Maximize Fitness: Pairing Movement with Your Natural Cycles [Podcast] - PCOS Diva
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Maximize Fitness: Pairing Movement with Your Natural Cycles [Podcast]

PCOS Podcast No 142 Maximum Fitness with Jenni Hulburt

“Exercise doesn’t have to look the way that you’ve read about in the fitness magazines, from the gym or workout video, or from a personal trainer. Just ask yourself these questions, “What movement would best for me right now? What would be fun? What would be enjoyable? What would ignite some movement within me from the inside?” -Jenni Hulburt

You know how sometimes your mind wants to go, but your body says no? Jenni Hulbert is a holistic fitness specialist, and she helps women “live and sweat in sync with nature.” I love this more intuitive and mindful approach to exercise, movement, and fitness. Exercise doesn’t have to be about training harder, causing stress, overtaxing our system, and creating more problems. Jenni encourages tracking your natural ebbs and flows, whether it is syncing with your menstrual cycle or other natural rhythms. Learning when your body wants to move-it and when it needs rest can be the key to long-lasting habits. Listen in or read the transcript to learn more about how to pair movement with your natural cycles and get the results you are looking for.

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Complete Transcript:

Amy:

If you’re a follower of PCOS Diva, then you know that the three pillars of living life like a Diva is to think like a PCOS Diva, eat like a PCOS Diva, and move like a PCOS Diva. I’m the PCOS Diva Podcast, we’ve talked a lot about eating and thinking like a PCOS Diva. But today, we’re going to be focusing our episode on moving like a PCOS Diva. For that, I’ve invited Jenni Hulburt. She is the founder of WILD Wellness. She’s a holistic fitness and essential oil specialist, and she helps women live and sweat in sync with nature. So welcome, Jenni, to the PCOS Diva Podcast.

Jenni Hulburt:

Thank you, Amy. I’m so grateful to be here and talk with all of you, all the listeners.

Amy:

Well, I love your tagline about living and sweating in sync with nature. Maybe you could tell us a little bit more about what you mean by that.

Jenni Hulburt:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved being in nature. I mean, I grew up on a farm and I loved being outside, and so I think that early experience of just having lots of time there really framed things for me, but I definitely had some things happen along the way that brought me back to it. So when I went to college, I knew I wanted to help people with their health, but I started out on a premed track, and when I realized I didn’t really align with that conventional mainstream approach to health and wellness and to medicine, I decided to switch to working on and studying fitness. I got my degrees in exercise science and my master’s in sports psychology.

Despite having that background, I actually got to a point while I was working as a personal trainer where I was tired all the time, and I wasn’t sleeping well. Things were feeling really off to me. I was experiencing some emotional ups and downs that I hadn’t experienced before, and after much search, I realized that I had some adrenal issues going on and there was some dysfunction there. It was a rock bottom moment for me, and I now realize that I used to have this mindset that training harder would get me better results, that I would feel better about myself, that I would feel better about what I was doing, and I was also really hard on myself, just in my body overall.

I actually had an eating disorder for years in my teenage and into my early 20s. So nature has always been an incredible teacher for me too, because when it came to food, I realized that eating nature’s goodness instead of manmade packaged stuff was the way to healing from disordered eating and really addiction to sugar and processed foods. Then when I was feeling burnout and training too hard, not resting enough, I learned through that process that I have a cyclical body just like nature has seasons. I have my own inner seasons and that has changed everything. So that’s why I love to teach because I know that it can help other women to feel their best and live their dreams, and that’s actually what the WILD in WILD wellness stands for, Women Into Living Their Dreams, and that’s who I’m sure is listening right now.

Amy:

Oh, I love your story. I think that a lot of us who have been through a health struggle that are now helping women through their own struggles, we realized that it was a wakeup call that we needed to bring more balance in our life. I know, like you, when I was struggling with my PCOS, I was exercising. It was almost like a form of punishment. I’m a Type A personality, and I felt like I wasn’t going to get a good workout unless it was running three miles and being really intense. But I would often be exhausted, and I would just drag myself out of bed every morning to just do it again all over.

