Endo & Exercise: How to create a routine that works for your body and lifestyle

fitness & movement Apr 30, 2024

Exercise Challenges with Endo

Exercise is a no-brainer for staying healthy, right? But what about when it backfires? Like, when it makes you feel sick or leaves you in pain? No one really talks about that. I've personally experienced this—times when I couldn't even fathom working out because I felt so nauseous, or when the pain was just too intense after my workout. And the reason for it all - Endometriosis. It's super frustrating because I loooove exercise.  I'm not just someone who loves working out—I'm a physical therapist and health coach as well. Health & fitness is literally embedded in what I do! So, dealing with this is not easy. Endometriosis can really make it seem like exercise is off the table. But let me assure you, that's not the case at all. It's absolutely possible to incorporate exercise into your routine with endo. And in this blog article, I'm going to share how you can do just that, so you can enjoy all the incredible benefits that exercise brings to your life.

 

Different Seasons

The key to making exercise work for you is that it's all about honoring your body exactly where you are today, and this can vary depending on the season of life you're in. Whether you're putting in crazy hours to advance in your career or business, juggling the demands of being a mom to two kids, dealing with an endo flare-up, or recovering from excision surgery – each phase looks different! If you don't align your exercise choices with where you are in life, it can feel like working out is a bad idea. But trust me, it's not! Before we dive into all the details, I want to share some examples of different times in my life when I had to approach things differently.

2021

SeasonBuilding my online fitness and health coaching business, while leading monthly exercise challenges for over 100 women. 

What I felt like: I battled severe nausea and constant digestive pain. Discomfort worsened with bending over, lying down, moving too fast, stress, eating the wrong thing or eating too much.  This was before I knew I had endometriosis.

Exercise: Slow walks outside, along with breathing and gentle stretches. I gradually progressed to faster-paced outdoor walking and strength training exercises as my condition improved. I avoided activities like ab workouts, HIIT, and high-intensity cardio or jumping.

 

2022

Season: Resolved 90% of my digestive symptoms  and pain through holistic strategies. Feeling much better, exercising at high levels consistently. Actively able to show up in my holistic health coaching and PT businesses. Still didn't know I had Endo. 

What I felt like: Felt good most days, though randomly I would get nausea and fatigue spells a few days before my period. Good energy. No digestive discomfort. Mild low back pain during period.

Exercise: High Level Functional strength training 3x/week, Running outdoors 2x/week, preparing for an upcoming race. Walking outdoors daily 2+ miles.

 

2023

Season:  Working 50+ hours a week balancing my business and a physical therapy travel assignment. Excision surgery scheduled, anxious about procedure.

What I felt Like: Stressed & Anxious!I had zero time for myself, struggling to balance self-love and proper nutrition. Consequently, my body felt worse—more pain, fatigue, severe bloating, and nausea.

Exercise: Yoga and hiking—both provided mental health benefits while allowing me to stay active. I did each about twice a week

 

2023 

Season: Healing from excision surgery. Juggling a 50 hour workweek, but feeling slightly better in terms of energy levels, with no nausea or fatigue. Dealing with pelvic pain.

What I felt like:In a much better mental space now that the surgery was behind me, I leaned into not rushing my healing and pushing myself too hard. Although I was very ready to get back to running and other high-level exercises, my body told me otherwise. Concerned the new pain I was experiencing after surgery wouldn't dissipate.

ExerciseWalking most days of the week for 60-90 minutes. Pelvic physical therapy once a week, along with daily pelvic PT exercises. Attending dance class once a week and hiking twice a month.

 

2024

Season: All of that hard work last year paid off! I am back to working 20 hours or less/week and started my Endo Blog. Lots of testing and procedures potentially preparing for IVF

What I feel like:  Trying my best to stay positive & happy. Physically my energy is good, and I no longer have pelvic pain. My body lets me know if what I'm doing is too strenuous. I'm listening to my body and aligning exercise accordingly, no longer pushing through discomfort. 

