How To Hack Your Period: Menstrual Cycle Syncing Exercise & Workouts

How To Hack Your Body

Have you ever noticed that your regular workout feels so much harder right before your period, or that you are bursting full of energy in the middle of your cycle? 

If you’ve noticed this change in energy throughout the month, you’ve tapped into one of the biggest hacks to exercising when you have a menstrual cycle.

Unlike men, who operate on a 24-hour cycle with higher energy at the beginning of the day and lowest before bed-time, women operate on a roughly 28-day cycle. 

Most women will experience lowest energy at the beginning and end of their cycles, and peak energy at mid-cycle.

Having a menstrual cycle means that your body is experiencing large fluctuations of hormones in each week of the month. 

These hormonal changes influence not only when we bleed, but also when we feel energised, fatigued, productive, social and withdrawn.

In the first week of your cycle, when you are bleeding, you may notice your energy is very low. 

Your body feels like resting and taking it easy. 

In the second and third weeks of your cycle, you might have experienced a big surge in energy - wanting to smash out harder workouts in the gym, or go for a run rather than a walk. 

In the final week of your cycle before your next period, you have likely felt your energy start to dip, and potentially some mood swings or PMS symptoms getting in the way of your regular exercise routine.

Rather than fighting these changes and trying to push your body to do the same exercise every week of the month, tapping into this changing energetic cycle has profound benefits on your overall health and hormonal balance.

What is cycle syncing?

Each week of your cycle, your body goes through some pretty significant hormonal changes. 

These changes influence everything from your mood to your energy, food cravings and ability to socialise and connect with others.

Cycle syncing involves paying attention to these shifts in hormones and energy throughout your cycle, so that you can meet your body where it’s at and using the strengths of each phase of your cycle.

Just like there are four seasons in the year, the menstrual cycle can be viewed as four distinct inner seasons.

 Understanding your cycle through this lens helps to associate shifts in your mood and energy so that you can plan your life around these changes.

Cycle syncing can be used to plan dietary changes, structure your work schedule, organise social events and optimise your sex life (more on this in another post!). 

It can also be used to alter your exercise regime throughout the month to maximise your highest points of energy, learn when to rest and reduce your chance of injuries.

Exercise and Your Menstrual Cycle

We’re often taught to push harder, achieve more and workout at our maximum, but is this really serving our bodies?

 How many times have you expected the same from your bodies day after day, and become frustrated when you weren’t able to keep up? 

Women are biochemically different to men. 

Following a one-size-fits-all fitness plan doesn’t work for most people with a changing hormonal landscape.

The natural fluctuation in hormones causes shifts in energy and mood, so it makes sense to sync our exercise around these changes. 

Altering your exercise plans throughout the month allows you to maximise the gifts of each phase rather than being frustrated by your body’s inconsistencies.

The cycle syncing exercise plan below is intended as a guide to get you thinking about the common shifts throughout each week of your cycle. 

Ultimately, every cycle is different and it can take several months of paying attention to learn what serves your body best.

I encourage you to use the guide below as a starter. 

Then, begin documenting how you feel on each day of your cycle, along with what type of exercise you did and how that felt. 

Cycle syncing practices take time to develop because they require you to be inquisitive and pay attention (something many of us aren’t used to doing!).

I recommend starting a simple journal where you can rate your energy and mood out of 10, as well as record your exercise and whether or not that felt right for you that day. 

After a few months, you will own one of the most valuable resources: a guide to your body. 

Not even the best trainer in the world can make you such an individualised plan!

Your goal is to develop an intuitive sense of what your body needs each day, so you can respond to whatever changes come your way with compassion rather than frustration.

PHASE ONE: Inner Winter (around days 1-6)

What’s Happening To Your Hormones?

This is the start of a new cycle, from the first day you are bleeding. Biochemically, your hormones are at their lowest for the whole cycle. 

Physically you are shedding the lining of your uterus that was built up in the previous cycle for a potential pregnancy.

How Do You Feel In Inner Winter?

During your period bleed, you will often feel tired, withdrawn and may be dealing with some uncomfortable symptoms like cramping and bloating. 

This is a time to R.E.S.T sister! 

We are naturally most introspective and intuitive at this time, so it’s a good time to slow down, release expectations on your body and reflect on the month and cycle that has just passed.

How To Exercise During Inner Winter:

Movement during inner winter should aim to prioritise rest and renewal. 

This isn’t the time to be hitting that bootcamp class or pushing your body to achieve a new PB. 

Tune in to your body and ask what type of gentle movement would serve you best at this time. 

If you are struggling with period cramps, gentle movement can be very helpful in reducing pain. 