It wasn’t until I connected with the joy of moving my body and doing in a way of … rather than a form of punishment, but as a form of loving my body, and that’s what moving like a PCOS Diva is all about, is that I was able to create a sustainable fitness practice. I’m really intrigued at how … I’ve gone on your blog and read some of your articles about how you cycle your fitness with your natural cycles, and I’d love for you to share that method with our listeners.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yes, I would love to. I love that you shared that to me about your personal experience with it, because I too have been in that place where it was more a form of punishment or because of something then I needed to do this in terms of workout, and just always feeling guilty over taking rest or not feeling depleted afterwards. I just have to say that I think when we feel that way, especially as women, that it often comes from the messaging and the culture around fitness that we often get.

I mean, it’s not always the same message, but I do think there’s this current that we could see where mainstream fitness culture has this vibe of go hard and more better and pushing yourself, which there are good benefits to that. I mean, physiologically, you do challenge yourself so that you can become stronger. That is how the body works in a sense, but we forget the part where we have to say that, well, also in order for you to become stronger after challenging yourself, you do have to rest, and that’s where a lot of it comes to. Yeah, it’s not always about going easy and it’s not always about doing less, but it’s not always about going hard and hustling either, and that whole spectrum is what’s important.

I think it’s just really important for women especially to know that because we’re different than men in that way. Sometimes that messaging might be more appropriate for men and someone who doesn’t have a cycle and doesn’t operate in that way, but we operate very different and we have these rhythms where we changed throughout the month in so many different ways. Yeah, we can definitely talk about those different phases and what that would look like for the workouts specifically and how that can help to not burn out and to just really get in sync with that a little more.

Amy:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. We aren’t just like little men. Our hormone profile is so different. You’re speaking about hormones, you mentioned your own journey with adrenal dysfunction, and so many women listening have adrenal issues and it makes it really hard to work, to do a hard CrossFit type workout and not feel exhausted. I do think that… You’re right, it probably has something to do with the time of the month too and what our hormones are doing. I’m interested in hearing more about it.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, definitely. I think of these phases that we go through in correlation with the seasons, because one, I first heard of this concept through a book called Wild Power and they correlated the menstrual phase with inner winter, the follicular phase with inner spring, ovulation inner summer, and then luteal would be inner autumn. So just paralleling the seasons of nature, and that really resonated with me for probably obvious reasons right now that I just loved that connection with the natural world around us and how we can really sync in line with that and take cues from what that looks like and feels like.

But I also want to say that for women who might not have that regular hormonal flow to follow, maybe for whatever reason you’re not menstruating or you don’t have that ovulatory time that you notice or whatever it might be, if you’re not noticing those four distinct phases, you can also look at the moon for a guide in those phases. So inner winter would be the New Moon a lot of times, inner spring, waxing moon, inner summer or ovulation I should say, the full moon, and then luteal phase, the waning moon. Again, it doesn’t always line up with that perfectly sometimes, and this is probably a side tangent, but I noticed a conversation with women who are talking about, “Well, my cycle doesn’t exactly sync with the moon. I don’t menstruate during the New Moon all the time. Sometimes it’s the full moon.”

From my understanding and my experience with that, it can be okay. It just has a different feel to it, and it might serve different purposes for us at different times to be in sync with different moon phases. But the guide for that can be very helpful if you don’t have that inner guide in a sense. But a lot of women who don’t even cycle … I had someone tell me this recently that she really does still feel those shifts within herself, even though she doesn’t have a regular menstrual cycle. So I think one of the most important things as I start to talk about these phases and what they feel like and what the best workout approach might be for you, is to remember that charting your experience is really important and having some kind of a journal, which I’m sure you teach the same way.

I have talked about this before where you’re looking at the different things that are going on physically, emotionally, and you’re tracking how you feel in your workouts, all of that. In the resources on my website I have a guide for doing that, if that’s something that you don’t have any idea about yet and you want to actually incorporate even workout tracking into that, because there are certain things that are going to be really important for you to take note of, and then notice patterns along the way. So that can help too, just as you’re trying to understand it better. I know that’s been so huge for me to understand and feel what’s best for my body in a bigger way.

Amy:

Yeah, that sounds a great resource. We can connect to that in our show notes. That’s something that we do in the Eat like a Diva pillar. We talk a lot about getting in touch with how food makes your body feel, and-

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, exactly.

