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Understanding your body is always essential if you want to feel empowered about your choices. If you are noticing the changes that your body goes through each month it's important to "connect the dots" and realize that there are many different reasons for the challenges you face.
These are my top tips on how to feel your best and get moving too. While it may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you'd rather hide under the covers keep reading...I promise you won't be disappointed...
Exercise: Yay or Nay?
When you begin your cycle exercise might be the last thing you want to do. While curling up into a ball and watching hours of "Grace & Frankie" might seem preferable to hitting the weights, hear me out! The endorphins you release when you workout can help regulate your hormones and mood which is especially welcome if you're feeling down. Increased blood flow from exercise also helps reduce cramps and stress. It's also a natural pick me up when you're feeling tired and fatigued. Start slow by stretching, forward folds and child's pose are a great way to alleviate abdominal cramps and get your body ready for a more rigorous workout.
Did you know that during your period your estrogen levels are at an all time low? While this might sound like a bad thing it can actually increase your strength and endurance! Instead of taking a break try a new strength training class or interval workout. Many women report breezing through their workouts once they get to the gym- you might even set a new personal record without trying.
Period Workout: Lifting the Curse
How Does My Hormone Cycle Work?
Exercise During Your Period (& why you should absolutely do it!)
Menstrual Cup vs. Tampons/Pads
In addition to holding more liquid, costing less and being better for the environment menstrual cups can also decrease your cramps over time and even shorten your period. There's no known risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and you can use a single cup for at least a year depending on the brand. When you're working out you're less likely to suffer from leaks or spills and you won't be inserting harmful chemicals from bleached cotton into your body. Tampons absorb all the moisture in your vaginal canal and can also cause tiny paper cuts when inserted (talk about ouch!) Feel uneasy inserting your cup? Like most things, practice makes perfect! Don't miss the opportunity to get to know your body better either...if you haven't had the opportunity to explore and understand your monthly cycle now is a great time to start.
My take...Personally I have been using a menstrual cup for 1.5 years and the way I feel is astoundingly different. No more emergency runs to the drugstore or having to wake-up in the middle of the night for me! Pre-cup I was cramping for the first 3 days of my period and I was taking ibuprofen for the pain. These were not the "I'm slightly uncomfortable" cramps, they were the "I need to lie down like I'm having a back spasm" type of situation. I'm not alone either, over 40% of women experience cramps during their periods and 10% of that group is incapacitated for one to three days because of their pain! Today I have one day of cramping, not 3-5, and I use a heating pad on that day to feel better. I contribute less cramps and a shorter period to switching from traditional tampons. Today the first day of my cycle is uncomfortable, but using a heating pad can alleviate cramps naturally and after that I am pain free! I also plan ahead and make sure that first day is free from too many responsibilities. Which leads me to my next point...
How a Cup Changed My Life
Tampons and their effect on the vagina
18 Reasons You Should Switch To The Menstrual Cup
Schedule "Me Time"
Ever have an unexpected, emotional moment then realize it's almost time for your cycle to start? "Ah-ha!" you say as you realize these shifts aren't that uncommon after all. Getting caught off guard by your body's rhythm is common but tuning into your inner 'schedule' can help you feel and perform better than ever. The two weeks leading up to your period is when your estrogen levels soar and your emotions and moods fluctuate the most. This can also lead to a dip in energy so be sure to track your period to understand your natural cycle better. One great app for this is Ovia. While it's designed for a woman trying to conceive it also allows you to track your symptoms and estimate your cycle length so you can plan your schedule around your body.
My take...As an entrepreneur I don't have colleagues to fall back on, it's just me! When I'm feeling down and out it's hard not to perform, I either get things done or fall behind. Instead of feeling trapped I pay attention to my cycle by tracking it with an app. This way I can schedule presentations and work meetings appropriately and move other obligations if need be. I don't always get the chance to take it easy when I know my body will need rest but I am aware of WHY I feel down or tired and that helps immensely.
Go With the Flow
schedule your workouts to feel amazing any time of the month
the beginning of your cycle
Capitalize on increased strength, power and endurance during this time of the month. Add more weight to your exercises, try a new class or up the intensity of your cardio. Now is the time to push yourself if you are feeling up to it- enjoy the benefits of low estrogen and don't be surprised if your cramps decrease as your mood elevates.
beginning with ovulation until the day before your period
Hormones are elevated and that can result in mood shifts, lack of energy and an increase in anxiety and frustration. Instead of pushing yourself choose a more restorative activity like yin yoga, a low-grade hike or walk or try a meditation class. Swimming and biking are great low-impact ways to get your heart pumping as well. If you are truly exhausted it's time to rest...listen to your body and know that restoration is just as important as sweating it out.
Questions or comments? Leave a note below, I look forward to hearing your perspective!
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About the Author
Lily lives in the Bay Area of California with her husband. She loves to lift heavy, watch vintage movies and cheer on her fellow warrior queens!