“Is it absolutely impossible to get my period back if I keep working out?”
This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I get (others being how to start accepting my weight gain and my “new” body).
I've touched this topic earlier, but in this video and post, I do it in little more detail.
Watch the video below, or if you prefer reading, keep reading!
Short Route and Long Route to Recovery
It's not impossible to get your period back while still working out.
… we just have to look at how much and how we're working out.
Most women who get hypothalamic amenorrhea, have used to working out several times a week — 5-6 days a week with an occasional rest day. On average, we work out about 5-6 hours per week (but many of us do more and some of us do less).
There are typically two scenarios. There are women who cut back their exercise about 50% percent, continuing to do some HIIT, some running or some weight training. They don't even consider activities like walking or yoga working out.
I call this approach the longer route to recovery.
Another group of women cuts their exercise back much more, stopping all higher intensity training. By that, I don't mean only HIIT training, but also any cardio, short or long, and weight lifting. Basically anything that gets your heart rate up and elevates your stress hormone response.
I call this approach the shorter route to recovery. This is also what is recommended in “No Period, Now What”.
Recovery Time: The Long Route
What I've seen is that those who take the shorter route, recover way faster than those who take the longer route.
What happens to those who still keep lifting, running or doing HIIT, is that they wait and wait and wait, for months, without seeing much difference. They may eat more and gain weight as a result, yet it takes them much longer to recover. I've seen people putting on weight super gradually and some of them getting their periods in 10-12 months.
Some people get super tired of waiting and it's not hard to see why. It's constantly in their head: Why is this happening? Is this ever going to work? WHERE IS MY PERIOD??
That's often because they don't let the intense exercise go. I've seen women taking the long route, slowly putting on some weight, still working out, and nothing happening… until they get sick on waiting and say: Screw it, I'm going to cut out working out.
And their periods come much faster. They've already done a lot of work by eating more. Now, when they're giving their bodies complete rest by cutting back to slow, low intensity workouts, their periods arrive sooner. I've seen this happen in 4-6 weeks (but there are no guarantees).
Recovery Time: The Short Route
In general, those who stop all intense workouts for a while, recover faster. I've seen someone get her period in 4 weeks! This is rare though and doesn't happen to most of us, but it may happen to some of us (and maybe that's you!!). Know that there are no guarantees, everything depends on your current state, weight, body fat percentage…
But one thing is sure: You will definitely recover faster.
It doesn't mean that you can't move at all. You can still exercise, but the nature of your exercise is going to be different — in a way that is healthy for your body in your current situation.
Why You Should Not Wait
You may be able to get your period back even if you keep working out. But because your body is already exhausted and you have potentially caused some bone damage, why wait and let things go worse?
You probably know that not having a period for a year can be harmful for your bone health. If you don't ovulate and menstruate, you are losing approximately 2.5% of your bone density per year! That's a lot, and that's not how you make sure you can stay healthy and active during the old years… Which I believe you want to be able to do.
There are also other issues related to missing periods. Maybe you're suffering from exhaustion, constipation, brain fog, low sex drive… Would be really nice to not have these issues and feel healthy!
That's why I recommend you get started with your recovery as soon as possible.
You Can and Should Move Your Body Also During Recovery
I can't agree if someone tells that you must stay home and not move yourself the entire time while waiting for your period. What if it takes you 3, 4, 5 months? It's not going to be great for your body to be sedentary that long.
You can and should move your body during your hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery, just keep in mind that you don't need to run, lift heavy weights and do fast paced circuits and HIIT training to stay healthy (here's a great podcast on that topic).
Walking should become your absolute favorite form of exercise. Walk as much as you like, as long as you like, just make sure you actually have energy for it and you're not turning it into a competitive uphill walk every day. The goal shouldn't be to burn calories but to move your body. Walking is proven to be rally great way to balance your hormones while still getting in some low grade exercise.
Stretch! As you start to move less, you may also start sitting more. That means that your muscles get tight. It's super important to stretch your body (that's also true if you don't have HA!). Stretching is a great injury prevention too. It prepares your body for getting back to working out later. I'm suffering from low back pain right now because my super tight psoas muscle! Things are getting better now but it has taken a lot of time, patience and money to get my body moving again.
Yoga is nice too, because it allows you to maintain the strength level that you currently have. Being strong is healthy and you need your strength more than you need cardio or HIIT training. Just know that getting stronger or maintaining your current strength level doesn't have to mean lifting heavy weights. For now, skip it — you can return to weights later.
Train More to Eat More?
Lastly, I've seen some people think that because they should eat more, they need to get hungrier, and they use this idea to work out harder.
This is not how it works. You need to do both, eat more and work out less.
If you still keep working out, your body releases stress hormones that you want to keep at minimum for now. Even of you eat more, you can't undo it. You need rest and recovery, therefore working out harder in order to eat more, doesn't work.
It's not impossible to get your period back, if you don't stop intense workouts. But it's going to take longer… and you will get frustrated! You can get your period back — which also means improving your overall health — much faster if you take the shorter route to recovery.
Do you have hypothalamic amenorrhea? Check out how to eat for HA recovery.
Are you recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea and want to start training again? Do it safely, without losing your period again. Check out my online program, Simple Strength for Women.
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