Amy:

… this just would be a great extension to track how movement or exercise is making your body feel and then even dialing that deeper into noticing it during the different phases of your cycle or phases of the moon cycle.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, and it’s all connected and as a next step. So looking at maybe how that correlates with food and how that’s making you feel. I love your pillars and thinking, moving, and eating and have all that connects. It does, for sure.

Amy:

Yeah. I always start with thinking because I feel like you can’t create a sustainable positive lifestyle change until you start reframing the way you think. About your PCOS, you’re no longer thinking like a victim, you’re feeling empowered to take control. I think that that mindset shift, I mean, you being a sport’s psychology background … Maybe before we get into the phases, I would love to just get your opinion on the thought process to create a positive, sustainable workout program or workout regimen for yourself.

Jenni Hulburt:

Sure. Yeah, and a lot of this may even come in the phases with some of the different ways that we might be feeling and how that-

Amy:

Oh yeah. Okay.

Jenni Hulburt:

But I mean, as a side to that, and I’m sure that everyone listening is eager to hear about these four phases too, but having just that mindset shift like we talked about in the beginning about mainstream fitness and asking yourself, “Where do my beliefs about my body and about movement come from? What has my journey been with that? What have I been influenced by, or who have I been influenced by? What have I experienced along the way that’s given me the understanding that I have?” Just an example for me personally, I know that looking back I had a lot of influence in my early teenage years from fitness magazines that would come through the mail and just things that I would see probably out and about at the store too. These articles with women on the front displaying what the ideal body or what I then perceived was the ideal body and-

Amy:

Shape Magazine.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, exactly. I was trying to think of some names. Exactly. But yeah, it’s all those, the ones that have that picture and they have the six minutes to a six-pack that would have been one of the great articles or whatever. My mind was formulated in that way. The thoughts were formulated in my mind that way from seeing those things and then trying to model after that. At that age, before you’re maybe conscious of those kinds of things, you’re just taking it in and creating that. It wasn’t until I looked back that I realized that so much of that shaped my body image and how I was trying to be a certain way and really just tapping out and not tuning in.

If that’s still going on for someone in certain ways and I think for all of us, we constantly have to check in because it’s not like it ever really stops. It’s just maybe that you notice it when it happens. Because I still would say that there’s times when I might see something and it’s like you have that thought for a split second of comparison, or you’re thinking, “Oh, I want my body to be able to do that.” Then it’s especially during a certain time of the month where you might not be feeling your best, and then … This is just a silly example because it’s even with someone who doesn’t have a cycle, but when I’m in my time of the month where I don’t feel like going hard. I’m either bleeding or right before in the luteal phase and that inner autumn, and I don’t feel going for a run, I just feel going for a walk or I feel doing some easy yoga stretches instead of something more intense.

Well, like you said, Amy, I’m a go Type A kind of person, I’m an Aries sign in astrology. It’s my inclination, I think, to like to do that stuff, and I really do like to challenge myself and push myself. So it feels good. That’s where I feel most at home in the cycle, and it’s more challenging for me to take a step back. I think if someone with PCOS, particularly, is listening and maybe you … It’s almost like your mind wants to go, but your body says no. Maybe if you feel that way sometimes too, where it’s not exactly in sync, it’s really hard for me to look at, for example, my husband, who might feel amazing and he’s going out for this awesome thing and having a good time and I’m just feeling, “Oh!”

I get into comparison where it’s like I don’t want to feel this way right now, I don’t want to feel like I’m tired, or I don’t want to feel slow in that way. But I’ve had to work with that and try to understand better that thinking of our push and productivity culture, and that goes beyond workout. That goes into so many different things, but it does lean into everything that we do from the way we work to just the activities we’re involved in to the workouts that we do. It’s push, push and more and more. I think one of the biggest things to notice is not only when you’re feeling that way and at what times you feel that way, but then to look for ways before you land there that you’re going to rest.

It’s been important for me to identify what feels like rest and me, and not to land in that moment and then decide, “Okay, what am I going to do?” It’s almost like I needed a list of how to rest. I think you know, a sort of a framework on what exactly that would look like, so then when I landed there, it didn’t feel like nothing. As silly as that might sound, that was a baby step for me because it was too hard to land there and just do nothing. I don’t know if that helps. I feel like-

Amy:

No. I mean, I think just giving yourself permission to rest is what I’m hearing you say. Yeah, I talk a lot about creating a movement menu for yourself so that you can-

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, exactly.

