Your workout vs. your period
If your periods are painful, you’ve probably searched online to see what you can do to reduce the pain naturally. In fact, there’s a lot of information available that encourages workouts on your period. This is based on the fact that exercise increases healthy blood flow to the uterus, and that in general, exercise is very beneficial to the body and mind. Because of this info avoiding your workouts on your period might sound like an old wives tale.
In addition, you might not want to feed into the stereotype that ‘women are weakened by their period’, or that women use their period is an excuse to slack off. In the past, you’ve been in some serious pain and you felt some judgement from your gym buddy or male teammates when you told them why you couldn’t make it out. Because of the cultural bias (and in spite of your very real pain), you might feel pressure to ignore your period and carry on with your workouts as you normally would.
Another reason you might not want to take a break from your workouts on your period is because you’re training for a race, committed to a fitness program, or in the thick of a 30-day workout challenge. If you take a break during your period, you might lose the momentum you’ve built so far. Maybe you’ve paid for classes in advance, and there’s no way to move them to a later date. So you suck it up and get your butt to class in order to keep up with the status quo.
But your periods are still so bad, and you think you’re missing something when it comes to exercise and your menstrual cycle. In this article, we’ll show you why it’s healthy to avoid intense workouts on your period.
So about your uterus…
It’s interesting to note that there aren’t many medical studies or sources of info on a healthy uterus! But we’ll work with the info that is available.
The uterus changes in weight
The uterus is heaviest right before and on the first 2 days of your period. This is because the uterine lining, the endometrium, has thickened and blood flow has increased to the pelvic area. In addition, the high levels of progesterone leading up to your period can cause fluid retention and bloating.
The uterus affects the pelvic area
In the days before and during your period, the uterus is ‘large and in charge’ in the pelvis. So how does this affect the rest of the body?
Here’s some context: the uterus is located behind the bladder and in front of the lowest part of the large intestine. Normally, the uterus tilts forward over the bladder. It’s held in position by ligaments that connect it to the front of the sacrum, the pelvis and to the pubic bones. It’s also supported by the pelvic floor.
You also need to know that the uterus is mobile and increased pressure from the abdominal muscles pushes it downwards.
So what happens when you work out on your period?
If you really want to continue with strenuous exercise like CrossFit, long distance running, intense spin classes or power yoga during your period, hear us out.
The combination of strenuous exercise and the increased pressure that comes from bloating and the full endometrium lining puts undue strain on the ligaments of the pelvis. This could cause your uterus to be pushed out of alignment. The most common misalignment is where the uterus tips backwards towards the rectum instead of forward over the bladder. This may increase your painful periods, cause painful sex, minor incontinence, fertility difficulties and make it hard to insert a tampon.
Restore and repair
In the days before and during your period, your body is in its personal ‘wintertime’, a natural time for introversion and restoration. When you take rest, you allow your body the necessary time it needs to repair itself. Rest days are a part of every successful workout plan, and they’re also part of your body’s natural design. Honor menstruation as your natural time to take a rest and it will be easier for you to build muscle when you get back to your usual workouts.
We recommend that you take a break from strenuous exercise a couple days before your period starts and resume after your period is done. This would be a total of 5-7 days.
Take a break from :
Weight bearing exercise
Yoga and Pilates that breaks a sweat
Skiing or snowboarding
To keep your routine and gain the benefit of moving your body, try lighter forms of ‘exercise’.
Take time for:
Yin or restorative forms of yoga
If you have painful periods or other negative menstrual-related symptoms, we advise you to try low-intensity movement for 5-7 days around your period. Because of the additional pressure menstruation places on the uterus, its muscles and ligaments, your usual workout may push your uterus out of alignment and cause you pain. In addition, you could see greater results from your workouts after your period if you take time for your body to repair.
Try it out next period: mark your calendar a couple days before you’re due to bleed and decide on what type of gentle movement you could look forward to. You can expect reduced pain and maybe some other insights that come with tuning in to your menstrual cycle.
More info on periods + workouts
If you want to know what to eat during your period, check out our blog post here.
And if you want a program created for your unique body, goals, and needs and are too busy to make it to a class, consider online/remote training with the capable Lina Midla! All programs are crafted with your needs and equipment/space scenarios in mind. Includes weekly check-ins and unlimited email access for questions and support. Get more info here.