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April 04, 2022

Exercise & Your Cycle: Optimize Your Training

Written by Coach Hiruni W

If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve likely had days when your cycle has impacted your runs or workouts. Some of those interruptions may have felt so severe, you've wondered how and when you should exercise during your cycle.

We chatted with Dr. Sahana Gopal, Head of Product at Wild AI (Wild AI is - an app that helps you train, fuel and recover with your female physiology) about the top five most common questions, related to your hormonal changes and how to be prepared tobe in "flo" with your cycle. 

  1. Should I run during my period?

WILD-AI_1You can definitely run while on your cycle, provided you aren’t suffering from period-related symptoms.
Some research even shows that gentle exercise can help reduce severity of period pain. Your hormone levels are actually the lowest at this time, which means that there is minimal impact on your metabolism, your resting heart rate is typically at its lowest, and your time to recover may be quicker. For instance, because female hormones impact metabolism, your body is better able to utilize carbohydrates which are the primary fuel source for high intensity type running. Lower levels of hormones also mean that you’re able to cope with heat better and your time to recover from high intensity work may be shorter, compared to when your hormones are higher.

 

  1. Should I fuel differently during my cycle vs my normal diet?

Estrogen and progesterone are the two main hormones to consider across the menstrual cycle when it comes to nutrition. Because the levels of these two hormones are lowest during the period, they have minimal impact on metabolism and you can stick to your normal intake of protein and carbohydrates based on your workout intensity. It’s also a good idea to focus on having carbohydrates after training as more carbs may be utilized by your muscles at this time of your cycle. Because the period is an inflammatory process, eating foods rich in iron such as fortified cereals, dark green leafy veg and/or beans is a good way to keep levels in check due to blood loss.

 

  1. My cramps are so severe that running is difficult. What should I do to stay active?

Firstly, having a painful period is not normal and there is a lot you can do to change this. Because of the inflammatory process that leads to your period, it’s important to make changes (5-7 days) before its onset so that your body can cope with the increase in inflammation and pain symptoms.WILD-AI_2

  • -Have 1g omega-3 rich food or a supplement

  • -Have food rich in magnesium (250mg) and zinc (30mg)

  • -Reduce saturated fats and dairy products

  • -Have a low dose anti-inflammatory such as baby aspirin or white willow bark.

Always have any supplements approved by your physician.

If you still suffer from cramps, research shows that light-moderate exercise can help reduce pain levels. Try moving your body in any way that feels good to you at this time. Importantly, this doesn't have to be your hardest workout of the month, if you don't feel up to it. Consider focusing on stretching, yoga and flexibility work at this time instead.

 

  1. I’ve noticed my heart rate increases during my period. Is this normal?

Heart rate, particularly at rest, is usually at its lowest during your period, leading up to ovulation, which is the midpoint of the cycle. Once ovulation (release of the egg into the fallopian tube) has occurred, resting heart rate increases along with core body temperature as a result of the increase in female hormones, particularly progesterone.

 

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