Amy:

What I’m hearing is a rest menu, and what does that look? Maybe it’s just doing some restorative yoga or taking a walk or even taking a hot Epsom salt bath because your muscles are sore from the day before.

Jenni Hulburt:

Exactly. Yeah, and I love your word menu. I use the same idea for a workout menu actually, and the blueprint program that I have on how to work out without burnout, because I’m not one who would be like, “Here’s your plan, Here’s your plan for this week or the following week.” It’s very much needs to be pick and choose based on how you’re feeling because we’re all at different points in our cycle.

Amy:

Okay. Well, let’s dive into the cycle now.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yes, we should. Everyone’s like, “Okay, let’s talk about the four phases now.” We’ll go into the menstrual phase first, so that inner winter. I also refer to this as the base phase, because to me it’s where we begin, again in a sense, and based … As far as the energy goes, the other ones would be build phase, peak phase and then recovery phase. It makes sense in context that way. So this is usually day 28 to maybe day five, if you have that part of your cycle. The stage of bleeding, obviously, we have that need to slow down because our body is working on releasing. That go inward and rest is a time to listen, especially to your body. I know we’ve been talking about this the whole time about listening to your body no matter what phase it is, and that is important.

But this one, it’s especially important to not overdo and to really rest and recover hard. You probably also will want to spend more time alone, and that’s something that I think women need to understand where a lot of times too I know I did that. I wonder why I wanted to retreat and be by myself or that I didn’t feel like I had the energy to be in a group. If you don’t feel like going to the group workout, or even just in your life, you don’t feel like going to something that involves being around a lot of people, know that it’s a more introverted time and that’s perfectly okay. It’s probably going to fill you up and serve you the best so that you can have a different energy and hopefully a more optimized energy for the rest of your cycle.

I think that’s the really important part of this phase too. If you do restore and if you do allow yourself to slow down, to walk, to stretch, to do what feels good, you’re not going to overstress your system and then that’s not going to carry into the rest of the cycle, because I do think they’re all connected in that sense, and this one’s really important to make sure that we’re giving ourselves a break, mentally and physically. To be more specific, even with some ideas, I also really like grounding movements that happened close to the ground or close to the floor. So yoga poses that might bring you onto your back, where you can hug your knees in or you can do a stretch for your hips, like pigeon pose if you’re familiar.

Jot it down and you can look up with that, would be guided what that would look like. Things that are going to really allow you to move in that part of the body so that you don’t stay stuck and stagnant and stiff. A lot of times I think that might be our inclination when we have pain or discomfort in a certain area of our body. We just want to stop, we just want to not move or not get energy going through that area, but it’s actually important sometimes to do that. You can even do that through massage. To me, that’s movement as well, and breathing, I think breathing can be really important during this phase too. So once we start to head out of the menstrual phase and we’re building into the follicular phase, which would be inner spring, your hormone levels are starting to rise too.

Higher estrogen in this phase often makes us more vulnerable to injuries because higher estrogen is equatable to less stiffness in the muscles. So sometimes we can overstretch or overdo. That’s one thing to keep in mind. Some research has shown that. Also with higher estrogen, you might be more resilient to cortisol. So that would be helpful for doing harder efforts and your pain threshold being higher, so your capacity to really do something a little more challenging and then recover from it is going to be better during this phase. So if there is going to be something that you are working towards or that you’re wanting to challenge yourself with, this would be the time to most likely do it. Another thing to keep in mind is that insulin sensitivity seems to be higher during the follicular phase due to those higher levels of estrogen.

You can utilize carbohydrates more efficiently, and that’s why when you do higher intensity cardio activities, that can be a good match because you’re going to utilize those more when you are doing the higher intensity stuff. This phase is, like I said, a good time to do something that’s more challenging. It could be a run instead of a hike, or even if you’re not into running and you’re into hiking, maybe doing a route that has more hills on it, or doing a walk that is more fast-paced. I like to do things that are also a little more spontaneous, a little more playful, not so regimented. I mean, that’s probably my overall style in a sense anyway, most of the time, but especially during this phase. For example, right now I’m on day seven of my cycle, so I’m just in the spring phase that we’re talking about.

