Is Your Workout Hormone-Friendly?

Eloise Edington  |   25 Jan 2022

We’re approaching the end of January which means gyms are slightly less crowded than they were the first few weeks of 2022, although it’s still too cold to zealously go for a run or do some park yoga.

And although the days are lighter for a fraction longer, it’s still terribly tempting to snuggle inside on the sofa with a hot water bottle – especially when we’re on our periods.

At Fertility Help Hub, we know the arrival of our period can be devastating and the struggles of (infertility) and TTC can last a long, long time.  As we’re all regularly reminded, having a healthy lifestyle and taking moderate exercise regularly can boost fertility.  But how do we find the willpower to workout when we’re feeling low, tired and have stomach cramps?  And how do I improve fertility with exercise?

Our friends at The Handbook have four tips for syncing your workout with hormones so you can do the best workouts for fertility.

Please be aware that any dramatic change to your workout regime should be discussed with your fertility specialist.

Over to The Handbook…

Monthly menstruation can really interrupt our daily regimes, but instead of making a cycle fit to your routine, have you tried fitting your routine to your cycle? There are many fitness experts, period professionals and apps to offer your expert tips on how to work with hormone changes to stay fit and chances of conception.

Back To Basics

How much do you actually know about your own cycle? Your period is loosely divided into four phases. During these times, there are several changes in the oestrogen levels of your body. When it’s high, you’ll have the most endurance, and when it’s low you’ll need to take it slower.

  • The first phase: menstruation.
  • The second: the follicular phase, which starts the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate.
  • Next up is ovulation.
  • Then it’s the luteal phase, the time between ovulation and your next period when the body prepares for a potential pregnancy.

Related article: Exercises to improve fertility

Phase One: Keep Moving

From the day of your first period, listen to your body and try not to push things too hard as the oestrogen will be at a low level. That being said, it’s still okay to do low-intensity cardio like walking, yoga, pilates, slow jogs and meditation. Low-intensity exercises help balance mood swings and boost low energy levels, and the steady release of endorphins will help to alleviate painful PMS cramps.

Emma Lowe is a yogi who specialises in women’s self care, and menstrual and sexual health. She develops short yoga courses to help you understand your hormones and cycles and learn how to respond to them. Her approach uses ancient tantric wisdom related to the earth and nature alongside research around the female body. Find out more about Emma Lowe here.

Phase Two: Go Hard, Don’t Go Home

The week and a half or so after your period is when your body is primed to really hit it hard. (But be kind to your body if you’re TTC.) A rise in oestrogen means you’re going to have the most endurance during this phase, so you could (slightly) increase the intensity of your workout. The hormones in the body have anti-inflammatory properties which help to aid recovery after exercise too. Try your hand at circuit training, running or boxing to unleash the restlessness of the few days before.

Jessica Ennis-Hill’s app CycleMapping launches soon to help you workout to the peaks and troughs in your period. The app will tune into each phase of your cycle, so you know when it’s best to do that HIIT class. She also has a range of period-specific stretch sessions and insider tips on cramp and ache-relieving circuits. Find out more about CycleMapping here.

Phase Three: Heavy Lifting

When ovulation starts, that’s the time for the big gun show. The extra boost in oestrogen will help weight training by soothing the muscles. And progesterone remains low, meaning that the body’s overall pain tolerance increases.

Fitr Woman is an app that has been developed to coach you on eating habits and offers personal training advice synced with the different phases of your cycle. You’ll get notifications straight to your phone about what exercises to do and when, and some healthy recipes. Find out more about Fitr Woman here.

Phase Four: Chill Out

The week before your period is never easy, especially when you’re TTC and thinking: Will I get my period or won’t I? Alongside anxiety around whether you’re pregnant, you might have sore boobs, cramps, bloating and general fatigue – So slip back into your phase one regime of yoga and restorative walks.

There are also lots of apps for you to track when your next period is due, such as MyFlow or Moody Month. They give you handy hints on when it’s best for your body to do a sprint rather than a jog, when you should attempt that office presentation or even when to have the best sex.

Understanding how to plan your workouts with your hormones can help you feel motivated to get fit and, ultimately, boost your chances of conceiving.

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