Optimising Training During Your Menstrual Cycle

Have you ever wondered whether your menstrual cycle affects your training? The answer is YES! For all the women out there, who love to train but feel like they cannot control how their bodies feel and move, there may be a way you can train in such a way that matches each step of your cycle.

Your hormones are doing some pretty crazy things in your body, and when you understand exactly what is happening, it becomes easier to optimize your training. Your menstrual cycle no longer has to cramp your style.

Of course, every woman has a different menstrual cycle, ranging anywhere from 23 to 36 days. And some women don’t just have a menstrual cycle, but rather a menstrual rollercoaster, which makes it a bit more challenging when it comes to navigating your training schedule.

Follicular Phase

This is the first week of your menstrual cycle and this phase begins the first day of your period and ends the last day you ovulate. In this phase your follicle-stimulating hormone lets your body know to produce more estrogen. So, your estrogen levels will increase, and this stimulates follicle growth.

The Menstrual Phase: This phase lasts for the first 5 days of the follicular phase. During this phase, the inner lining of your uterus sheds when the egg is released from the follicle and the egg is unfertilized – commonly referred to as the uterus punch... I mean your period.

How to Train: Your estrogen and progesterone levels are low, particularly on the day your period starts but will slowly increase as the week goes on. Because of this, you may experience your energy levels rising during this week. Another factor to consider is your body will be more sensitive to insulin which means you can consume more carbohydrates! Again, this will give your body more energy for training. As your energy levels rise, increase your strength workouts and add in some sprints.


Luteal Phase

This phase generally falls in the second week, right after your mean flow. It starts after your last day of ovulation and lasts right up until your next period starts. In this phase, your progesterone levels increase, as well as your estrogen to a lesser extent. Your body temperature rises about a degree higher due to these hormones.

How to Train: In this phase, your energy levels are peaking as your body gets ready to ovulate. This is where you can take advantage and push yourself in training. Increase intensity and load during this time. Try to aim for your personal record!


Ovulation Phase

This phase starts the day your ovary releases the egg. The fully matured egg is released during ovulation by luteinizing hormone. You will be at your most fertile during this phase.

How to Train: Your estrogen levels decrease rapidly while your progesterone levels continue to increase. Again, your core temperature will increase slightly. You may feel fatigued during this week, yet that doesn’t mean training is out. In fact, training during this phase will give your mood a boost and even make you feel a bit more energized. It is important to not overdo it, rather stick to aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, and swimming. It is also vital to keep yourself hydrated during this phase.


Luteal Phase

This phase takes place about a week before your period. You will begin feeling even more exhausted as hormones keep your uterine lining thick and ready for a fertilized egg to implant.

How to Train: Both your estrogen and progesterone levels decrease during this phase and your energy levels will be at their lowest. Here you may start experiencing those nasty PMS symptoms. Training can still be good in this phase as it gives some energy and a better mood. However, this should be your downtime too. Include some light exercises such as yoga and walking and make sure to focus on your recovery. Lastly, increasing your protein is vital if you do train during this phase.

To Sum Up

If you find yourself not understanding why one week, you’re killing it at the gym, and the next you have zero energy to get up off the couch, it could be the simple fact that your menstrual cycle is behind it all. So, no need to be so hard on yourself.

Remember, the women who exercise to get rid of period cramps…are the ones surviving the apocalypse. Okay, I know that your period doesn’t exactly feel like a laughing matter when you’re in the middle of it. Your uterus is in the vice grip of the feminine mystique. But seriously, this is what it truly means when they say go with the flow. Identify what phase you are in and adapt your training to benefit you.

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