This morning I wanted to go and do some strength training and I do that in the woods. Then I literally am just lifting rocks and logs and natural elements that I have my own little workout gym in the woods here set up, but I also want to do just some sprints at the end. I just felt going fast. It felt fun to do that. I did some sprints where then I would recover in between and then go fast and then recover. Something playful where maybe you’re mixing in strength training with a hike or a run, or you’re doing something that’s intervals or you’re going to different locations along a route or something. Or if you are on a walk, it could be stopping and doing some pushups and then walking some more and then stopping and doing some lunges.

Just keeping it playful and nothing regimented. Maybe you could even follow music. That’s something fun to do, where you’re picking up the pace as the music picks up and speeds up and you feel that energy, and then if you’re slowing down on those parts of the song. So it doesn’t have to be this regimented thing where you have a certain number of reps in a certain time and all of that. You can keep it playful.

Amy:

Yeah. I guess I’m thinking that that first phase, when you were talking about grounding, I know I just went through the first phase of my cycle last week and I was fortunate enough to go visit my mom. She has a little place on the ocean and going for a walk barefoot on ocean was really grounding for me and felt really good during that phase of my cycle. I’m noticing that this week, I definitely have a little more pep and feeling more energetic. I love Pure Barre, and this morning I was like, “Oh, you know what? I’m going to do an empower workout,” which is their cardio workout, and it felt good. Where last week, that was like, “Oh, I do not want to do that work.”

Jenni Hulburt:

Exactly. Yeah.

Amy:

Yeah. It’s really interesting how I’m seeing what you’re saying in my workout routine as well.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah. The biggest thing that I have noticed in myself with learning this and putting it into practice and just having it help me to not overdo is that I used to really be hard on myself when I would feel that way in my cycle. During maybe that three menstrual or menstrual phase when I just didn’t feel doing, because sometimes that can be a whole week for me or longer. Sometimes it just feels like, “Wow, what’s wrong with me?” I started to ask myself, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I getting out of shape? What’s going on?” Because it would happen for so long and I didn’t understand at all, during that time, that I was having those thoughts that this was part of the cycle and it’s normal and it’s okay, and you’ll have your ebbs and flows. That’s why I want women to understand this so much so that we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves and ask those questions because there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s exactly how it’s meant to be.

Amy:

I know right before my period which would be what felt like early fall.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yes.

Amy:

I get very tired, and a nap, a 30-minute nap in the afternoon is so rejuvenating for me. I think, like you had mentioned earlier, not just paying attention to exercise and movement, but paying attention to when you really do need that extra rest and allowing yourself to have that.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah. I also loved how you said about being near the ocean last week with your mom, because that is actually something that I try to go near and I feel drawn to going near when I’m bleeding too, because the water element is associated with that phase-

Amy:

Oh wow.

Jenni Hulburt:

… and that inner season. To me, it also symbolizes flow and flowing with ease and allowing things to just move along and not to be stuck or stagnant. I love being near the calmness of water, whether it’s a creek or ocean or wherever it might be. Even if someone doesn’t live anywhere near water, I think a bath can fit into that too. Just trying to think of where you can immerse yourself more in a water element. Definitely that bath with Epsom salts and maybe some essential oils could be super helpful during that phase of our cycle, especially. Yeah.

The next phase, after you go through the follicular phase, that egg is released, you’re moving into ovulation. So this is where hormones usually peak, and this is also the inner summer and I call it the peak phase for that reason. But peak hormone levels correspond with peak energy levels. That’s why you want to, during this phase, take advantage of that. If you are enjoying certain exercises that you want to do and you do feel like going for it, this would be a time to challenge yourself. Go for a race that you might do, if there’s any runners listening, or just do harder efforts and know that you’re going to have the capacity to recover more. So, it’s a little different than the spring phase and that during this … It’s like there’s not these distinct four phases even though there is. You have this ramp up. In the early spring phase, you might just be starting to feel that rise in energy, and then maybe towards the later spring, early summer phase, that could be when you’re really getting the combination of both.