Sometimes, you will feel like doing absolutely nothing in the first few days of your cycle, and that’s totally normal! 

It’s okay to give yourself a break from exercise for a few days to allow for deep restoration. 

When you can take the time to slow down during inner winter, you’ll notice your energy for the remainder of your cycle is so much more vibrant (and you might just achieve that PB in inner spring!).

Exercise To Try During Your Inner Winter Menstruation Phase:

  • Slow, gentle, restorative movement

  • Stretching, using a foam roller

  • Slow, meditative walks in nature

  • Yin yoga (or other restorative forms of yoga)

  • Meditation

  • Or nothing at all but couch and Netflix time! Listen to your body here for what will best serve you at this time

PHASE TWO: Inner Spring (around days 7-13)

What’s Happening To Your Hormones?

As you finish bleeding, your body is beginning to gear up to release another egg at ovulation in around one week.

Estrogen and testosterone begin to climb steadily higher, causing a boost in energy and vitality. 

A rise in follicle stimulating hormone causes an egg to mature, ready for ovulation next week. 

Rising estrogen levels stimulate your uterus to lay down a new lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy. 

This lining will be shed in the form of your period in around 2-3 weeks if you are not pregnant.

How Do You Feel In Inner Spring?

As energy levels begin to rise, you will often feel you are emerging from the ‘cave’ of menstruation. 

You may feel less withdrawn and more willing to socialise. 

The follicular phase of inner spring is often the time we are most creative and open to new experiences, so starting a new project or taking a new direction in this week is a good idea.

How To Exercise During Inner Spring:

Movement in inner spring can take advantage of increasing energy and the creative part of your brain becoming more active. 

This is a great time to try some light cardio or strength-based exercise (although you’ll find you won’t be quite as strong or fast as during your inner summer). 

This is a great time to mix up your routine or go to that interesting new class you’ve been thinking about (inverted yoga anyone?)

Exercise To Try During Your Inner Spring Follicular Phase:

  • Light cardio: jogging, swimming, brisk walking

  • Strength and body-weight exercises like home workouts that include pushups, planks and squats

  • Pilates mat and reformer classes

  • Something new and interesting you haven’t tried before: rising hormone levels stimulate your brain to be more open and receptive to trying new things 

PHASE THREE: Inner Summer (around days 14-21)

What’s Happening To Your Hormones At Ovulation?

Physically, your hormones are at their peak this week. 

Estrogen and testosterone surge and your egg is ready to be released at ovulation. 

Your skin is glowing and your energy is magnetic. 

A surge in luteinizing hormone triggers the egg to be released from a follicle, and this follicle begins forming a gland called the corpus luteum which will secrete progesterone within a few days.

How Do You Feel In Inner Summer?

For many women, inner summer is a favourite time of the month. 

Seemingly limitless energy, a fiery libido, glowing skin and undeniably magnetic energy - what’s not to love? 

This inner phase is like the season of summer - you will likely want to be out for longer, connecting with others and feel like you can keep up with it all much more easily than other times of the month.

How To Exercise During Inner Summer:

Your energy is likely at its peak this week and you’ll often feel most like socialising. 

It’s time to maximise this energy with higher intensity exercise and challenging your body. 

If you are working hard on achieving a new PB, you might just hit it this week. 

As your social skills are also at their highest this week, this is a good time to try group exercise classes or hit a mate up for a jog. 

Research shows that high levels of estrogen in this week can predispose you to injuries more easily, so be mindful to properly warm up and cool down, and always stop exercising if you notice pain or discomfort.

Exercise To Try During Your Inner Summer Ovulation Phase:

  • Higher intensity workouts, cardio sessions, heavy strength sessions

  • HIIT classes

  • Circuit classes

  • Spin class

  • Bodyweight circuit

  • Kickboxing

  • Dance classes

  • Group classes - make the most of your social, attractive energy!

  • Higher estrogen levels may increase your risk of injuries so make sure you warm up and cool down properly

PHASE FOUR: Inner Autumn (around days 22-29)

What’s Happening To Your Hormones?

After ovulation, estrogen and testosterone drop off, and progesterone takes centre stage. 

Progesterone increases your basal body temperature , meaning that you burn through calories faster than any other stage of your cycle. 

You may find you are more intolerant to heat this week and that you need to eat slightly more food than normal. 

In the final days before your period is due, progesterone levels drop off as well in preparation for bleeding. 

This causes the lining of your uterus to begin shedding.

How Do You Feel In Inner Autumn?

As hormone levels drop off in preparation for another period, you may notice the exuberant energy levels from your inner summer begins to wane. 

You may start to feel more intolerant of others and want to spend more time alone. 

