Q: Since I started working out, I’ve noticed my periods are different. Could my fitness regimen be affecting my menstrual cycles? If so, what can I do to manage my strength training and cardio routine during this time?
A: Yes, your regimen could be affecting your cycles. The good news, according to Rachel Cosgrove, CSCS, author of The Female Body Breakthrough and Drop Two Sizes, is that the impact is usually a positive one.
“When my female clients start strength training, their periods become lighter and they don’t have as many PMS symptoms because their hormones are more stable.”
Long term, a new exercise routine can also help you lose fat and gain lean muscle — which in itself can alleviate PMS symptoms.
Granted, it can be particularly challenging to drag yourself to the gym when you’re menstruating, but you’ll probably do fine once you get there: Most research suggests that the phase of a woman’s monthly cycle does not influence strength or performance in high-intensity activities like sprinting.
Many women also find that strength training dispels fatigue, improves their mood and reduces cramping in the hours following a workout.
One caveat on cardio: It may be wise to avoid your longest, toughest runs or rides during the week before your period. In that phase of your cycle, body temperature rises slightly and your heart may work a little harder than normal. As a result, some women become exhausted sooner than usual — especially if the weather is hot or humid.
So stick with the weights to help alleviate PMS symptoms. And go easy on the extra-long, extra-tough cardio in the week before your period.