But then you might have times during that inner summer phase where, maybe during ovulation, you have some rises and falls in your energy just because of the hormonal ups and downs too. I mean, you’re not going to have as much of that in the ovulatory phase as you do in the next one, in the luteal phase. But just know that these are both the most … the inner spring and inner summer, the follicular and ovulatory phase, they’re the most energized or the most … kind of if you’re thinking of yin and yang. They’re the most yang of the cycle, for sure. So also longer efforts are going to be more suited for this one as opposed to the spring. Spring might be those quick sprints or a shorter 30 minute thing that you might do. But if you want to do a longer hike or a longer run, your capacity for something that’s longer but moderate intensity is going to be better. Whereas in that spring phase, it was more quick and intense, and then allowing yourself to recover, of course too.

Amy:

Yeah. As you’re talking, I can really see how you need to record this in some type of a journal or diary.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah.

Amy:

Yeah.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, and notice details of what you’re doing and details of how you’re feeling. I use a number rating system to keep it simple, but just so you can glance through and see your different levels that you’ve gone through and how you’ve been feeling, a pattern wise. But yeah, it helps a lot because you do have ups and downs even within a cycle, even within a phase, and that’s why I say I don’t think there’s these four perfect phases, because even though you might think you’re dipping into this next phase, the luteal pre-menstrual recovery phase from inner summer, you might have some days in there where your energy rises again. That happens for me a lot of times. So even though what I described next, this general vibe of the luteal phase is probably more that yin, you’re sinking down towards that menstrual phase again where you may need more time to recover and all of that, it’s going to be a little bit of up and down in this one because your hormones are going up and down.

You might have high energy followed by dips. A lot of times, that can make women feel extra sluggish. So know that you might have more energy in the first part, but then definitely give yourself permission, always give yourself permission, especially in this one. Give yourself permission to ease back to lighter activities as your hormone levels are going to drop towards the end of this phase, as you get closer to menstruation. I do think that it’s important too, that a lot of us here that moving our bodies can help with reducing bloating or helping with our mood and all of that. But do what feels good to you. There’s a lot of things we can do to help ourselves in that way.

Yes, I’m going to say definitely that those things can help. But if it’s something else for you, it doesn’t have to be a work out, it doesn’t have to be exercise, or at least it doesn’t have to be exercise in the way that you envision it. One thing that I mentioned earlier about breathing, and I know that’s not necessarily something people think of with a workout, but it’s so linked to our movement, and to me it is movement in a way because it’s moving breath through our body. I think that can be a really important focus during this phase when you might not feel like doing your typical or what you would normally do other times. I don’t know if there is a normal anymore as you think about this process, but things that you would do during this phase aren’t going to look the same as the other ones.

The breathing is going to be one of those things that you might practice. So doing some deep breathing or breath work of some kind, and also maybe focusing on areas of your body or your movement that have been neglected a little bit. So maybe you have a nagging injury or a stiff part in your body, or some tightness that you just have been ignoring because you could, during the other phases, especially that inner summer, ovulatory where you’re feeling energized, and if you’ve been ignoring it, this is a good time to revisit it and do some extra stretching or work on alignment type of exercises with Pilates or yoga or working with someone who can really help you in that way. Maybe it even is physical therapy in some form, but this would be a good time to revisit that and check in with yourself and see what needs my attention, what’s been ignored, and maybe where can I work on some stability in ways that I haven’t been? That gives the general vibe of the four phases. Does that all make sense? Do you feel like you have any questions about any of it?

Amy:

No. I think it’s really fascinating and I can see how it plays out in my life. I do have a question. Women with PCOS, we don’t seem to cope with stress all that great. We have to be really cognizant of it. Stress really wreaks havoc on our hormones. When you would get into that fight or flight cortisol response place, I’m just curious, how does that affect this workout cycle? I mean, I know when I’m really stressed, I feel like the adrenaline’s pumping and I could run for a mile where I normally couldn’t. I’d love for you to talk about cortisol and that’s response.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up because it was actually on my mind as we were talking about some things earlier. Stress is something that our body doesn’t identify the difference between a mental stressor, a physical stressor, a stressor from … When I say physical stress, that could be from digestive, diet or from physical exertion through exercise or emotional stress. When there’s stress, there’s that response with a rise in cortisol so that we can react and have that. But when that sustained, that can be good and helpful to times if we allow ourselves to also come back down to a more rest and digest parasympathetic state. But if we have intense exercise that is constant or any other constant stress, and that includes physical or emotional or something related to other parts of your life, then that is associated with all of the HPA dysfunction that we’re talking about with adrenal fatigue or even insulin resistance.

