Usually spend your period buried under blankets, moving only to use the bathroom or visit the fridge?
To most of us, this sounds like the ideal crimson wave scenario. However, working out during your period will give you a killer endorphin rush, and can actually improve everything from your cramps to your mood. Plus, it'll leave you feeling far more productive than your usual self-pity and sofa surfing cycle.
We're not going to pretend getting started isn't as struggle, but from pain relief to proper clothing, there are tons of ways to make exercising at that time of the month more manageable. Here are 7 tips for period workouts a whole lot easier, because being a woman should never keep you from your goals.
1. Prepare with pain relief
90% of women suffer from menstrual pain, so if you're not one of the lucky 10%, timing your pain relief right is a great way to get up and active without doubling over. Take a paracetamol or similar mild medication around 30 minutes before you begin your regime, and you should find that you function a lot better throughout. Studies have shown that pain relief before exercise can help to regulate your temperature and lengthen the amount of time you can work out for even if you're not on your period, so you might end up have an even better run, cycle or class than usual.
2. Dress for success
Aside from cramping, one of the most common reasons for avoiding exercise during your period is fear of leaking on or staining your gym gear. It's up to you what kind of protection you use (some women swear by tampons, others prefer napkins), but whatever you choose, it's a good idea to change it just before you start working out so that you feel as fresh as possible. If you're feeling really self-conscious, wear dark colours and add a longer t-shirt or add an extra layer—for instance, shorts over your leggings—for extra peace of mind.
3. Change up your routine
Your hormones affect your energy levels, meaning that whilst you may have a well-crafted routine three weeks out of four, your abilities may be different during your cycle. If you normally do really high impact workouts, you might find it easier to switch to a slower paced activity like yoga or pilates during your period, as they're gentler on your system. Swimming is also a great period week exercise—it works your whole body whilst supporting your joints, as well as sensitive areas like your sore back and bloated stomach.
4. But don't be afraid to go for it
On the other hand, if you are feeling motivated, capitalise on it with a HIIT workout, which is said to be most effective at targeting your fat during that time of the month. Exercise psychologist Stacy Sims advises that the balance of oestrogen and progesterone means that your body fat stores are more easily available during your period, giving you the fuel to workout harder and feel the burn more effectively. So if you can face it, it's worth the effort…
5. Hydrate, hydrate hydrate
Let's clear this up once and for all: drinking less water will NOT help with water retention. In fact, most women generally need to drink more during their period to flush everything out and keep their digestive system functioning as normally as possible. Drink at least 2 litres of water each day, and more when exercising, to stay hydrated and healthy during your workout. Cutting down on salt and caffeine can help to minimise the bloating too.
6. Stretch it out
We've already talked about the benefits of yoga, which is seriously great for relaxing those tense muscles, but you should also stretch out after any other kind of exercise too. In particular, moves that include stretching facedown can soothe cramping—our workout plan for the whole of your period will let you know the best options for each stage of your cycle.
7. Take it easy
Despite all of the above, if you really feel like you can't face working out today, don't. The first three days of a period tend to be the toughest, and if you take three days off a month, it's not going to have a massive impact on your overall fitness. Remember, sometimes pain is your body's way of telling you to take some time out. You don't have to let all of your fitness standards slip during your period—you can still eat right, get plenty of sleep and go for a walk to get some fresh air. But if your uterus is telling you to kick back for a day or two, she's probably right, so don't feel guilty for skipping out.