How Much Can I Exercise in Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery?
In this post I go through some general recommendations on exercise in Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery. Please remember that every BODY is different. I would be glad to support you find the level of activities in terms of duration, intensity and frequency that is suitable for your Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery.
Cut out high-intensity workouts...
High-intensity workouts and running increases cortisol levels as well as adrenaline. Which means stress on your body, something that we really want to avoid during Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery (remember, the goal is for our bodies to feel safe again). High-intensity workouts also lowers thyroid hormone levels. The reduced thyroid hormone levels affect metabolism and how the body handles stress, meaning the body can handle the stress from the exercise even worse. In combination with under fueling, the stress effect on the body is even amplified. If you are working out intensively in the name of health but have no period, you have black on white that what you are doing is not healthy for you. This can be hard to take in and process. Many of my clients report that reducing or giving up (high intensity) exercise is by far the hardest part about recovery. And I totally get this! I felt exactly the same. The exercise routine was something I really loved, enjoyed and it was my number one go-to for stress relive (at least that is what I thought). But I had to realize that my body did not knew the difference between stress generated from exercise and stress originating from running from a tiger.
...and replace them by rest or low intensity movement
If you wish for a speedy Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery, resting is the way to go! Once you have regained your period and have had three consecutive periods, you can slowly start to reintroduce movement again (feel free to reach out to me for support and guidance).
In contradiction to many other guidelines on Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery, I did not remain sedentary throughout Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery but reduced the intensity as well as duration of my sport routine (I go more into detail in the post My Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery Story I think the recovery took a few months longer because of that, but I felt going cold turkey by cutting out all movement would not have worked for me. In addition I wanted to find a truly healthy training routine that I could hold on to not only during recovery but for the rest of my life.
If you wish to remain active during recovery, low intensity is the way to go. Please make sure that your heart rate is not increasing above 120 bpm. You don´t have to wear a heart rate monitor. Just make sure you could talk to someone simultaneously as you do your movement. Here are some examples of movement you can engage in if you do it mindfully:
Horse Back Riding
If you are noticing you are feeling more tired than energized after the activity I strongly recommend that you take a step back and reduce it even further.
Walking and recovery
Since many of my clients have had a somewhat complicated relationship with walking (and step counting) I wanted to make some specific comments on this activity. If you go out on a gentle walk to stretch your legs, enjoy the sun, get some fresh air, it can really aid your recovery. If there is a compulsiveness about your walks (to hit a certain numbers of steps, to go out regardless of weather, if you are freaked out if you are prohibited to walk due to external factors) then the walks could be what is holding you back from your (full) recovery. Here I encourage you to be honest with yourself.
I so often here about the 10.000 step target. Please be aware, this number has no scientific background! The origin of this number is a marketing stunt invented by a Japanese manufacturer that sought to capitalize on the success of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The manufacturer wanted to sell its pedometer called “Manpo-kei”, which means, “10,000 steps”. Resent scientific studies rather advice that this number is set too high. And remember, if you are lacking a period, the most healthy thing you can do is to give your body permission to rest.
Ask yourself what the intention behind the workout is
Lastly I wanted to shortly touch upon the topic of compulsiveness. Regardless of activity I would strongly advice you to me mindful about your exercise. As I mentioned in My Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery Story there were for sure some compulsive aspects to my movement. In Why You Don't Have To Earn Food Through Exercise I share some insights that helped me overcome this. Exercise in Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery is possible, you just need to hit the right level of frequency, duration and intensity.