Here’s the thing, you’re neither lazy or unmotivated, you’re a human with a period and with that period comes waves of hormones, energy and other not-so-fun side effects that may affect your training and your progress. Instead of letting this cycle of ups and downs veer you off course, I'm going to give you some tips and tricks to start tracking your cycle and scheduling your workouts to match. Small tweaks in your training can give huge payoffs when it comes to strength and endurance PRs, overall feelings of success and, even better, sticking to a training program long term.
We are not just smaller versions of men, who have pretty consistent hormones throughout the month, we have the opportunity to use our high energy phases as our strength and athletic gains super power and our lower energy phases to recover and rebuild. It will take a little focus and planning, but once you get rolling you will feel it.
Let’s start with the basics. What are the phases of your menstrual cycle?
So what about exercising during my period?
Recommendations for workouts through your period
The Follicular Phase (Period to Ovulation)
Recommendations for workouts through your follicular phase
Whether High intensity training is already part of your training schedule or you’ve always been a little nervous to try, this is the phase to do it. You have a higher capacity for intensity and stress and your body is better prepared to recover from these sessions, making them more effective. For a true HIIT workout you should be seriously pushing yourself during work intervals and fully resting in between. These sessions can increase your overall athletic performance, your VO2 max and they are just really fun when you’re feeling energetic and strong.
Follicular Phase Nutrition Tip
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EXERCISING DURING OVULATION
During the luteal phase your progesterone levels begin to peak which can cause feelings of fatigue, drowsiness and the dreaded "lack of motivation." Quick reminder – you are not lazy or unmotivated, your body is producing hormones that actually can make your performance suffer. While this phase continues you can feel tired faster (those tiny weights start feeling much heavier), recover slower from intense bouts of stress, and have increased cardiovascular strain. On top of that, research shows that you most likely will suffer even more in a hot climate because your core body temperature is rising as well. Athletes in this phase are shown to have decreased speed and performance overall.
For athletes, acknowledging what is happening in your body and giving yourself the space to de-load in this phase so you can really push when the follicular phase comes, will help keep a positive mindset around training. You are not suddenly less motivated or talented, you are just going through the natural hormonal ups and downs.
RECOMMENDED EXERCISE DURING THE LUTEAL PHASE
If getting flow-y just doesn’t work for you, lower intensity pilates, barre or bodyweight movement classes can do the trick. Give yourself plenty of time to recover, fuel properly and focus on technique work you may push past when you’re feeling super energetic.
SO HOW DO I KNOW IT’S MY CYCLE AND NOT JUST ME BEING LAZY?
Everyone’s bodies and symptoms are different, but knowing how your hormones affect you when it comes to exercise can help you choose the right workouts for you at the right time (and when to maybe take a break!)
You may have very few dips in energy and performance (lucky you!) and can largely stick to a pre-set program while your training partner may have significant drops in energy and strength and need to make bigger changes throughout the month. Either way, tracking your cycle and knowing more intimately what is going on in your body is just another tool in your performance and habit building tool box. If you know why you feel fatigued, that rest day won’t feel like you’re "just lazy" or "unmotivated," and instead allows you to feel ok just stretching or resting while your body does its thing.