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How to match your fitness classes to each stage of your menstrual cycle

During your menstrual cycle, pain, hormones, and energy levels fluctuate – here, fitness and wellness network ClassPass breaks down the best workout classes for before, after, and during your period

Despite the fact that periods are basic human biology (AKA the literal reason we’re all here), periods and menstrual cycles have remained stigmatised for centuries – along with the pain, discomfort, and fluctuating energy levels which often come with them. Hoping to help break down the taboo – and help ease symptoms for people who menstruate – is ClassPass, the world’s largest fitness and wellness network.

Beyond just our periods, uterus-owning bodies typically run on a 28-day menstrual cycle – made up of the menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Through each stage, as the body prepares to release an egg, hormone levels rise and fall at different rates, affecting your body in different ways. For those who exercise, tracking your cycle might be especially important to maximise your workouts.

“The idea of exercising according to the four stages of your menstrual cycle may be a new one, especially if you’re used to exercising the same way most days and find yourself struggling before or during your period,” says Le’Nise Brothers, FRAME yoga teacher, registered nutritionist, and author of You Can Have A Better Period. “As sex hormones like oestrogen and progesterone rise and fall across our menstrual cycle, your energy rises and falls too. This has an impact on the energy you have available for different types of exercise.” Working to safely match workouts to each phase of your hormone cycle, ClassPass boasts a wide range of classes, from low-impact workouts to high-intensity training. 

According to Senior Director of Industry Development at ClassPass, Shari Castelli, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts like cult favourite Barry’s Bootcamp – which combine cardio and strength training in short bursts or circuits – are best during the ovulation phase. “Your testosterone peaks during ovulation and will help you push yourself in class, as well as building muscle afterwards,” she tells us. “During this time of the month, try taking class in the early morning since your energy levels will be higher and getting out of bed may feel easier.”

Anya Lahiri, a master trainer at Barry’s UK, also explains that the “movement and increased blood flow” in high-intensity classes like those in the famous Barry’s Red Room helps the body release endorphins to alleviate tiredness, low moods, and cramping.

Post-ovulation, the body enters the luteal phase – a low-energy, 12 to 14 day stage where the uterus thickens, oestrogen levels fall, and many premenstrual symptoms arise. During this time, Castelli suggests laying low with a low-intensity workout like yoga or pilates, with strength training later on in the day if you’re feeling up for it. 

“Listen to your body. Restorative yoga or even light stretching can be a great way to lighten your mood and help with common premenstrual symptoms like bloating as your period approaches” - Shari Castelli

“Be sure to listen to your body,” says Castelli, suggesting classes like Flow+Restore at Yogarise and STRETCHit at Flex to fit your body’s energy levels. “Restorative yoga or even light stretching can be a great way to lighten your mood and help with common premenstrual symptoms like bloating as your period approaches.”

She continues: “Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) generally rises during the luteal phase, which means you may feel hungrier. Nourish yourself with the extra nutrients your body is craving, and remember that a higher BMR means that you will also burn more calories at rest than during other phases of your cycle.”

“To get moving is actually beneficial and will help alleviate tiredness and boost your mood,” affirms Lahiri.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, Castelli suggests light exercises – such as a brisk walk outside or a low-intensity group class like pilates or yin yoga – during your period to reduce fatigue, relax muscles, boost moods, and combat cramps. “Keep it to 30 minutes or less, and stay hydrated,” she says. “Longer sessions are likely to burn through your glucose, which causes your adrenal glands to pump out cortisol – a stress hormone that can interrupt your cycle or affect other hormone levels.

“Do not try to push through intense pain or fatigue during your period or right before,” she adds. “As always, it’s essential to listen to your body.”

To enjoy all the classes that ClassPass has to offer, sign up here

Check out FRAME’s classes and offers here

And keep up with Barry’s Bootcamp here