WHY I RELAXED MY EXERCISE ROUTINE
How understanding my cycle and being less strict with exercise helped me look and feel better
I have always had a love/hate relationship with exercise. I am the kind of person who goes to the gym and takes classes militantly for a month and then does no form of exercise (apart from a 30 minute walk in the mornings or evenings to clear my head) thereafter, until I remember I’m not exercising enough and the cycle starts all over again.
However during the pandemic, I became more conscious of the benefits of consistent exercise and made a choice to do weight training, online yoga and workout tutorials as well as my walk at least every other day – and it felt horrible.
I couldn’t understand how men in my life could do the same routine day in day out and see clear results where I would fluctuate immensely in my capability and will to exercise. Some days I’d be bloated, some days I’d be exhausted, other days I’d have bursts of adrenaline and would try and do extra exercise to make up for the days where I deemed my performance mediocre.
Then I read Alisa Vitti’s book ‘In the Flo’ and it completely changed how I saw my body, and understood that what I was forcing myself to do in terms of exercise was probably doing more harm than good.
I have tried to summarize her main points below in the hope that you will gain a better understanding of your body like I did. It helped me understand why vigorous exercise may not be benefitting me and why I should listen to my body and not feel bad about taking a break if I feel like it.
Women have a cycle that is 28-31 days on average (vs men’s 24 hour cycle). Understanding that our energy levels fluctuate and leaning into it can change how you exercise, eat and feel.
On the day you start your first period, you enter a cyclical phase in your life as a woman.
Syncing with your cycle is the simplest and most effective way to enhance your hormonal health and live a life that BUILDS your energy instead of DRAINS it.
WOMEN HAVE 2 BIOLOGICAL RHYTHMS: THE CIRCADIAN AND INFRADIAN RHYTHM
We only really hear about our circadian rhythm which is about the solar cycle of one day.
The Circadian Rhythm regulates our daily biological clock. It prompts us to wake when the sun rises and produce melatonin and sleep when the sun sets. When our lifestyle doesn’t sync with this rhythm however it can lead to a number of negative health conditions. Living according to this clock is important for all humans.
But women have another clock that should be receiving equal attention called the infradian rhythm.
The menstrual cycle is an infradian rhythm which is a cycle longer than a day.
The 28 day infradian rhythm is tied to your monthly menstrual cycle which has 4 phases.
This influences your brain chemistry and physiology. The 2 clocks are tightly linked and living out of sync of either affects your hormonal, physical and mental wellbeing.
As women, trying to fit into a 24 hour pattern and ignoring our hormonal needs affects our bodies as negatively as living outside our circadian rhythm would.
THE 4 PHASES IN OUR INFRADIAN RHYTHM
1: THE FOLLICULAR PHASE
Follicular phase is the first beginning we can do more excessive exercise, and starts when your period ends. This is because you have more energy and brain power, so intense exercises like weight lifting and HIIT are better.
You should also try to eat more leafy greens, sweet potatoes and proteins to support your oestrogen levels and nourish the ovaries.
2: THE OVULATORY PHASE
Ovulatory Phase is where you open up and start to grow. A spike in oestrogen stimulates the verbal and social centres of your brain.
Try high impact workouts and spinning. Alisa Vitti recommends eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower as they are advantageous to fish out extra oestrogen.
3: THE LUTEAL PHASE
Luteal Phase is the work phase where you finish and harvest things. These are the days before your new period where your energy turns inwards and you naturally have less of it.
Stretching and yoga are preferred forms of exercise during this phase.Grounding foods like warm soups and earthy vegetables are also advantageous.
4. THE BLEEDING (MENSTRUAL) PHASE
Is your period. These are the slowest days in the cycle and great for writing down monthly goals.
Gentle exercise like walking and slow yoga are great for this phase.Eating foods rich in iron and protein like lentils, beets, mushrooms, sea vegetables are best.
To summarise, the first half the cycle is the Follicular and Ovulatory phase, the second half is the Luteal and Bleeding phase.
Follicular vs Ovary: the biggest difference is the production of oestrogen.
In terms of skin health, during ovulation there is a surge in oestrogen so you need optimal glutathione to help the liver break down this hormone in order to prevent hormonal acne during ovulation.
Smoothies and fresh juices, salads and plant based foods are perfect during this phase - use your food to help with the break down and feel nourished. The Radiance Powder is obviously my go to here, and if you’re on the second bottle I would suggest taking it daily during this phase and less during the other phases.
It’s important to proactively eat the foods that you need for the phase you are in as it will also help prevent binge eating and the need for unhealthy cravings. The more you work with your body the more your body works for you.
By managing your energy correctly and work with your infradian rhythm you can optimise your time, exercise routine and diet and not feel dissatisfied.
Please check out Alisa Vitti’s book: In the Flo for more information. Thank you!