Using your period as a superpower

Periods can be a pain. Cramps, mood swings and the hassle of dealing with round the clock bleeding can make daily life hard... and exercising even harder. The hormonal shifts women navigate each month can present a real challenge when it comes to maintaining consistent training habits. Research shows that about 75 percent of athletes experience negative side effects such as cramps, back pain, headaches and bloating during their cycle. Another study has shown fluctuations in strength, metabolism, inflammation, body temperature and risk of injury as a result of hormonal changes. While the specific impact is different for everyone, training throughout your cycle isn’t always easy. The more you understand the phases of your cycle, the more easily you can adapt exercise to suit your body and your mind.

The phases of your menstrual cycle

As most women will know, your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends when your next period begins. Usually, this is 28 days, but it can vary. Within your cycle, there are three phases: 

  • The follicular phase: This is the time between the first day of your period and ovulation.
  • Ovulation: This is halfway through your cycle when an egg is released from the ovary.
  • The luteal phase: This is the time between ovulation and before the start of menstruation, when your body prepares for a possible pregnancy.

Each phase is fueled by hormones, four in particular. In the early stages of your cycle, a hormone known as the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) tells your ovaries to prepare and produce the egg containing follicles.
These follicles then produce the second hormone, oestrogen, which rebuilds the lining of the uterus. Once the follicles are big enough and produce enough oestrogen, the third hormone, luteinizing hormone (LH) is produced. This releases the egg which causes ovulation. In this final phase, the follicle that contains the egg begins to produce the fourth hormone, progesterone. It is progesterone that helps prepare your uterus for a possible pregnancy.

What is cycle syncing exercise?

Cycle syncing is when you tailor your training schedule to match the different phases of the menstrual cycle. It can be as simple as shifting the intensity of your workouts as your cycle progresses, or it may involve choosing different types of exercise to match different phases of your cycle.

The benefits of cyclical syncing

Tuning in to your menstrual cycle helps you understand the nuances of how your body responds to exercise at different stages. You can discover the best times to push your body and when to focus on rest and recovery. This will help ensure you get optimal results from your exercise efforts. The more you understand the phases of your cycle, the more easily you can adapt exercise to suit your body and your mind.

How to exercise according to your menstrual cycle

Exercise during early follicular phase: At the beginning of your cycle, your menstrual hormones are low while you are menstruating. You may be dealing with symptoms like inflammation, pain and a good dose of lethargy. This is when you might want to be kind to yourself and train in a way that really nurtures your body and mind. Focusing on recovery is often a good idea, as you want to avoid stresses that may trigger autoimmune responses.

We have a range of holistic fitness classes suitable for nurturing your body and mind... Read more about Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates.

Exercise during mid follicular phase: As the follicular phase progresses, oestrogen starts to rise. This is when your energy levels may start to pick up and some find a higher pain tolerance. Some women find this can be the perfect time to train harder and push through high intensity workouts and strength training. For some, strength training doesn’t only feel better in this phase, it might be even more effective because of the increased oestrogen levels.

Exercise during late follicular phase to ovulation: As oestrogen level peaks at the end of the follicular phase, so too can your training performance. In this phase, right before ovulation, you may feel perfectly primed to smash your goals and break new training records.

If you're looking for a perfect session to make the most of feeling your most powerful self, save a spot on one of our Village Exclusive classes... Burn, Boxxer Blast or Blade Blast.

Exercise during the luteal phase: After ovulation, your menstrual cycle hormones fluctuate fast. Energy levels and power can drop and you may be feeling heavier because of fluid retention. All of a sudden, your body is no longer primed for high intensity training like it was in the follicular phase. Some women find this is the perfect time to embrace longer, more steady state training. You might like to focus on improving technique and movement efficiency, rather than pushing for a personal best. Parasympathetic activation can also be very advantageous during this phase so enjoy activities like yoga, meditation and breathwork. Right before ovulation, you may feel perfectly primed to smash your goals and break new training records.

If you want some expert advice on how to manage your fitness journey between your menstrual cycle... Find out more about how our Personal Trainers can help.


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