I've posted several posts about the way I've been working out after getting my first recovery period, and sharing post hypothalamic amenorrhea workout advice otherwise.
Here are some posts on that topic:
Today, I thought, it's a good time to do another update on how things are going for me on the workout front now, when I've had 16 cycles.
Long Recovery from Back Injury
As you may know, I've been suffering from back pain for a long time — about a year now, to be exact — and it wasn't until a few months ago that I started to feel much better, thanks to an amazing chiropractor. The past two weeks though, have been REALLY GOOD. I'm so super grateful for having been practically free from pain for the last 2 weeks!
During the time my back pain was really bad, I of course worked out less than I would have wanted. When I still had hypothalamic amenorrhea, I couldn't work out because of that; then, when my hormones were better, my back didn't allow me to train the way I wanted.
It was frustrating, yes. But I make myself to think that all these kinds of things are good for something.
In this case, the fact that I threw my back out, meant that I was forced to take even longer break from working out (at least from heavy lifting, HIIT and running). I decided to see it as a positive thing because now I gave my body the chance to really calm down and enjoy the rest and recovery even longer. I feel like by doing so, I allowed my healing to get even deeper, and get my hormonal health even more solid.
A few months ago, when my back started to feel better, I jumped back into weight lifting. Not a great idea… I took a step backwards again, after making such a great progress. I had a serious conversation with my chiropractor, who told me: You do know that there are other ways to strengthen your body too, than by doing deadlifts and other heavy lifting???
Of course I knew. I'm a trainer, after all! But receiving this kind of tough love was important for me. I decided to step away from iron for a little bit, and see what I can do with just bodyweight.
Bodyweight Training Can Be Done In Many Ways
Many people would say: Bodyweight training is awesome! You can burn tons of calories by doing jump squats, burpees and sprints!
They're right, but first of all, my back didn't allow me to run, sprint and jump. Secondly, my goal isn't to burn tons of body fat. I'm still quite careful with HIIT training — I've been playing around with it a bit (more on that in a second) but I don't think doing HIIT 5 or more days a week would be healthy for someone who has suffered from hypothalamic amenorrhea not so long ago (and possibly even for healthy people).
I had to find other ways to do bodyweight training, and I decided to keep things really simple. I'm at a point where I know I've lost incredible amount of strength. I've been building some of it back, as much as my back and hormonal health has allowed, but physically, I am nowhere near to where I was 1.5 years ago, so I decided to start training really simple again.
The Type of Bodyweight Training I'm Doing Now
I found a workout program that seemed very, very basic. I simply told myself: You're going to do the very basics. Yes, these workouts may have been your workouts once, but today, they're your workouts, just throw your ego out of the window accept it.
The crazy thing about this program is that the exercises are incredibly simple. The breaks are long enough. I've been working out three days a week, about 30-40 minutes each time, and I've been feeling energized instead of drained after working out. At some point, I wondered if I should do more, because I'm used to go-go-go and more-more-more type of workouts. But I didn't add more.
I swapped out some things from this program that haven't felt good for my back, and I've added one exercise that I really like. Other than that, I've been doing these really simple workouts, that consist of things like bridges, flex hangs, push ups, lunges, and some other things.
After just four weeks of very basic workouts, I was able to do my first chin-up.
I was blown away. This chin up was not a pretty one, but it was still a chin-up! And I'm about 15-20 lbs heavier than the last time I did them, which was almost 2 years ago.
Granted, having less bodyweight does make some exercises easier to perform, but my example shows that these things are not impossible even at higher weight, when you train right, rest right, and recover right.
I can see only now how overtrained I really was two years ago. I was doing HIIT 6 days a week and some days ran and lifted too. Instead, I could have cut back on that a little bit, focusing more on getting stronger not smaller, and my hormonal health and sleep would likely have been better than they were.
But What About HIIT?
I'm planning to keep following this program. Over the next 12 weeks, it's getting harder, but the idea is still the same: Just bodyweight exercises focusing on the basics, reasonable rest and recovery period.
But what about HIIT? Am I completely done with it?
I don't think that HIIT training is bad for everybody at every time. It's definitely not good for someone recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea or overtraining. Even for someone who is totally healthy, but has hard time sleeping and recovering, doing HIIT 5 days a week may be too much.
But in small amounts, if you're healthy, I think HIIT can be good. Just don't do it in the first three months after getting your period. You can find more about post-recovery training in my course.
I have recently started adding HIIT to my training, doing it once a week, in addition to my three days a week bodyweight program.
I did my HIIT today. I picked three exercises, and did them as three different TABATAs. It took me 3×4 minutes and I didn't do other workouts today (besides my daily 10K-ish steps).
As always, I pay attention to how my body reacts and decide based on that, how I move forward with my workouts. I also make sure I eat well after working out, and get enough sleep.
Our lives are in constant change. It's okay when your training looks different during different times in your life. Maybe you worked out like a non-stop machine when you still had hypothalamic amenorrhea. You need to scale back a lot if you want to recover. But know that this phase is not going to last forever either — one day, you will get back to your favorite workouts.
To finish, I want to remind you: Please don't pick up too heavy weights right after you have gotten your first recovery period, or do too much exercise otherwise (too intense, too long). You don't want to get injured and you don't want to lose your period. Take care of yourself, based on where your body is at, and always, always listen to it!
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.