The best workouts for every week of your menstrual cycle
It's not a coincidence that certain workouts seem easier or tougher during the same time of the month. You can thank — or not thank — hormones.
Our hormones play a big role in how our bodies react to workouts. As they prepare us for a baby — and then not a baby — our stamina, energy and mood are dragged along for the roller coaster ride with them. Take a month and try, um, going with the tide.
Image: Olgierd Rudak/Flickr
Week 1 starts when your period begins. During this phase, our estrogen and progesterone hormones are at their lowest — making our bodies more similar to a man's, if you will. During our period, our recovery time can be quicker and our pain tolerance higher. So, this means we can kick it up a notch.
Even though periods can make us feel sluggish, you might be surprised how easy it is to get through a challenging workout at the gym. According to TNation, your body is in optimal carb-burning mode to help you fuel muscle building. Don't succumb to your brain promising you'll go to the gym "tomorrow." It is crucial to exercise during this week because metabolism slows down. Focus on progress, high-intensity and anaerobic (like weight lifting) workouts.
Try: Strength training, spinning, classes like BODYPUMP
Image: Ole Husby/Flickr
In Week 2, you may notice a little more bounce in your step. Your body is prepping for ovulation and hormones are on the rise. The additional estrogen allows your muscles to absorb sugars more efficiently, giving you a little extra energy. That makes this week a prime time to try interval training workouts. They require high energy and lots of fuel, so make sure you're back to eating healthy, nutritious meals.
However, do be aware: According to Glamour, the increased estrogen can make your muscles more pliable — which means they'll have less shock-absorbing qualities, making you more prone to injury. So, be careful! Don't skip your warm-ups, stretches or cool downs.
Try: High-intensity interval training, Tabata workouts, jumping rope
Image: Ernst Moeksis/Flickr
Week 3 begins right around ovulation — hormones have peaked and are starting to fall again. Your metabolism is beginning to increase (and so are your cravings). Additionally, your body has switched its preference from burning carbs to burning fat. So, cool it on the carbs this week and next to see results.
Before the water weight really piles on in Week 4, take advantage of your dwindling motivation (next week you'll have zip) and opt for steady cardio workouts.
Try: Long-distance jogging, swimming
Week 4 is when PMS is at its maximum: You'll be craving carbs and Netflix. You are not going to want to work out this week — and if you do, your body will seem to be fighting you the whole way through. If you choose the wrong workout, you can get frustrated, emotional and feel that you have made no progress. And, worse, you'll call it quits on exercise until you feel better in a week or two.
Make this week enjoyable when it comes to exercise. You may not have the energy or stamina for high-energy or challenging workouts, so opt for the workouts that relax you and clear your mind.
Try: Yoga, Pilates, a workout you love