Especially with PCOS, when you have intense exercise that can make symptoms worse, and that constant stress is associated with insulin resistance too. So that’s not really a good cycle there to be in, but I think it goes back to paying attention to how your stress levels are right now and looking at it overall. One thing that I realized too, as I was personally working through this, is that I had to not just pay attention to the stress of the workout and when I had maybe had a more … a higher capacity for it in those cycles that I described in those phases, but also what’s going on in other parts of my life and how am I feeling overall? Is there something else going on that’s really adding to stress right now? So that’s why actually noting your level of stress as part of the journal for-

Amy:

Perfect, yeah.

Jenni Hulburt:

… the whole thing, because you really have to know, well, if your stress levels are very high because you have something else that’s really intense, like a project at work or in your business, or you have something relational going on, or there’s just something else in your life outside of this, or even something physical, maybe you have been really dealing with a lot of symptoms with PCOS or something else in your health, and that’s causing a lot of stress for you, then you’re going to have to take that into consideration when you think about everything I just told you. In all of those phases, it might not look perfectly just like that, and hopefully, I mean, you got that anyway, that that wasn’t meant to be this is how it should be for you, because there’s no should for anyone.

It’s going to be different for each of us, and even though that is a general guide for how we can go with the rhythm of the cycle and follow the ups and downs, you still have to pay attention to those other personal factors for you, and stress is going to be one of them. So yes, it can be good because exercise can also help to allow our systems to release. It’s helpful to have that endorphin release and have that adrenaline because those endorphins are those feel good hormones that we hear about where, because of exercise, your mood overall can be improved or more stable, or you can feel more happy, more energized because of exercise. But if you’re a personally noticing that what you’re doing isn’t resulting in that, and it’s not giving you that feeling afterwards, you’re constantly feeling burnt out and tired, then don’t necessarily throw out movement altogether.

But just look at what you’ve been doing and change something about it. Change the intensity or change the activity. Most often you’re going to change the intensity of it at least for a while, but you really just have to pay attention and listen. I always say, “Have a plan but don’t fall in love with it. Be willing to be flexible,” and that’s a key part that I actually noticed in my master’s thesis research. I studied women who had chronic pain, and actually looked at the relationship between pain and stress and how exercise buffered the two and what the relationship was between all of that. One thing that I noticed in the surveys and the interviews and the research that I did with them was that the ones who were flexible, who were able to adapt to certain days of intense pain versus I’m feeling good today, versus I’m not feeling good today and just how they were feeling overall, they were the ones that had more of the endurance.

They had a more consistent and sustained routine that they were proud of, that they felt good about, and that they weren’t the ones saying, “I wish I was exercising more. I wish I felt better. I wish I wasn’t in as much pain.” They were the ones who were saying, “Yes, I have pain. But the days that I do, I walk instead of run or I swim instead of bike.” They know their bodies and they know what they need to adapt and do. So that flexibility and adaptability, I think is huge, no matter what. That’s important for all of us, but it’s especially important for those of us that need to be more in tune with ourselves because our body needs our extra attention at certain times, or as we go through certain things.

Amy:

Yeah. It just sounds to me it’s just being kind to yourself.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah, exactly.

Amy:

Yeah, no beating yourself up. All right, ladies that are listening and this all sounds really great, but they’re just stuck and they just can’t get started moving. Can you give us some advice there? How can you just get yourself motivated to begin?

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah. Yeah, I get it, because a lot of times it is like that, your mind is saying go, but your body says no, or maybe your mind and your body are both feeling like … Not to separate the two, but hopefully, maybe someone will relate to that idea where it’s you feel a little bit of that tension. Yeah, it’s great when you have a lot of energy, but when you don’t, it can change everything. As I said before, it’s not always about taking it easy and it’s not always about going hard. I think it’s really just about starting somewhere, and if you were to ask yourself, “What is the best thing for my body today?” And just choose something that sounds fun. If you haven’t been doing anything that … maybe you’re starting brand new, think back to what maybe you did at one time that was enjoyable to you that you haven’t done in a while.

