Have you ever thought about working out in harmony with the moon? It could just be the magic ingredient you need to take exercising to the next (lunar) level.
When I first heard about syncing an exercise regime with the phases of the moon, I’ll admit that I was sceptical. How can a lump of rock and metal over 200,000 miles away possibly have any effect on my Saturday morning 5k? But the more I looked into it, the more intriguing it sounded; I had to give it a go.
The moon has fascinated us for thousands of years and is intrinsically linked to most Western calendars: we measure our menstrual cycles according to the 30-day calendar, for example. We also know that its gravitational pull (combined with the rotational force of the Earth) is powerful enough to cause the tides to rise and fall.
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And the idea that the moon influences our moods, while largely discredited by conventional medicine, has been popular for centuries – and shows no signs of waning. In fact, some studies show that the stages of the moon’s cycle do indeed impact our sleep patterns and I’ve yet to speak to a parent who has never blamed a full moon for familial disharmony.
So, is it really so far-fetched that our closest celestial being could influence our energy levels, and therefore our workouts? Let’s find out.
What is a moon cycle and how long does it take?
First up, I needed to educate myself about the moon’s phases, in order to truly sync myself with her energy.
“It takes 29.5 days for the moon to complete her cycle and she goes through four main phases during her orbit,” explains transformational coach Karen Whybrow.
“These phases are a new moon, first quarter, full moon and third quarter,” she continues. “It’s believed that some phases have masculine or ‘yang’, energy, while others are feminine – ‘yin’. Having complementary but opposing energies, the phases are reliant on each other for balance and harmony. We can work with these energies and cycles of ebb and flow in our lives to grow and expand with ease and balance in all areas of life.”
How to harness the energy of the moon to boost your workout
“I believe using the moon phases could really help us take our fitness to the next level,” encourages Whybrow. “We tend to assume that we can work out at the same intensity all the time and take little account of our cyclical nature. We are expected and taught to give the same amount of effort consistently and constantly regardless of all the many things going on around us. This just isn’t feasible and isn’t going to help us reach our targets whatever they may be.”
OK, so where to start? It’s easy enough to find out what moon phase we are in at any given time – a quick google search of my location told me which quarter we were in, and with Whybrow’s words of encouragement ringing in my ears, I was ready to get started.
The cycle begins with a new moon. This is when it’s not visible at all, completely obscured by the earth. This is believed to be a good time for setting intentions. Whybrow advises: “The new moon is a natural rest period, a time of intention setting – perfect for mediation and gentle stretches.”
Being the type of person who gladly accepts any opportunity to rest and recharge, I was happy to be able to spend a few days with more restorative practices, rather than going full pelt on the cardio. I leaned into my pilates practice and added in some barre and mobility work – and it all felt good. I was ready for the cycle to begin.
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“The moon begins her cycle in the crescent moon phase; she can be seen as a small crescent in the sky,” says Whybrow. “This is a time for new beginnings and sowing seeds of how you want to feel. Determining your exercise plan for the month ahead in accordance with the moon phases is a great thing to do this week.”
I dutifully took note of what was coming up over the next few weeks, in terms of my exercise regime and my diary as a whole – and it felt rewarding and super-organised to have such a concrete plan, which definitely helped with my motivation over the month.
Heading into the first quarter, I was soon to be thankful for the rest period the new moon offered.
“As the moon grows in the sky to the first quarter the masculine energy is rising and this is a time of growth and abundance,” explains Whybrow. “The moon continues in her waxing phase to the full moon and the peak of the masculine energy.
You know how sometimes you go for a run and it almost feels like you’re flying? Well, I wouldn’t quite go that far, but I have to admit that my usual 5k turned into an 8k – and it felt really good.
At the time, I put this down to the fact that it was a flat, seafront route as opposed to my usual hilly trail, and the fact that I was with one of my best friends – always great for taking the mind off any pain or discomfort. But maybe there was more to it than that?
I had big expectations for this week, seeing as the first quarter had felt great. I had learned that as she waxes and grows to the full moon, the masculine yang energy rises and this is a time of increased energy and growth. Time to pick up those weights.
“This period of masculine energy is a good time to do weight-bearing exercises or increase the load of your workouts,” says Whybrow. “Anything high intensity at this time is good.”
But despite having permission to really go for it, the full moon is also purported to be a time for forgiveness and gratitude. “The full moon allows us to let go of the things that are not serving us,” suggests Whybrow. “Any thoughts, feelings and regrets can drift away, leaving us thankful for all that we have.”
And simply allowing myself to stop beating myself up about not getting a PB every time I sat on the bike or laced up my trainers allowed me to simply enjoy working out for its own sake – and there’s something to be said for this.
“After reaching her peak as a full moon, the moon then begins to wane and decrease in size to the new moon,” explains Whybrow. “This is a time where the feminine yin energy rises and we begin to go inwards, to reflect and rest.”
For me, this was a welcome excuse to consider what has worked well in my routine – usually I would go headlong from one workout to another, paying little or no attention to how my body and mind feel about it. Whybrow recommends trying a slower pace of exercise in this phase – walks in nature, yoga, and gentle workouts for your whole body. This didn’t mean stopping entirely, just slowing things a little.
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“As the moon then continues her cycle and begins waning and reducing in size and the feminine energy rises this is a time to reduce the intensity of your workout and weights you use,” she says.
Usually, I wouldn’t give myself permission to slow down, but given that I’d worked so hard in the full moon stage, I decided to go with it, and you know what? I didn’t become unfit overnight. Who knew?
Moon syncing takeaways
And so, we reach the end (or beginning?) of the cycle. Did I really notice any difference? Well, it certainly felt good both emotionally and physically to be more mindful of my movement, and spending some time considering how and why I was moving felt novel. I also felt more connected with nature. It felt comforting to be part of the bigger picture, rather than being wrapped up in my own life and troubles, I was able to step back and gain perspective.
And perhaps this was the biggest lesson of the experiment: the impact of the moon on our minds.
“We aren’t able to shine brightly all the time,” says Whybrow. “Using the moon teaches us that no matter what phase we are in, we are still whole. We all ebb and flow in accordance with many things including the moon, our own internal rhythm, the seasons, cycles operating within cycles and so on. This encourages compassion when we have an off or low day, giving us the opportunity to show up again and shine.”
Given that my menstrual cycle is also impacting my energy levels and motivation, it is difficult to say with any certainty that working out according to the moon has had any discernible effect – but I kind of love the idea that we’re shaped by more than just our earthly movements.And if it stops us being so hard on ourselves when things aren’t going according to plan, that has to be a good thing, right?
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