The Ultimate Guide to Navigating Your Menstrual Cycle with Exercise

How to Exercise in Each Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is the monthly phase all women go through when estrogen and progesterone rise and fall at different points within a 28-day period. The average length of a menstrual cycle tends to be around 28 days, but it can vary from 21 to 35 days in young and healthy women. However, what’s important is the consistency of your cycle, so if you have an average of 28 days that’s totally normal too!

Periods are typically divided into three phases: follicular, ovulatory and luteal. Each phase has its own set of changes to your body that cause unique symptoms. The follicular phase starts on the first day of bleeding from your last period (day 1) through ovulation (day 14). During this time, the lining of your uterus gets thicker as it prepares for a fertilized egg. Ovulation occurs about halfway through your cycle between day 12-16 (depending on your individual cycle length). This is when an egg is released from one of the ovaries into the fallopian tubes for fertilization by sperm.

The luteal phase occurs after ovulation (about day 15) until menses begins again around day 27-29. During this time, you’re either pregnant or not pregnant depending on whether or not sperm was successful in reaching and penetrating a mature egg during fertile times – this process takes approximately six days but can take up to 12 days post-ovulation if necessary due to sperm’s lifespan in vaginal fluid being up to seven days post-ejaculation.


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Phase 1: Menstruation

It’s the first day of your period, which means you’re releasing an egg that was not fertilized. It can be rough because of all the cramping, but there are things you can do to make it easier:

  • Drink plenty of water and treat your body like it would on any other day
  • Keep moving (don’t skip your workout)
  • Take it easy and don’t do heavy lifting
  • Relax and rest down with a heating pad on sore muscles as needed
  • Eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids

Phase 2: Follicular Phase

The follicular phase is the first half of your cycle and starts at the beginning of your period. During this time, you may experience some irregular bleeding or spotting. This is normal. Your estrogen levels will be rising during this time and you should feel an increase in energy!

This is a good time to take advantage of all that extra energy and get in some higher intensity workouts like running intervals, plyos, heavy barbell lifts, etc. Just make sure not to overdo it because with high estrogen comes increased risk for injury. Make sure you are getting ample rest and recovery!

If you are following a structured training plan (like one from Train Heroic) I recommend doing the workout as prescribed but listen to your body if it needs to scale back the intensity or volume of the workout! Likewise, if you are following a more relaxed or unstructured training plan (like 10-15 minutes per day on your Peloton bike) I would stick with your routine but make note that a higher intensity would be appropriate for this phase of your cycle.

Phase 3: Ovulation

Ovulation Days 11-16. This is the phase where you want to put yourself out there and try new things. You have a ton of energy, your body feels amazing, and you’re in the mood to be social. This is the time of the month when you should pick up that new dance class or run that 5K race.

In this phase, consider signing up for some group fitness classes because it’s easier to stay motivated when you’re surrounded by other people doing the same thing as you. If a group fitness class isn’t your thing, take advantage of feeling so good! Go on a hike with friends or do some outdoor yoga with your partner.

Phase 4: Luteal Phase

Luteal phase is the last phase of your menstrual cycle before you start bleeding. The luteal phase typically lasts 14 days, making it shorter than the follicular phase.

According to Dr. Turner, this is when most people see a shift in their symptoms because estrogen and progesterone levels drop when ovulation has happened and are at their lowest during this time. Symptoms of this phase include bloating, mood swings, breast tenderness, and irregular spotting or spotting after sex.

Because your hormones are fluctuating, your body needs extra energy to maintain homeostasis (a stable internal environment). This means that during this timeline it’s best to rest and focus on low-impact exercise like walking or swimming—you’ll thank us later!

Days of rest are important, too!

Sometimes, exercising during your period can feel like a chore. But there are some things you can do to make it as painless and effective as possible. And remember: rest days are important, too!

  • Rest is important for recovery. Resting is crucial if you’re an active or competitive athlete in order to allow the body to recover from training and injuries. But on the days leading up to your period and during it, rest may be even more essential. This allows you to listen to your body and prevent straining it any further than necessary.
  • Be aware of your heart rate. If you’re one of those people who has a hard time sleeping when she’s on her period, try taking a walk—it will help lower your resting heart rate (RHR) so that you can fall asleep faster at night. Your RHR is the speed at which your heart beats when you’re relaxed and not engaged in activity; women’s RHRs tend to rise around day 13 of their menstrual cycle due to increased progesterone levels. In contrast, exercise decreases stress hormones like cortisol, resulting in better sleep quality overall!
  • Don’t overtrain or push yourself too hard before or during menstruation time because this could lead to burnout or injury later on down the road; instead take care by doing low-intensity workouts like yoga classes with friends so that they provide both mental health benefits as well as physical ones for yourself! Keep reading about how exercise affects menstruation here.”

Final thoughts!

Your menstrual cycle can be divided into four phases: the follicular phase, ovulation phase, luteal phase, and menstruation. Every woman is different in how long her cycle lasts and how her symptoms change during the cycle. In order to use your menstrual cycle to help plan your training, it’s important that you know how your body responds during different phases of your own cycle.

If you haven’t already been doing so, I highly recommend keeping a training diary for at least one month where you record everything about your training and also track when you’re on or off your period. This will allow you to see your body’s reaction to different types of workouts at various points in the month so that you can better plan future sessions based around what works best for YOU!