Exercise: Practicing yoga twice a week, mixing in at-home workouts or gym-based strength training three times a week, and fitting in outdoor walks or runs 1-2 times a week.

 Have you found yourself in any of these seasons?

What season are you in right now?

 

All or Nothing?

When it comes to Endo and Exercise - it's never an all or nothing situation. Instead of thinking all or nothing, think always something! It's about finding that sweet spot that works for your body, no matter where you are in your journey. So, instead of stressing about extremes, ask yourself:

  • What exercise can I do today that supports the level I'm at right now? 
  • What other non-exercise actions can I incorporate now to support my future goals?
    • Think nutrition, pain management, emotional wellness, self-care

Drawing from my experience as a holistic health coach and physical therapist, I've got some tricks up my sleeve. I've become pretty skilled at figuring out the right exercise level for different phases. That's why I'm breaking it down into five simple steps for you. These steps will help you assess where you are, determine your next moves, and guide you toward where you want to be.

 

5 Steps to Finding Your Fit: Endo Edition

 

Step 1: Let Go of Limiting Beliefs

 

"My body is too fragile for exercise."

Whether they're coming from others or your own experiences, it's time to kick those limiting beliefs to the curb. To make anything happen, you gotta have faith in yourself and believe you can do it! What you focus on, you feel. So, no more "I can't exercise because I don't feel good." Watch the stories you're telling yourself. What kind of life do you wanna live? Instead of dwelling on limits, flip the script to something like "Even on tough days, I can still do some gentle activities to ease the pain and symptoms in the long run."

 Journal Prompts

  • What limiting beliefs do you currently hold about exercise and its relationship to your endometriosis?
  • What empowering belief can you replace them with?

 

Step 2: Learn the Benefits of Exercising with Endometriosis

I've lost count of how many times people have told me to "take it easy" or "maybe you're exercising too much." Look, I get it. They mean well, but here's the thing: I know my body better than anyone else. And guess what? They probably haven't done the research like I have on endometriosis and exercise.

Exercise can seriously change the game for those of us dealing with endometriosis. It's not just about breaking a sweat; it's about finding relief from symptoms, boosting our mood, and reducing stress. Plus, getting active can make us feel stronger, more flexible, and even help balance out our hormones.

There is actual scientific evidence to back up the benefits of exercise & endo. Trust me, understanding how exercise can help with endo will get your mind and body aligned, making it easier to support your goals in a way that feels right for you.

Now that you know about the science supporting exercise for endometriosis, let's talk about a real challenge: lots of us dealing with endo just don't feel up to exercising because of the pain or other symptoms. If that's you, listen up: it's all about tuning in to your body and starting from where you feel good. And that's what step 3 is all about.

 

Step 3: Identify Your Starting Point

 In order to figure out where to start, you just have to start! Test it out. What is something you are interesting in doing? Maybe its a walk at lunch, attending a yoga class, doing strength training at your local gym. I'm giving you permission now GO FOR IT! 

Here are some ideas of where to start based on intensity level:

After your workout, check in with yourself using the chart below.

If your body is waving the "dial it back" flag, go back to the intensity chart above and switch to something with a little less difficulty. See how it vibes, then keep trying until you land on something that feels just right for you!

 

Step 4: Commit 

Once you've found your thing, the next step is huge: COMMIT. Make a power promise to show up for yourself and stick to your plan. Trust me, when it comes to reaping the rewards of exercise, it's not about intensity—it's all about consistency! Small daily actions add up over time, resulting in massive changes. So in this step, it is time to decide what you are willing and able to commit to. There are TWO commitments you need to make.

COMMITMENT #1: Commit to an exercise plan that fits where you're at right now.

Examples:

  • Daily Walking: 30-minute walk, 5 days a week.
  • Yoga or Pilates: Two 45-minute sessions per week.
  • Swimming: Three 30-minute sessions per week.
  • Cycling: Two 60-minute sessions per week.
  • Bodyweight Exercises: 20-minute session, three times a week.
  • Tai Chi or Qi Gong: One-hour class once a week.
  • Dance Classes: One 60-minute class per week or dance workout videos, 30 minutes, three times a week.
  • Gardening or Yard Work: 30 minutes to an hour, twice a week.

