written by Dr. Priyanka Pal Mantri, M.D. Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine on Jun 22, 2018 in FITNESS
Those five days every month: Excuse or Exercise!
Back from yet another early morning session with Boot Camp Yellow, those innumerable burpees, squats, lunges & push-ups make me feel nothing less than invigorated. As I freshen-up and sit down to have my bowl of oats with nuts & cherries by the side, I sip into my turmeric green tea and smile to myself - another day well begun, so what if it’s the first day of my periods!
Those five days every month, sometimes a few before & a few after, are the most uncalled-for for any woman, yet it is a perfectly normal and natural process of regeneration that we as women are designed to go through in our fertile years. A common question then arises - should we be doing anything differently vis-a-vis exercise in these days or rather - should we be exercising at all!!
Over these thirty odd years of going through varying degrees of PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) myself, I have been nothing less than irritable, anxious, low on energy, bloated, remarkably unhot, even depressed, all cramped-up in pain & have even managed to faint once in a while. All this said, in the past few years as I got fitness conscious & sanity prevailed, never have I ever stopped moving & training even on the heaviest of flows. Why??? Simply because I realized any level of exercise makes me feel happy and happy hormones are exactly what you need in those days & not pastries or do-nuts.
There is enough scientific evidence out there about exercise releasing good hormones (endorphins) into the blood stream. These magical molecules help relieve menstrual cramps & inflammation, reduce stress & anxiety and combat those much dreaded mood-swings our husbands could otherwise swear by! Surprisingly misconceptions are still galore even amongst some trainers (let alone our elders) who fail to understand the science behind this normal physiological process & instead advise women against workouts during periods. Now tell me frankly, have we ever seen our national & international women athletes withdraw from major events after months of rigorous preparation simply because they are chumming in those days?? Hell NO! Then why should we behave any different! What we then need to learn from these smart strong women is to find a way around it & not against it!
The fact of the matter is exercise can never be detrimental to a woman’s health during her periods unless of course it is absolutely contraindicated for specific reasons by her doctor. All one needs to do is adjust one’s training plan, work around the menstrual cycle and make the most of those days as well in the process. The intensity & nature of exercises would need to be modified or scaled (never hesitate to inform your trainer about your state) so we feel comfortable in our own body and in group classes.
The initial days (week 1): In the first week or so (the cycle begins from day one of bleeding) the abdomen area is particularly bloated & sensitive. So make sure to not push yourself too much here and at the same time try not be a couch potato. Go for a simple walk in the park, a light jog or maybe an easy short run outside or on the treadmill. You can even consider low impact exercises like light conditioning work, simple yoga stretches, pilates or breathing exercises at home. Infact this is the best time for easy whole body mobility drills, myo-fascial release (foam rollers & lacrosse balls) and some pending recovery work. Rest if you must & pop in a painkiller (whatever suits you best) if need be. Just remember to stay well hydrated & eat smart (choose whole grains, leafy greens, nuts & seeds, salmon, banana, yoghurt, dark chocolate). One should certainly not try new challenging workouts, hold certain inverted yoga poses for long (shoulder/hand/head stands) or hope for any PBs at anything. Respect your body & the healing process going on within. If worried about soiling your clothes even with superabsorbent sanitary pads, one can give tampons or now available menstrual cups a try.
Around ovulation/ mid-cycle (week 2-3): This is the best phase to shine in that hormone surge and go all out to build that muscle and strength you have always wished for. Switch to beast-mode and get some heavy strength work under your belt. Try some high intensity interval training (HIIT), hard core cardio, speed work , spinning sessions , kick-boxing classes or maybe go ahead and get that 1 RM (one rep max) at your crossfit box. Pull yourself out of your comfort zone and push your limits.
Days preceding the period (week 4): Its time to go easy on the high impact exercises from the last couple of weeks and focus on endurance building now (think LSD - long slow distance runs, cycling , swimming) or spend time on floor-based exercises (pilates, barre, power yoga) until the PMS hits you again & then I hope by now you know what to do. So the choice is all yours. You can be sluggish, sloppy & sensitive and let the whole world know you are on your periods (making it worse) or you get up & get the happy hormones flowing and pamper your body with the benefits of exercise. Whatever you chose, just be realistic and sync your workouts to your cycle like I do now. Trust me, you will end up feeling happy & normal every single day of the month. From a fellow woman doc-athlete. .
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