Now, you probably think what on earth does my whole reproductive cycle have to do with my fitness goals? Isn’t it just my period that I need to worry about screwing everything up? For the most part, yes, but if you’re willing to look at your battle against mother nature from a new perspective today we could change the efficiency of how we achieve our weight loss goals forever.
We’ve all been there at that time of the month. Trying our hardest to stay motivated, hold up a positive attitude, and fight off those crazy cravings. It can feel like an insurmountable challenge can’t it? While there’s no way to stop it entirely aside from a full invasive hysterectomy (how bad could that be again..?) There are ways to work with our body’s natural rhythm as well as combat some of those pesky symptoms. No, it won’t take magic or some miracle from god, just a bit of education and hard work.
The menstrual cycle is comprised of four phases.
- Menstrual Phase : The shedding of the uterine lining or “period” itself.
- Follicular Phase : Beginning the first day of the period and lasting roughly two weeks, this phase is the body developing the egg. After the period has ended it is also the time when the uterine lining begins to build itself back up to be shed with the next period should the egg go unfertilized.
- Ovulatory Phase : Following the Follicular Phase, this is the time when the egg is released from the ovary creating the ideal opportunity for conception.
- Luteal Phase : During this phase the follicle once encapsulating the egg begins transforming into a reinforcing structure to help maintain the uterine lining. If pregnancy does not occur the lining then proceeds to break down.
It may come as a surprise that the phases toward the end of the cycle are actually when emotions fluctuate the most. This is due to the body releasing large amounts of hormones to trigger those essential biological shifts within us. Thus generating the imbalances that so routinely throw our moods and drive out of whack.
So when is the best time to tackle fitness goals? Well, the second end of the follicular phase and the ovulation phase offer that much needed boost in mood to get us going. The ovulation phase even raises the pain threshold, making those inevitably sore muscles just a bit more tolerable. Although, take care focusing on the abdominals as mild uterine discomfort can be common during this time.
Now don’t go dismissing your period itself as a bad time to reach for the stars. While you should definitely stay away from the abdominal area during this time, upper body and cardio is perfectly fine. In fact that movement will help ease discomfort and can even help shorten the duration. It may be the last thing you want to do, but the payoff is well worth it.
The most valuable period tip, besides perhaps Midol, is that taking iron supplements to accommodate the drop in levels during this time will dramatically combat that infamous fatigue. Magnesium supplements can also stave off some of those chocolate cravings. On the other hand, a little chocolate never hurt anyone. Opting for varieties on the darker end can eliminate some sugar and guilt if you should so prefer.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is give yourself a break during the Luteal Phase. Being the most intense hormonal shift of the cycle, it can simply be a difficult time to push yourself. Be forgiving, allow yourself indulgences, prioritize getting rest. The cycle goes on and you’ll have many an opportunity to make tremendous headway. Remember, weight loss is a sprint not a marathon.
If you’re interested in optimizing your fitness goals by taking your cycle into consideration the first step should be tracking. You can do this yourself with a calendar or opt for an app such as Flo My Health and Period Tracker. If you own a Fitbit or Apple Watch, these devices already have built in period tracking features for your convenience. The rest is simply putting in the work! I believe in you, take care of yourself, you’re worth it.