You can always do a combination of these things as well. Commit to something you feel 100% confident you can do. 

 

COMMITMENT #2: Commit to a new habit that will improve your long-term well-being and help you reach your goals.

  • To Decrease Stress & Anxiety
    • Journaling: Spend 10 minutes each evening journaling about your thoughts and feelings 
    • Daily Meditation: Practice 10 minutes of meditation each morning
  • To Improve Pain
    • Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet 
    • Gentle Stretching: Incorporate 10 minutes of gentle stretching exercises into your daily routine
  • To Improve Energy: 
    • Regular Sleep Schedule: Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night by establishing a consistent bedtime routine 
  • To Improve Digestive Issues:
    • Mindful Eating: Practice mindful eating techniques, such as chewing slowly and paying attention to hunger cues
    • Gut Healing Protocol: Remove trigger foods, replace nutrients, repair gut lining and rebalance healthy bacteria.

The longer you stick with your commitment, the more discipline you will build, which, believe me, is a great skill to have. Apart from dealing with endometriosis symptoms, the biggest struggle people face is finding the time. Let me tell you, you don't find the time; you have to create it! Schedule your exercise sessions in your calendar—decide which days you'll be exercising and whether it'll be in the morning, during lunch, or before dinner. Get specific to help you follow through.

 

Step 5: Analyze & Align

Take this opportunity to check in with yourself and your actions. At the end of each week, reflect on what's working and what's not. Identify what went well and what didn't, and decide what you'll continue with next week. Consider if any adjustments are needed to improve compliance and let go of anything that isn't serving your goals in this current season of life.

Before diving into any major changes, I suggest committing to a full month. We humans tend to talk ourselves out of things that aren't easy, and let's be real, starting a new exercise journey isn't a walk in the park. It'll be challenging, but incredibly rewarding. After a month, you have two options: ramp it up! Increase from 2 exercise classes to 4, or extend your 30-minute walk to 45 minutes. If you notice a shift in your season altogether, revisit step 3 and identify a new starting point. Either way, the options are endless!

 

Don't Miss Out

Don't let endometriosis convince you that exercise is off the table. It's taken enough from us already—this won't be another loss! We're warriors! And that means we're strong and capable, but what truly sets us apart is our commitment to caring for our bodies, finding balance, and taking things one step at a time. Now, it's time to embrace your empowered self and take action! Remember, it's not all or nothing, but always something! You've got this! ♡

 

If you ever need extra support on your journey, don't hesitate to reach out. I'd absolutely love to assist you every step of the way. If you found this post helpful or insightful, please consider sharing it with someone who might benefit. My goal is to equip Endo Warriors with practical holistic tools and strategies to help them heal, thrive, and enjoy life!! ♡Kelley

 

 
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this website/blog is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not intended to replace consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of information provided on this website/blog. Reliance on any information provided by this website/blog is solely at your own risk

 

References

  1. Cramer DW, Wilson E, Stillman RJ, Berger MJ, Belisle S, Schiff I, Albrecht B, Gibson M, Stadel BV, Schoenbaum SC. The relation of endometriosis to menstrual characteristics, smoking, and exercise. JAMA. 1986;255:1904–1908. doi: 10.1001/jama.1986.03370140102032.
  2. Dhillon PK, Holt VL. Recreational physical activity and endometrioma risk. Am J Epidemiol. 2003;158:156–164. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwg122.
  3. Signorello LB, Harlow BL, Cramer DW, Spiegelman D, Hill JA. Epidemiologic determinants of endometriosis: a hospital-based case–control study. Ann Epidemiol. 1997;7:267–274. doi: 10.1016/S1047-2797(97)00017-3.
  4. Vitonis AF, Hankinson SE, Hornstein MD, Missmer SA. Adult physical activity and endometriosis risk. Epidemiology. 2010;21:16–23. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181c15d40.

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