So few of us use our menstrual cycle to guide how we exercise. I definitely didn’t until a few years ago! In fact a 2019 study revealed that 82% of women in the UK and Ireland never received any education regarding exercise and their menstrual cycle.
Our hormones make us cyclical. It’s normal for our energy to change through our menstrual cycle. But yet we often try to do the same level of exercise every week and get frustrated when we can’t keep it up.
Remember: you are not lazy or lacking will power. You are cyclical!
Here are some ideas on how we can use the different “seasons” of our menstrual cycle to exercise better:
Winter (when you bleed)
With our hormones at an all time low its best, at the least for the first few days, to stick to gentle exercise like walking, yoga or pilates. Or if you do want to still train, make sure you take it easy. You’ll find by conserving energy now, you’ll likely to have more later on in your cycle.
Spring (the week after your period)
Our rising energy correlates with our rising oestrogen levels and we may feel capable of doing more demanding or intensive cardio exercise or be open to try a new workout or sport.
Short duration, intense workouts like sprints and HIIT are great as oestrogen promotes glucose availability and uptake into type I muscle fibres; an action that can be stopped by progesterone in second half of cycle (PMID: 20199120).
Summer (around ovulation)
Your oestrogen is at an all time high and the slight surge in testosterone means it’s a great time for endurance sports and strength training.
Studies show muscle is built easier and our bodies recover faster in the first half of our cycle (spring/summer) (PMID: 20199120/20335737/26558833/31678355)
I highly recommend This Women Lifts online strength training programme which you can do from the comfort of your home. There is a £25 month trial, half off the usual price, if you want to give it a whirl.
A word of caution for all types of exercising: oestrogen also makes us have lax ligaments to make sure you warm up properly (PMID: 16558557/30697162)
Autumn (the week or so before your period)
In the first week after ovulation you may still have the energy to keep up strenuous exercise. But as we move through our luteal phase and our energy naturally drops, listen to your body and taper your workouts accordingly.
Studies suggest we reach exhaustion faster during the mid luteal phase than in the first half of our cycle (PMID: 12959622).
Fun fact: in our luteal phase we often have a better connection to our intuition which can help us read our opponents when playing a competitive sport! Who knew?
I’d love your main takeaway to be that your energy and motivation definitely should change through your cycle and keep listening inwards. If you’re keen to train with your cycle in mind and to learn more about your incredible body, you’ll love my 6-week live course Embrace Your Cyclical Power.