I think sometimes, and this goes for me and for other people that I’ve worked with and just that motivation that wanes in ebbs and flows as well. Sometimes we have to really shake it up and we have to just do something different than we have been doing. Movement can be that, exercise can be that, and if you feel very frustrated with how you’re feeling, you feel very in that slump, like you described, and you’re not sure what you should be doing next, just ask yourself, “What would feel fun? What would be the best thing for my body based on the phase of the cycle that I’m in?” Just even think about that from what I shared with you today, what day are you on in your cycle? Maybe you’ll notice that you’re actually in the luteal phase, a couple of days out from your period, and so maybe that’s why you’re feeling a little sluggish and you can choose something from the menu ideas that I shared and start there.

Or maybe, let’s just say, you’re in your inner summer phase, and you’re thinking, “Wow, I should have a lot of energy according to what she just said, but I don’t like.” You’re thinking, “Well, what’s wrong?” There’s nothing wrong with you there either. It just means that you have your unique experience, and who knows? I don’t know what’s going on in your life or in your body or what you’re going through, but if that’s where you’re at and you’re still feeling like you don’t have the energy for what you want to be doing, just start with the next thing, and do something that is enjoyable. I don’t think, as you went back to saying Amy in the beginning, how a lot of us, including you and I, used to really think about exercise as a punishment, as something that we had to do, as something that we just were forcing ourselves to do to check it off a list kind of thing, or to burn calories or whatever.

I would just challenge you to think about what does it mean to you? What kind of movement does bring you joy and why is it important for you to do it? Because I think it’s an innate thing for all of us to enjoy some aspect of it. Yes, it’s harder for some people than others, and some of us have more propensity towards physical exertion than others do. But there’s something for each of us, even if it is just starting with breathing or starting with the bath, like you said, to feel better in our muscles, or starting with inhaling an essential oil, taking a step that’s going to get you to the movement.

Amy:

Yeah. As we’re doing this podcast, I’m watching my son and husband walking back and forth bringing landscaping bricks to the backyard because they’re-

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah.

Amy:

They’re building a patio and this is really reinvigorating my husband, getting him moving, getting my son moving. I’ve been digging back there too. So it could be a fun home improvement gardening project that gets you out there in the fresh air.

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah. thank you for sharing. That’s exactly what is the essence of what I was getting at, is the fact that it doesn’t have to look the way you think it should. It doesn’t have to look the way that you’ve read about in the fitness magazines or from the gym or from the workout video or from a personal trainer or anything, and all of … They had their best intentions because all of those things are great, but whatever’s great for you right now in whatever way that looks, just ask yourself that question. I think our bodies and our brain, they answer us when we are able to ask and really listen on what movement would best for me right now? What would be fun? What would be enjoyable? What would ignite some movement within me from the inside?

Amy:

That’s a great place to end the podcast. Jenni, do you have an online resource that explains the different cycles that we could put in the show notes?

Jenni Hulburt:

Yeah. At Jennihulburt.com/WILD is a cyclical body quick guide. So it does go through some of what I shared and then some other details about the cycle as well, just in a quick one, two-page PDF that you can download. There’s some other resources there too that are really aligned with living in sync with your cyclical body, whether that’s workouts or your lifestyle. So definitely those are some great places to start or to head from here.

Amy:

Yeah, and I know that you have a podcast and some programs. Maybe you could just briefly tell us about that.

Jenni Hulburt:

Sure. Yeah, WILD Wellness Podcast, which you can find wherever you listen to podcasts as well, or on my website, Jennihulburt.com, and the workout without burnout blueprint is something else that you’ll find on my site. So if you’re really interested in exploring this more and putting it into practice, knowing that you need to follow a more cyclical approach as opposed to a linear one, because you need to recover from burnout or you need to avoid it, whatever it might be. You’re into that more intuitive and mindful approach that we’ve talked about, then this blueprint will help you to understand more of what I’ve shared here and how to plan your workouts in a way that maximizes your peak times and also maximize those restful times so that you can feel better. It’s really for all women no matter what your experience is with your cycle or without one. We can all tune into that. Yeah, all that would be best to find at my website at Jennihulburt.com, which thank you for sharing in the show notes.

Amy:

Well, thank you so much for coming on and helping us learn how to better move like a PCOS Diva. Thank you everyone for listening. I look forward to being with you again very soon. Bye bye.

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