Adapting your Exercise Routine Around your Cycle
Ever notice some training days you are on fire and other days you feel like you can barely rep your warm-up weight? Our hormones can have an affect on how we feel while training. You may find some research that does not support these theories, but through experience and observation alone we know there is something to it.
During the first half of our cycle (Follicular stage: Days 1-14), estrogen levels ramp up and we tend to be more insulin sensitive, leading to improved uptake of glucose in our muscles. This makes us feel in a better mood, more powerful, and able to push ourselves during workouts. In the middle, right before and around ovulation, our estrogen levels spike, leading to perhaps the most optimal time to reach new PRs. During the second half of our cycle (Luteal phase: days 15-28), the egg has been released and estrogen levels drop as progesterone rises and we might feel fatigue, water retention, and decreased performance ability. We tend to become less insulin sensitive, so it’s harder for our body to get that glucose for energy. During the luteal phase, it might be better to focus on low-intensity cardiovascular training and accessory work, and save the heavy lifting sessions for after you start your cycle over again.
This is all a natural process that our body experiences as a woman, so why fight it? If you are feeling more sluggish, do some reflection. Where are you in your cycle? While there are many other factors that can affect our performance (sleep, water, food), we can’t discount our body’s natural rhythm. If you just aren’t feeling it, and realize you are in the second half of your cycle, it’s ok to modify to meet your body’s needs. You can still get a good workout session in, while supporting your body where it is in it’s natural process.
Adapting your routine is not being a baby, making excuses, or being wimpy. This intuitive training is actually being smart. By following your body’s needs, you are keeping your nervous system in homeostasis, not providing excess stress to the system, so when you come back around to those high estrogen times, you can really take advantage and get the gains you are striving for.
I gave a very basic explanation of our hormonal process, which is much more complex. I encourage you to research and learn more about how your body works as a woman and the roles of hormones. I encourage you to monitor your own cycle, take notes on how you feel at different times of the month so you can better understand how your body functions. You can use an app, like Clue, to track and monitor your cycle and symptoms.
For those who learn better by listening (because who has time to read while chasing around 3 kids!?) check out Steph Gadreau's awesome podcast for more information: https://www.stephgaudreau.com/how-to-adapt-strength-training-to-menstrual-cycle/
“When you start getting used to a more intuitive way of programming, you carry around less weight on your shoulders of what you are supposed to be able to do.”
~Craig Zielinski, Strength and conditioning specialist
And when your cycle links up with your friends, you can bust out some major gains together!
Take care and be well,