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Can I Train Hard when I have my Cycle?

This one’s for the ladies and any men who work with women, train women, teach women yoga, and care about women in general. In other words, although moon cycles are a “taboo” topic, discussing them and the impacts it has on training can benefit everyone. Besides, I’m all for demystifying and diving right on in to “taboo” topics to rock the boat and see what I can stir up in folks. Put on your life-jackets and let’s go for a swim…

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Some of the frequent questions I receive from women regarding their moon cycles are:

  • Can I train when I have my cycle?
  • Can I train hard when I have my cycle?
  • What does it mean when I’m training a lot and I miss a cycle?
  • Is it ok to practice inversions when I have my period?

While it’s great to have plans and goals during and throughout your cycle, it’s important to keep in mind that your monthly visitor may or may not invite you to alter your training habits. Many years ago, women’s cycles were seen as a time to gather together, to create, and to rest. Nowadays, women’s cycles are seen more as something to hide, something to be ashamed of, something unnatural. And, this is shifting. Yes!

Can you train when you have your cycle and can you train hard when you have your cycle?
It depends. It depends entirely on you, your body, and the changes your body is experiencing during your monthly cycle. If you have a cycle with little to no challenges — your flow is fairly regular, you’re not gushing or passing large clots, you don’t suffer from severe cramps that leave you laid up in bed with a hot water bottle on your abdomen…basically, if your cycle days are pretty similar to your non-cycle days, then by all means train away.

If your cycle tends to resemble a scene out of a horror movie — super heavy, passing large clots, painful, irregular — then perhaps it’s time to slow down a little (or a lot) and honor your body. Allow yourself to take advantage of the invitation to explore a more restorative, rejuvenating, self-nurturing practice rather than beat yourself up in the gym. Your body will thank you in more ways than one.

What might this look like? You could go for a walk in the woods, practice gentle yoga or yin yoga, turn down the intensity and volume of your regular practice, allow yourself to create art. Maybe the most loving thing you can do for yourself during this time is take a warm, soothing bath with essential oils and epsom salts. Receive a foot massage. Let yourself be held and nurtured during this time.

What does it mean when you are training a lot and start missing cycles?
Unless we’re pregnant or going through menopause, irregular cycles and/or missed cycles are a sign that something is off in our bodies. We are out of balance. It’s often a sign that we’re experiencing stressors beyond our capability to handle them. I often see women in the bodybuilding world who lose their cycles when they cut, continue to train hard, and their body fat percentages drop below levels at which we’re able to sustain the life-giving force that is inherent within us as women.

In my opinion, this is a big sign to slow way down and reevaluate what you are doing, why you are doing it, and get really clear as to whether or not the stress is worth it. When your cycles stop due to over-training or low levels of body fat, it’s an invitation to take care of your health. To me, it’s a gigantic STOP sign with flashing lights and sirens blaring.

How to begin to bring the body back into balance — slow down, destress, reduce training volume and intensity. Eat pure, vibrant, high quality organically grown food, not processed crap and stop starving yourself. Eat healthy fats and incorporate hormonal supporting and balancing herbs and tonics into your meals.

Is it ok to practice inversions when you have your cycle?
Again, it depends. If you follow strict, dogmatic yogic principles, then no. However, I tend to shy away from anything dogmatic. Perhaps I’m being dogmatic in my distancing myself from and calling out practices or beliefs that are dogmatic. Hmm…

Anyway, it totally depends upon you and what works for your body. Chances are unless you are in Cirque du Soleil, you’re not spending hours upon hours upside down on your hands. So, if you feel up to it, there’s really nothing wrong with popping into a headstand, pincha mayurasana, or a handstand when Cousin Flow is in town. You may not want to if you feel particularly bloated or if the river is flowing more like Class V rapids than a quiet, meandering brook, but again, that’s completely individual and may change as quickly as the weather in the northeast.

The bottom line is to develop a relationship with your body and with your cycle. Your body will tell you what it needs, when it needs it, whether to train hard, to rest, to go upside down, or to take a relaxing stroll through the woods. The largest considerations are whether or not you hear your body when it speaks to you and whether or not you choose to listen to your body when it speaks to you.

You’re a male trainer/teacher. What can you do?
If you’re a male trainer, movement or yoga teacher, or male in general, there are some things you can do to help support your students when they have their cycles. Have some feminine products on hand just in case your student unexpectedly gets her cycle in the middle of a session or class with you. Organic…

Your menstruating or nearly menstruating students may be more in tune with their emotions during this time. Please don’t call them “emotional.” This is a natural part of the intuitive process of being a woman. Granted, if there are significant mood swings, it may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance, but that’s a post for another day.

Your student may feel fat, bloated, gross, worried about leakage, and/or in pain. Please be kind. If your student has made the decision to show up and be present on a day when she may be feeling less than stellar, support her. Likewise, if her cycles are spot on and she feels great, wants to crush it in the gym, let her.

If you notice your student chooses to not practice inversions around the same time each month, chances are mentioning it in front of class isn’t going to be the most supportive time to share a conversation. She’s likely already self-conscious about people noticing that she has chosen to not go arse over teakettle when she has her moon cycle.

The more comfortable you are regarding women’s cycles and discussing women’s cycles, the more likely your female students will be in opening up and discussing this natural part of life with you.


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