Exercising With Your Cycle

Creating Balance by Working With Your Cycle

Have you ever noticed a natural fluctuation of energy with your menstrual cycle? Maybe you even considered programming your exercise routine with your cycle but didn’t know where to start? If so, this blog is for you as it will help outline a normal menstrual cycle and how you can optimally train with the natural changes your body is going through. The menstrual cycle itself starts on the first day of menstruation (bleeding) and last 24-32 days until the first day of your next cycle. 

This is where Eastern Medicine meets Western Medicine to bring you the best of both worlds to help you exercise with your cycle instead of against. One of my favorite parts about Traditional Chinese Medicine is their view on “balance”. It isn’t this 50/50 relationship we often think about when we hear the word balance, instead it this intertwined relationship that is always moving and always evolving but is balanced in the long-term. It is yin yang. It is both lightness and darkness, activity and rest, water and fire. These things work together to create the natural flow of life. Yin is a state of rest, darkness, cold and thinking inward while yang is a state of movement, light, heat and outward function. We don’t need or want 50% rest and 50% activity at all times, but in the long run we thrive when this is balanced. Training with your cycle is about respecting the ebbs and flows of your hormones.

Phase 1: Menstruation (Days 1-5ish)

Menstruation is when we are bleeding as the uterine lining is shedding. It is what most people think of when they hear the word cycle. Menstruation is considered the most yin state, it is the time for cleansing. Quite a few women feel their mood dwindle (looking at you, PMS), energy decrease and a change in appetite when bleeding. Now is the time we are in a yin state and this is a great cue to SLOW DOWN. After exercising, add more recovery time or include mindful movements like stretching, meditation, yoga, pilates and even going for walks. Self-care is important during the menstrual phase of the cycle so make sure you are getting enough quality sleep as during menses is the time to rest and renew.

Menstruation is the time to rest, release, renew & restore.

Phase 2: Follicular Phase (Days 6-13ish)

As menstruation ends and we build up towards ovulation, many women notice they are more energized. Now is the time to create new beginnings in the sense of awareness and concentration. If you have been wanting to increase the tempo or learn new skills, this is the time. Many women note increased muscle strength, stability and endurance during this phase.  Gradually increase the intensity of your activities by increasing vigorous exercise, adding in weight lifting, power activities or focusing on agility and skill work. 

The follicular phase is the time to ramp up and increase tempo.

Phase 3: Ovulation (day 14ish but can happen within a 3-5 day window)

Ovulation is one of the most important phases on the cycle, in fact you NEED to ovulate in order to get pregnant. This is the time you may see or feel increased cervical fluid (the sticky egg-white fluid in your underwear or on the toilet paper after you wipe) and you may feel warm due to increase in basal body temperature. These are all signs that you have increased progesterone which is great because it can lead to improved sleep, mood, and focus. Do you feel a surge of energy or concentration during ovulation? Many women notice increased energy and a desire to connect. Ovulation is a great time to increase your exercise and maybe even aim to hit a new PR. This is the time to hone in on skills and strength and really connect with your goals, both long-term and short-term.

Ovulation is the the time to build strength.

Phase 4: Luteal Phase (days 15-28ish)

If you are pregnant, now is the time the egg will be implanting and progesterone will be increasing to support the pregnancy. Whether you are trying to conceive or not, this is a great time of increased awareness so bring comfort to the body, mind and soul. As we wind down from the PRs and vigorous exercise of the follicular and ovulatory phases, increase restorative exercise, focus on form, technique and skills. Slow down on vigorous exercise and increase stretching and mobility.

The luteal phase is the time to hone in on skills and start slowing down.

If you are looking for support on how to exercise with your cycle, reach out and let us know how we can help!

Rib Pain and Pregnancy

Rib Pain and Pregnancy

The third trimester of pregnancy—you’re fast approaching meeting your little one who may currently be treating your ribs as their own personal trampoline. That feeling of not being able to fully breathe or that you are getting drop-kicked in the ribs is pretty common. While it’s common, it doesn’t mean you are stuck with it for the next 12 weeks. 

Bear Crawling While Pregnant

I like to move it, move it, I like to….MOVE IT!

CRAWLING…it’s something you will see your little one do at 8-10 months old but just as it is a great developmental milestone for them, it can help you feel and move better too! Crawling helps to stabilize the pelvis and create good coordination in movement. Keeping a neutral spine during the movement can actually help improve diaphragmatic breathing as well. Crawling, both on all fours and in bear can help keep that pelvis mobile which comes in mighty handy during labor.

The Deep Squat and Pregnancy

I already wrote an ode to squatting while pregnant (Parts 1, 2 & 3) because it’s really that amazing but here’s a recap as to why the squat can be the bee’s knees during pregnancy (along with possible risks). As always, you and you alone can decide what is best for you and your baby so use that mama intuition and do what you feel is best.

RISKS of deep squatting during pregnancy and labor

  1. Ideally not performed if you have a prolapse as the pelvic floor is most relaxed in the deep squat and it could increase a prolapse.

  2. If your baby is breech, this exercise may further engage the baby’s feet or bottom into the pelvic floor. We want the head engaged rather than the feet or butt so if you are 32+ weeks and know your baby is breech, this exercise is best avoided.

  3. May increase second degree tears and blood loss during labor.

BENEFITS of deep squatting during pregnancy and labor

  1. The deep squat may help engage the baby and allow for it to be in an optimal position.

  2. In a relaxed position, the deep squat may decrease pain, labor time and decrease need for cesarean by utilizing gravity to help the baby descend.

  3. May reduce the need for episiotomy or assisted deliveries (the need for forceps and vacuum) during delivery.

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How to Squat While Pregnant

  1. Keep feet ~ shoulder width apart

  2. Have feet mostly forward but turned outward slightly…everybody is different so find a position that is comfortable for your body

  3. Keep your ribs down and chest up

  4. Squat down and use the glutes (butt muscles) to push you upward

If you have pinching in the front of the hips, feel limited in movement or have increased pain or discomfort, don’t hesitate to reach out. Dr. Lauren helps mamas squat daily and has a unique approach to ensure you are squatting well thanks to her training in pelvic floor rehab, CrossFit and DNS.