual.
Let’s have a quick recap of what’s going on in your body during the first few days of your cycle.
Your uterus has identified that with no fertilised egg, the shedding of the lining (period fluid) can begin, leading to a series of rather unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms known as PMS – Premenstrual Syndrome:
- heavy flow
- mood swings
- general feeling of ‘meh’
- desire to stay in pyjamas
- temptation to eat all the chocolate and ice cream
The severity of symptoms vary from woman to woman, some women can experience mild cramps which can be eased off with an over the counter painkiller whereas other women experience cramps that make it hard to even walk. As such, the decision to train is completely up to the individual.
Contrary to how you may be feeling, there are several benefits that partaking in some sort of movement as opposed to sitting on the sofa can help ease off PMS.
Boost your mood
- Exercise releases endorphins, which is the ‘feel good’ hormone. If you don’t feel like pushing yourself to doing some high intensity training or setting new PBs that’s fine, even something light such as taking a walk can make you feel so much better than if you were sat on the sofa in a state of self pity.
Blood circulation can ease cramps and pain
- With movement you’re encouraging your blood to circulate around the body, which eases off cramps and pain you may experience.
*TMI WARNING, Note: if you experience a heavy flow that requires a change of sanitary products frequently you may want to give training a miss as an increase in circulation will only increase this flow, which can be uncomfortable and stressful if you’re out in public.
- Those endorphins can do more than just improve your mood, they can reduce inflammatory prostaglandins. Prostaglandins is a chemical released from a group of cells that form the lining of the uterus, which during menstruation are broken down. As this chemical is released, it constricts the blood flow in the uterus causing cramps. A little bit of exercise can ease this pain off.
Reduce the bloating
- If you are feeling a bit puffy and bloated, a sweat out will help reduce this. Don’t forget to drink your fluids throughout, the body requires a lot of water to function so it needs to be reminded that there isn’t a lack of water supply so it doesn’t need to hold onto any extra.
Your body is at a perfect hormone level during your flow
- Your oestrogen and progesterone levels are at it’s lowest during the first few days of your cycle, which means you’re actually pretty strong during this time. Furthermore, your recovery level is high and you’re less likely to feel pain.
*Training tip – Despite feeling ‘meh’ use this time to work with lower reps and higher weight, you may just set that new PB you’ve been working towards!
*Nutrition tip – as your oestrogen and progesterone levels are low your body is able to use carbohydrates and glycogen effectively, if there’s a time to increase your carbohydrates it’s now!
As mentioned, the choice to train on your period is completely up to you, and there’s no right or wrong answer. My post here is to present the facts and for you to decide yourself. If you feel fine to train, I would recommend it, we’ve seen that your body is actually is a really good state to exercise and there are both psychological and physical benefits if you’re experiencing PMS. On the other end of the spectrum, if you suffer significantly during your period visit then taking a day or two off from the gym won’t affect your progress. Take the rest, enjoy it and return when you’re feeling more yourself.
Article written by Claudia Hodgson