It's shark week, the parting of the Red Sea, also known as a visit from your Aunt Flow – you've got your period. Miserable. The last thing you want to do is throw on some snug workout tights and bounce around at the gym, right? At the same time, you're frustrated this beautiful, wonderful, natural thing called your menstrual cycle is getting in the way of your workout cycle! If this is the story of your life, it's time to get ahead of the game and organize your routine so you don't have to skip the gym just because you're surfing the crimson wave.
Let's base this guide off of a 28-day cycle, ovulating around day 14.
Yeah, no, don't put me down for cardio. Your most intense cardio days won't land on your period days, but you've got to squeeze them in somewhere. Push yourself two to three times a week during cardio sessions for three weeks, beginning to taper off as you feel those PMS symptoms rearing. This means, you'll need to schedule your most intense sessions the first two weeks following your period. These types of workouts will include high intensity interval training, speed training, sprints and hills for runners, and so forth. The third week will be lighter aerobic cardio, like long, slow runs, Zumba, a steady bike ride and the like. By the time you hit your red-letter day, you'll welcome the break!
Weights, resistance and strength training, oh my. Any time is a good time to lift weights! Strength training is recommended two to four times a week. You don't need to spend hours in the gym getting through these workouts, just focus on 15 to 30 minutes of solid effort with a good warm up and post stretching. Once your period hits, you don't have to stop. You might want to scale back on the reps, though. More reps means more blood flow. You also might want to lighten the load because it takes much more exertion in the core and diaphragm to properly lift heavy. For effective strength training, go big at least once a week, and use the other days as maintenance training or opportunities for compound exercises. During your period, focus more on the upper body with dumbbells, resistance bands and bodyweight training. Here's what this cardio-strength combo looks like:
Week 1: Two days of intense or high-level cardio, two days of strength training, one day of heavy strength training
Week 2: Three days of intense high-level cardio and conditioning, one day of heavy strength, one day of maintenance strength
Week 3: Two days aerobic training or low-impact cardio, two days strength training, one day strength and stretch (Pilates, anyone?)
Week 4: At-home yoga flows, foam rolling, light weight training for upper body, bodyweight exercises, mobility exercises, active recovery for three to five days
What you can actually get away with during your period is totally up to you. If you're really crampy and bloated, core exercises are just not happening. This is a great time for restorative yoga and mobility exercises. The first few days could be at-home yoga flows paired with after-dinner walks and foam rolling. After the worst is over, hit the gym for some light weight training, focusing on the upper body or bodyweight exercises. Check out these moves below:
Legs Up on Wall Pose: Relieve some of the belly pressure and take the load off of your lower back by getting into this pose. You literally use a wall to extend your legs. You can grab a pillow and place it underneath your tailbone, not so much the lower back but the actual pelvic bone. That way, your lumbar spine and release. You'll regulate your circulation, refreshing the heart and lungs and relieving cramps. Need tips on getting into it? Learn more here.
Malasana or Garland Pose: You don't need to be super flexible to get into this pose. Pressing the elbows against the knees or inner thighs will push open the hips. Menstruation often causes tenderness and soreness in the hip flexors, back and even the inner thighs. Drop into the garland pose for sweet relief. Learn more about it here.
Go through this flow of 6 Yoga Moves to Relieve Stress with Real Mom Model Jean Sherfick to ease the monthly discomfort and give some TLC to your hardworking body.
Keep up with your light, aerobic cardio after the first couple of days so you don't lose your edge. Try incorporating exercises like these:
The Heisman: Wake up those legs with a little side-to-side cutting action. Come into a half-squat and stay low as you quickly move side to side, bringing the entire upper body with you as you switch legs. Anytime you can work the glutes and quads, you'll be increasing your heart rate and blood flow super fast. Check it out here.
Speed Bag Punches: You might just want to punch something, so why not a pretend speed bag? Come into a nice, wide stance and bounce side to side on the feet as you roll the fists over each other. Burn up those shoulders! Nothing like a little martial arts action to keep you disciplined. Check it out here.
Start your day or take a lunch break with this Post-Recovery Workout from the Kristin McGee Series to boost your spirit and get you back into your groove.