Exercising For Your Cycle

Usha Anandi. 8 | DECEMBER | 2020

The majority of research in the field exercise science has been largely conducted on men.

Despite what the medical industry wants us to believe, there are key physiological differences between the way womben respond to exercise versus men.

Starting for one, many of us experience a monthly menstrual cycle.

And the hormonal changes that go along with it impact a LOT – from our focus, to our metabolism, and even energy levels.

It’s time we stop fighting against our cyclical nature, and instead learn how to thrive with it.

And the 5,000 year old life science known as Ayurveda can show us the way.

This month in our Inner Circle Virtual Monthly Membership, we’re learning how to take care of our cyclical bodies the Ayurvedic Way with a special 2 hour lecture by Ayurvedic Practitioner, Staraya Mckinstry.

Staraya is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and Masters of Public Health and a dear, beloved friend of mine.

And this month in our Inner Circle Monthly Membership, she’s offering a 2 hour lecture on Women’s Health + Ayurveda.

We’re going to cover SO much in the lecture to support you in attuning to your cycle, nourishing fertility, and building a foundation for long-term vitality.

But for now, I want to talk to you about something SUPER important – exercise.

Maybe you know that stress can affect your hormones and therefore your cycle…

But did you know that excess exercise can be a form of stress, too?!

The majority of exercise regimes and workout plans don’t take our moon cycle into account. This can leave us feeling defeated and discouraged when our premenstrual phase rolls around and we want to do anything BUT another high intensity workout that leaves us feeling depleted.

There’s another way to exercise. One that respects the hormonal, energetic, emotional, and physical changes that take place in your body each month.

This method I’ve developed is for every person who bleeds. And if you have PCOS or adrenal fatigue, pay extra attention as it’s super important you don’t overstress your body with high intensity exercise to support your adrenals in rehabilitating themselves.

So let’s dive in…

Inner Spring – Follicular Phase

After you’ve finished bleeding, the follicular phase begins. Estrogen and Follicle Stimulating Hormone rise and invite a fresh, enlivened, focus energy into the body.

More energy is naturally available for you during this phase, so flow with it.

  • During this time, you may explore higher intensity workouts such as…
  • Vinyasa yoga
  • HIIT workouts
  • Cardio
  • Weights

It’s important during this phase to get your heart pumping so the blood can flow freely, clear stagnation and help to detox the body. But (I know, there’s always a but), it’s important to not overexert yourself.

I recommend doing high-intensity workouts maximum every other day during this phase to ensure you’re not overstressing the body. In between high-intensity days, use more restorative exercises like a long walk, a bike ride, or a breath centered practice like Qi Gong or Tai Chi.

And as always… Listen to your body!

  • After exercising ask yourself…
  • Am I more tired than before?
  • Do I feel completely wiped out?
  • Do I wish I hadn’t gone quite as hard?

If you’re answering yes, it’s likely you’re putting your body through more stress than is needed.

Although the endorphins of exercise may feel good immediately after, if we push ourselves too hard it can tax our adrenal glands and release stress hormones into the body – the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve with exercise!

A tell-tale sign that you’ve overexerted yourself in a workout is waking up the next morning and feeling fatigued, achey (beyond the normal soreness), or mentally unclear.

If we can take the time to listen and conserve our energies in this phase of our cycle we might be surprised at how much better we could feel at the end of our cycle…

Inner Summer – Ovulatory Phase

Estrogen and luteinizing hormone surge during ovulation, giving us more energy and a peak interest in social engagement. Testosterone, an androgenic hormone also rises slightly during this time, supporting us with the power to achieve our goals and clearly communicate what we want.

With that in mind, this is the time in our cycle when it is most natural to exert ourselves.

During this phase, our body has the ability to support us to exercise rigorously. This is the time when you can hit the gym, lift weights, and enjoy as much high-intensity exercise that you want – though for only an hour per day.

  • Your ovulatory phase may be supported with exercises like…
  • HIIT
  • Running
  • Weights
  • Zumba
  • Barre
  • Pilates
  • Kickboxing

And remember, if you have PCOS, adrenal fatigue, or are chronically stressed – a day of rest or restorative exercise in-between may feel like the medicine you need.

It’s important to remember though that this phase is the shortest of the four phases and lasts between 3 – 4 days depending on your unique cycle, so use your time wisely.

Inner Fall – Luteal Phase

As we shift into the luteal phase, we gather the energy used for outward expression and allocate it for inner reflection and restoration.

Estrogen levels drop and progesterone rises giving way to a more relaxed and contemplative phase in our cycle.

Rather than exerting yourself, this is the time to move inwards and listen to what your body wants and needs, just as your hormones are supporting you to.

Although this is a quieter time in the cycle, it’s still important to keep the body moving.

Stagnation within the energetic channels of the body are a major cause of the 150 undesired symptoms of PMS. Movement helps clear stagnation, support the liver in detoxification, and soothe turbulent emotions that may arise during this phase.

  • Restorative exercises to support your premenstrual phase might look something like…
  • Tai Chi
  • Qi Gong
  • Yin yoga
  • Hatha yoga
  • Dancing
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Swimming

Inner Winter – Menstrual Phase

In the darkness of our own inner winter, every system in our body shifts its focus to detoxification, letting go, and dying to be reborn.

We might feel like all we want to do during this time is to curl up under the covers…

And if your body is calling for stillness, listen to that – especially during the first two or three days of your cycle where the blood might be heavier.

Slow, restorative, and balancing movements can help you keep the energy moving and even cramping or low back pain associated with menstruation.

  • Rejuvenating movements to explore during this phase….
  • Restorative yoga
  • Walks in nature
  • Slow dancing
  • Feldenkrais

These types of exercise will get your energy moving to reduce stagnation and encourage a smooth bleed but won’t overexert your body and its energies.


Of course, as we are all individuals your body may well have different wants and needs throughout your cycle than mine, your friend and even your sister.

But I encourage you to follow these guidelines in a way that feels right for your body and to notice any changes you might feel.

May this method be the permission slip you need to quit the exhausting routines and tune in to what your unique body actually needs.

It just might be that by changing your exercise routine to work alongside your menstrual cycle – instead of just powering through – might help to…

  • Reduce stress
  • Rebalance hormones
  • Reduce brain fog
  • Lessen pain

I believe it’s time to reclaim our exercise routine so that it supports our self and our body.

And that’s exactly what we’ll be exploring in Inner Circle this month – except it won’t just be about exercise…

Through the sacred, ancient lens of Ayurveda we’ll explore tangible ways to keep your energetic pathways clear, heal imbalance, boost fertility, and ensure long-term feminine vitality.

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