How to Work Out During THAT Time of the Month

Shannon Farrell
period workout

Antonio Diaz/Getty Images

It’s a truth universally acknowledged: periods can totally suck. Days of PMS cause grumpiness and stress. Your body feels less than greatsuffering through bloating, cramps and downright exhaustion. And while exercise clearly helps with mood swings and PMS, it can be less than ideal for physical symptoms. So do you skip a workout or power through?

The short answer: both. The long answer: plan easy, intense and off days based upon your menstrual cycle.

This isn’t as wacky as it sounds. To get the most out of a training schedule, its imperative to listen to your body. Hormones are in flux at different stages of the menstrual cycle and different workouts address changing energy levels and moods, says Mayling Kajiya, a personal fitness trainer and the founder of Girl Uninterruptedan all-natural supplement that helps fight common period symptoms. As a trainer, I want to set women up for success by changing workout intensity or duration during the different times of the cycle to keep it right sized for the hormonal changes in the body.

That being said, start off first by keeping track of when your cycle begins and endseven map it out on your calendar. The next month you can schedule accordingly.

Plan your intense workouts during the first 3-10 days of your menstrual cycle, says Kajiya. Estrogen levels will be at their lowest and your body will burn carbohydrates instead of fat. Workouts will even feel easier on these days. The next 10-14 days are ones of hormonal balance for most people.

Most women can agree that the most uncomfortable days are the first few of the cycle. These are the days where you might be completely bothered or distracted by cramps, moodiness, bloatingand a lack of energy. Walking and yoga are ideal for these days because exercise can help you to feel better during this part of the cycle.

And when can you call it quits without guilt? Whenever rest feels like a better solution for your symptoms, says Kajiya. If your symptoms have just taken over your body, then skip the workout. It is wiser to wait until you can fully deliver the effort during your workout rather than slogging through with less effort. Then the entire workout falls short of your expectations.

When symptoms are present, but not unbearable, Kajiya offers easy-to-moderate exercise options to get you moving at a healthy momentum.

Cramps: Depending on the severity of cramps, try a simple set of 20x walking lunges with or without a light pair of weights.

Headache: Take it easy with deep breath vinyasa yoga. You want even circulation through your body and flow is very gentle so a headache should not deter you. But if moving causes your headache to worsen, I suggest skipping any activity all together.

Bloated: If you feel puffy and water logged, cardio will help you sweat out the water and balanceyour body out again. She recommends three rounds of 20x mountain climbers, jumping jacks and high knees.

Moody: Take it up a notch with a run. [It] will increase your serotonin levels and boost dopamine levels where you will feel upbeat and alert again.

Food Cravings: Just move! All exercise will cut out food cravings temporarily because you activate the flight or fight response in your brain that interrupts your need for food.

Read more: How to Fight Workout Excuses (and When to Give In)