If you are a PMS sufferer, this is the week when you will start to notice symptoms like bloating, mood swings and breast tenderness, particularly if you have a hormone imbalance (take my free quiz to see if you might!). 

Inner autumn is a time to begin slowing down again and preparing for the solitude of your inner winter. 

You might like to batch cook some meals or clear space in your schedule to allow yourself to rest once your new cycle begins.

How To Exercise During Inner Autumn:

Energy levels are usually beginning to plummet this week, but aren’t as low as during inner winter. 

Light to moderate intensity exercise is usually best tolerated in this week. 

Particularly if you suffer from PMS, focus on cardio exercises this week as they help to move through stagnant energy that can lead to mood swings or difficult emotions if not addressed. 

Exercise that makes you sweat is perfect for easing premenstrual tension and reducing period cramps once your new cycle begins.

Exercise To Try During Your Inner Autumn Luteal Phase:

  • Light to moderate cardio

  • Jogging

  • Running

  • Swimming

  • Tennis

  • Hiking

  • Hatha yoga and more intense forms of yoga

Commonly Asked Questions About Cycle Syncing Your Exercise Routine

What if I don’t currently have a cycle?

You can still follow along with each of the inner seasons using the moon cycle instead of your period. 

Like a typical menstrual cycle, a moon cycle lasts for 29 days, so it’s easy to correlate this cycle with your inner seasons.

When using the moon cycle to cycle sync your exercise and lifestyle, the full moon correlates with ovulation (think of the bright, egg-like shape in the sky representing an egg being released). 

Similarly, the new moon correlates with menstruation (think of the dark sky and lack of moon as representing the bleeding phase).

To adapt this exercise guide, when the moon is full follow the inner summer guide. 

When there is no moon, follow the inner winter guide. Between the new moon and full moon, follow the inner spring guide, and between the full moon and new moon follow the inner autumn guide.

Following the moon is a great way to support your body if you are dealing with hypothalamic amenorrhea (missing periods), waiting for your cycle to return in postpartum (after giving birth) or transitioning into menopause. 

What if I’m on hormonal birth control?

Hormonal birth control suppresses the natural creation and release of hormones like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone in order to prevent pregnancy. 

This means that if you are taking hormonal birth control (like the pill), you will likely not be experiencing the same energetic shifts throughout the month as if you were naturally cycling.

This doesn’t mean you won’t experience other shifts in your energy, moods and ability to socialise each week. 

You may find that you spend more time in one of the inner seasons, or that you have an entirely different pattern to the one outlined above and that’s okay!

The monthly bleed you experience whilst on the pill isn’t truly a ‘period’ (which occurs after ovulation), but rather a withdrawal from the synthetic hormones you have been taking. 

This means you may or may not experience the same energetic changes as outlined for the inner winter (menstrual) phase.

My advice for cycle syncing whilst on hormonal birth control is to start a daily journal where you record changes in your energy, socialising, libido, hunger and moods. 

After keeping this journal for a few months you will have built up a great guide to understanding your body whilst on birth control. 

Once you transition off birth control in the future, it is recommended to journal your daily and weekly changes again as the transition to natural hormone production will likely represent an entirely different energetic pattern.

What if I have a longer or shorter cycle?

This guide is written to follow a typical 29-day menstrual cycle, but it can easily be adjusted to suit any cycle length. 

If you have shorter cycles, spend slightly less than 1 week in each of the inner seasons, so that the total number of days equals your current cycle length.

If you have a longer cycle, you may find you spend more time in one or two of the phases, or you simply spend longer than 1 week in each of them. 

This is where tracking your daily changes is important so you can build up a personalised guide to your body.

Final tips on cycle syncing your exercise routine

Always remember that you know your body best. 

If you are mid-cycle but feel fatigued, there’s no reason why you can’t follow the principles from inner winter or inner autumn instead. 

Feeling super high energy right before your period? 

There’s no reason you have to follow the winding down principals from the inner autumn phase. 

Switch back to the inner summer ovulation phase principals smash out that HIIT session!

The ultimate goal of this guide is to open up a dialogue between your body and your energetic cycle. 

Not every menstruator will follow the same pattern, so get curious and experiment with how your body feels after each type of exercise. 

After a few cycles, you will have developed a plan that is best for you.

Happy exercising! 

** Disclaimer **

Always consult your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any nutrition or exercise program to determine if it is right for your needs. 

Do not start a fitness program if your physician or health care provider advises against it. 

If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain or shortness of breath or discomfort at any time while exercising you should stop immediately.

Keen to learn more about syncing exercise with your cycle?

In my 8-week Hormone Harmony Academy digital program, I share an exclusive bonus with my students: The Cycle Syncing Workout Series. 

