Living in sync with your cycle not only means eating a well balanced diet, but also syncing your workouts according to your Menstrual cycle phases. I come from a past of exercise addiction where I would just “push past the pain”. Pushing myself when my body needed rest damaged my hormones.
Women are not small men and we shouldn’t train like one!Dr Stacy Sims Author of “ROAR”
For Decades female athletes (and women in general) have been told to train hard and suck it up. Im an advocate for hard work and going for what you want, but with this knowledge I now have about the female body. I no longer push my body to the limits when it needs rest.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!
The Menstrual cycle phases
To better understand why women should be training differently than men lies in the phases of our cycle. On average, women have a 28 day cycle (+/- a few days) where your energy will slowly build and then slowly deplete as you near the start of a new cycle. The phases are:
- menstrual phase
- follicular phase
- ovulatory phase
- luteal phase
Each phase there will be a hormone shift that will have an effect on energy levels and therefore, your training intensity.
Phase 1 of your menstrual cycle: the bleed
The menstrual phase occurs on days 1-7 or on your bleeding days. At this time, estrogen and progesterone have dropped to their lowest levels and will begin to build towards day 7. Due to the lack of energy available, one should not push too had in the gym or do high intensity workouts.
Pushing too hard can be counter productive to your goals, especially if you are just an average Joe looking to get healthy and shed a few lbs.
Think of it like trying to drive a car on an empty tank, not too good for the engine is it? Same thing with your body! Take it slow for the first few days until you have some gas in the tank and then begin to push yourself again.
Exercises that will benefit you in the menstrual phase:
- Yin yoga
- Tai Chi
- Walks in nature
- Light weight lifting (if you feel your body can handle it)
Phase 2 of your Menstrual cycle: follicular Phase
This one is my favourite phase! The follicular phase occurs on days 7-14 and is when estrogen levels begin to build and your energy increases with it! You know that “week” all women refer to as the only week they feel good? This is it!
Whats happening in your brain is signalling to the ovaries to prepare an egg to be released for ovulation. Estrogen will slowly begin to rise from the first day of your menstrual cycle up until ovulation. This rise in Estrogen is the reason your energy levels will be higher!
Ways to utilize this energy through exercise include:
- longer runs
- weight lifting (work up to those PR’s!)
- HIIT classes
- long walks
Phase 3 of your menstrual cycle: Ovulation phase
Here you have it folks! The grand show of your menstual cycle: Ovulation. When the follicle has reached maturity and enough estrogen has been produced, there will be a surge in Lutinizing hormone which releases the egg.
Ovulation occurs around day 14-17 depending on the woman as all of us are different! The egg can only survive about 24 hours without feralization, then it will die.
Due to this dramatic surge in hormones and the peak of estrogen levels, this is the highest energy you will reach during your cycle. Its a shame it only lasts a few days:(.
How you can utalize this surge in energy:
- HIIT classes
- Orange theory
Anthing that you feel like gets the job done is fair game in this phase.
Phase 4 of your menstual cycle: Luteal phase
The last and final stretch of your menstrual cycle phases is the luteal phase. The luteal phase will last from after ovulation to the first day of your new cycle (usually days 17-28).
After the follicle has released the egg, estrogen will slowly delcine and progesterone will slowly increase. This shift in hormones causes us to feel more laid back, mellow, and tired. Therefore, rest and digest time is in order!
Try out ways to move your body that are gentle such as:
- resotative yoga
- tai chi
- sleeping (yes its a sport)
you may feel able to do some weight lifting during the first bit of the luteal phase which is fine. Be warry of heavy weight lifting because progesterone can actually hinder recovery time. Try light weights with more reps and circle back to heavy weights when your new cycle begins.
What about birth control?
If you are on hormonal birth control, your cycle will be different than this as ovulation is not occurring. On Hormonal birth control, there will be a more consistent level of estrogen, since there is no surge it will not trigger the ovaries to release an egg. Thus, preventing pregnancy from occurring.
What this means for your workouts: Due to the consistent hormone levels you may have more consistent energy levels. Or, you may experience fatigue which is one of the many side effects of being on the birth control pill…
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the bottom line
Syncing you workout routine with your menstrual cycle will help with hormone balance. Giving your body the rest it needs, when it needs it allows women to work smarter, not harder on their fitness goals.
Lastly, I will say it again for the people in the back – Women are nt small men! So dont train like one:)
Did you learn anything new about your beautiful female body?! let me know in the comments below or DM me on instagram:)