8 Fitness Instructors Share How They Exercise During Their Periods

I don’t know about you, but I cannot bring myself to workout when I have my period. I feel gross and pudgy and more like cocooning in my bed than cross-hook-jab-punching. Every month I think, “How in the world do my instructors have the motivation to show up to class, not to mention keep teaching, if they feel as awful as I do?” Well, yes, they are superhuman, but they also have the same annoying period symptoms we all do. Here’s how fitness instructors deal with the bloating and pain that comes with that time of the month.

Listen to your body

“I used to suffer from severe PMS and menstruation pain. It would be so bad that I’d wake up at 4 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. workout just so I could have time to relieve any pain. Exercise will help to alleviate cramps and bloating, plus it will boost your mood and energy levels. However, you must know and listen to your body. Warm up a bit longer, rest if you need to, modify moves that don’t feel right and choose activities that will make you feel strong. As an instructor, mornings are always the worst for me. I make sure to use the bathroom, drink water and prepare (physically and mentally) to work out, even if I don’t want to. After each class, I always feel better. Sweat is the best medicine! When I don’t have to teach, I’ll book a workout class in the evening so I have all day to conquer cramps, aches and fatigue. Sometimes just a walk outside or restorative yoga is best on heavier days. The ultimate ‘working out with your period’ hack? Listen to your body and just move.”

Michele Gordon, creator of Cardio Sweat Party in New York City

Power up with protein

“Teaching a high-energy cardio dance class the morning of my period can be challenging, but doable. First things first, I make sure to eat enough protein — like eggs, avocado and organic berries — to keep my energy up. If I have painful cramps, I’ll take ibuprofen, and I give myself enough time after waking to not only eat, but hydrate with water (and coffee), use the restroom and even shower before class just to feel refreshed, awake and ready to rock!”

Michelle Akda, instructor at Swerve in Los Angeles

Keep your muscles warm

“Sweating through movement actually helps with cramps and bloating. It brings warmth to the cramping area like a heating pad. That being said, it’s best to keep your abdomen and back muscles warm during class by wearing high-waisted leggings and a loose fitting shirt. Try to remember that once you start moving you create energy, and you will move away from feeling sluggish.”

Elisabeth Halfpapp, founder and national master teacher trainer at Exhale in New York City

Attend a motivational group fitness class

“I know the last thing you want to do is exercise when your stomach is killing you. You’re bloated and feel nauseous, but I can assure you that once you actually start moving, the symptoms seem to dissipate. Take the first step and just get yourself to a workout. You will feel better once you walk in the door and begin. A group class is always a great option because it will help to motivate you, but then it’s up to you to say, ‘This is going to be great!’ Oh, and don’t forget to smile! It really is all about mind over matter.”

Olivia Chaniewski, instructor at The Studio (MDR) in Los Angeles

Modify the routine

“As a fitness professional, the few days during that time of the month are not my favorite, and it can be difficult to get started. Once I get moving and am surrounded by the individuals I am working with, my mind is occupied and concerned with how I can help someone else get the most out of their workout. Although it is easier to sit on the couch when the time strikes, I encourage you to still show up to your regularly scheduled class. Listen to your body and make adjustments if needed. It may be difficult in the first 10 minutes, but as you get your heart rate up, the aches and pains will begin to ease up and your mood will become brighter as you’re surrounded by motivating classmates!”

Megan Osysko, a personal trainer and certified strength and conditioning coach at Bodymass Gym in Arlington, Virginia

Lean on an anti-inflammatory and I-can-do-this attitude

“Remember that you will end up feeling better after a workout. Take an anti-inflammatory, your favorite form of caffeine (there’s a reason these are the two primary ingredients in Midol) and remember that you are still in control over your body — cramps or sluggishness aside. Pre-program your workout and pre-determine your high-energy playlist so you don’t get frustrated or lose motivation once you get to the gym, and remember: ‘I will feel better after I do this.’”  

Kristin Vallacher, programming director at The Phoenix Effect in Los Angeles

Work now, splurge later

“Working out on my period almost always helps alleviate symptoms. My cramps go away, my energy level improves and after working out I feel so much better eating those chocolate-covered potato chips!”

Krista Rameriz, instructor at Swerve Studio in New York City

When in doubt, rest it out

“If you’re in severe pain, I wouldn’t advise powering through your period symptoms to get a good workout. However, I would recommend trying a ‘work-in’ routine complete with restorative yoga and rest.”

Julie Smerdon, founder and yoga teacher at Shri Yoga in Brisbane, Australia

Emily is a recent graduate and proud Midwesterner who just moved to the big city to start her career in magazine journalism. When she isn't commuting between Brooklyn and Manhattan, she enjoys browsing bookstores for her next read, sipping chai tea lattes at local coffee shops, and playing tourist in the city she always dreamed of living in.