Exercise, Pain, & Your Menstrual Cycle


Hi Athletawell family, 


As a physical therapist I often see patients over the course of months. I work with a lot of female athletes who may have pain with an injury, and sometimes this pain is higher than average. With different phases of the menstrual cycle, different exercise intensities are suggested (if it feels right for you!)


I'm curious, have you ever noticed pain or body sensitivity increase just before your period? How does this impact your workout? What do you differently before, during, or after it? 


-Dr. Leada 




I get extremely painful period cramps to where I can’t get out of bed (I use a tens unit for the pain). I can never workout during my period, and I always feel bad Most women can get past the pain, but I can’t. 

That must be terrible! I was just going to suggest the TENS unit to help with the pain, so I'm glad you're on that. I wonder if @Tiffany_L or @Heather_C have any recommendations on supplements suggestion for leading up to it in order to help? 

I'm so sorry this has been so painful for you! Up to 80% of the population is deficient in magnesium which is an essential micronutrient. It is a relaxing mineral that help lessen uterine cramps during your cycle. Perhaps consider adding 200-400 mg magnesium GLYCINATE before bedtime and see if that helps! 


Dr. Tiffany

Wow I had no idea! Thanks for this insight @Tiffany_L! Is this something we should consider at a certain part of our cycles? Or just when we feel we need it?

Either way! Many women take it every night and increase by 200 mg the week before their period starts for 7 days.

I'm actually the same way. I always feel so guilty, but I cannot workout during my period, esp for the first few days. I have recently started Magnesium to help with that and have seen such an improvement. Heat also helps me a lot so I have a little heating pad with my at my desk too. But definitely I skip the work outs too.

There’s no shame in taking a break when you’re hurting! If you want to work out, but your pain is really bad, I’ve had good luck with gentle yoga and swimming in a heated pool. The heat can loosen tight muscles and relieve cramps, and moving in the water is less painful than moving on dry land. 


Yes, I notice a huge difference in my energy and my lower back pain. For the first 3 days, I do yoga and or walk instead of running. I just started doing this in the last couple of months, I used to either skip any movement or try and push through and be mad at myself for being so tired.

I definitely relate to previously pushing through and just being unhappy with how things ended up. It's really nice to have reached a place to be okay with honoring the needs around that time! Good for you!


I stopped using hormonal birth control about a year ago, and since then, I plan all kinds of things around my cycle. My workouts are gentler during, and most intense right after when my energy is up. I do a lot more yoga and strength training when I’m ovulating, and go back to lower impact cardio right before my period. I adjust my rating, supplements, and skincare around my cycle, too.


I definitely have to lower my intensity when on my cycle-- energy levels are usually down but if I can get over the hump and get the movement going usually end up feeling good afterwards, but I do not put too much pressure on myself during this time.  Magnesium has been a huge help for me! 

This is so interesting; Magnesium seems to be a hit! Thanks for sharing @Shernandez.


Love this thread, YES, I started really getting in touch with my cycle a few years ago (following the work of Lisa Lister: lisalister.com) and giving myself permission to rest during different phases. I take the first 3 days off from exercise and use the time for more journaling and setting intentions. I relate to the "used to push through" also. But we cut ourselves off from our natural wisdom when we ignore our bodies and try to follow societal expectations for what we "should" be doing. (Maybe TMI, but I discovered my menstrual cramps decreased significantly when I switched from tampons to pads - the "flow" is supposed to leave your body naturally, and damming it up can cause more pain than necessary...) 100% support for resting when our bodies call for it, and NOT feeling guilty about it!!! 

This is so interesting @DrMelissa! I love that you've figured out a system that works for you. Can I ask about your journaling/setting intention routine? Have you noticed a change in your attitudes/energy levels after taking some time to do this? I think that's an excellent way to get in touch with yourself and practice mindfulness! I need to be better about it for sure 🙂 

Absolutely, @Leada_M! I definitely notice a positive change in my energy and attitude when I journal. I actually try to journal every morning, don't always get to it, but I've noticed that if I'm feeling frazzled, it's often because I *haven't* taken the time for myself... when I take the time to journal, insights flow freely and I feel excited and energized, even if I don't do anything with the insights... It's pretty awesome to experience! Particularly in those first few days of a cycle, I connect with what intentions come through for the cycle itself, and even if I don't go back and review them, energetically it's a practice that helps me feel grounded and connected. And mindful!! 😉 So it's a great practice for all through the cycle, not just at the start. Enjoy your own practices!! 😍


This is a very interesting thread! This is my first time on the Athleta Well page and I am loving it so far! 

I have very recently been paying attention to how my cycle makes me feel while exercising. In the past year, I have started doing weightlifting competitions, and I have not done as well as I would have liked. After my last comp, I realized that every comp i've done has been the weekend before I start my period. I am always exhausted and my body feels heavy, like im wearing a weighted vest the week before and the first few days. I would like to pay more attention to how my cycle makes me feel and what types of exercise works best for before, during, and after. Do you all have any advice on getting started with this?