Designed exclusively for menstruators, these workout videos follow each of the seasons outlined above, so that you can work out from the gym or your home, knowing you are taking care of your hormones at every stage.

Performed by expert fitness and pilates instructor Brittany LaBotz, these workout videos take the overwhelm out of how to exercise throughout your cycle. 

Complete with a PDF guide with photographs and descriptions of every exercise, it’s like having a personal trainer in your back pocket (who just so happens to know all about syncing exercise with your menstrual cycle). 

For exclusive access to this bonus, you need to be a member of Hormone Harmony Academy. 

Learn about the next intake when you come along to my Heal Your Cycle webinar. Sign up here.

Now It’s Your Turn!

Have you ever tried adapting your exercise routines around your menstrual cycle? 

Do you find you relate to the common energetic changes in this blog? 

How has your relationship changed with exercise since learning these principles?

I’d love to hear your experience below.

TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) - Top Cycle Syncing FAQs:

What Is Cycle Syncing?

Cycle syncing involves paying attention to the shifts in energy throughout your cycle due to hormonal fluctuations, and organising your exercise routine, diet, social calendar, work events and even sex life around these ebs and flows. Organising your life in this way allows you to respond to your body's changing needs rather than expecting the same output every day.

What Should I Eat Cycle Sync?

Changing what you eat during each phase of your cycle helps to support your body's changing hormones through the month. In the first half of your cycle (pre-ovulation) focus on iron-rich foods (like beef, dark leafy greens and lentils) to replace iron lost during your bleed, and zinc-rich foods (like pumpkin seeds, oysters and cashews) to nourishing your ovaries in preparation for ovulation. In the second half of your cycle (post-ovulation), focus on high fibre foods (like ground flax seeds, beans and avocado) to promote effective clearance of estrogen and omega-3 rich foods (like salmon and mackerel) to reduce inflammation that leads to PMS and cramps.

How Do You Sync Your Menstrual Cycle?

Start by tracking how you feel physically and emotionally in each week of your cycle. Pay attention to your energy levels, productivity, desire to socialise and your libido. After a few cycles, you will have a pattern of your usual energy fluctuations and can begin scheduling your life around these anticipated changes.

How Does The Menstrual Cycle Affect Training?

Research shows that women are more prone to injuries during the ovulation phase of their cycles, however this is also the time where you will likely have the highest energy of the cycle due to a surge in estrogen and testosterone. To avoid injuries always warm up and cool down, and stop exercising if you feel uncomfortable.

What Are The 4 Stages Of The Menstrual Cycle?

The menstrual cycle can be broken up into 4 distinct phases: menstruation, follicular, ovulatory and luteal. These phases can also be viewed as inner 'seasons': inner winter, inner spring, inner summer and inner autumn.

How Do You Work Out Your Monthly Cycle?

To work out how long your cycle is, count from the first day of your period bleed to the day before your next period bleed. Your cycle length is the number of days between one period and the next.

Which Exercise Is Best During Periods?

Gentle, restorative exercise is best whilst you are bleeding. Try gentle yoga, slow walks in nature, stretching, using a foam roller or breathing exercises. This phase of the cycle is designed for rest not strenuous exercise.

What Are Your Inner Seasons?

Your menstrual cycle can be viewed as 4 distinct phases which strongly correlate with the seaaons outside. Your bleeding phase correlates with inner winter - a time for hibernating. The phase right before ovualtion correlates with inner spring - a time of rising energy. Your ovulation time correlates with inner summer - the peak of energy in the cycle. Your premenstrual phase correlates with inner autumn - a time for slowing down again.

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About The Author - Tamika Woods

Tamika Woods | PCOS Author | Nourished Natural Health
Tamika Woods, Clinical Nutritionist (B.HS; B.Ed), Bestselling Author

For a decade, Tamika battled chronic acne, irregular cycles, mood swings, hair loss, painful periods, severe digestive issues and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). You name it - she's been there!

Tam was finally able to clear her skin, regulate her cycle, be free of period pain and fall pregnant naturally with her daughter in 2020. It took Tam 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars in tertiary education to get the answers she needed to get better.

She didn’t want other women to suffer as long as she did which is why she has dedicated her life to helping women in the same position as she was.

Tam helps women interpret what their bodies are trying to communicate through frustrating symptoms, and then develop a step-by-step roadmap to find balance again. She's here to help you get on track!

Tamika Woods is the author of the Amazon best seller PCOS Repair Protocol. She holds a Bachelor of Health Science degree (Nutritional Medicine) as well as a Bachelor of Education, graduating with Honours in both.

She is a certified Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) Educator and a certified member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA).

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