Understanding Your Cycle Means Optimising Your Training

When it comes to exercising as a woman the menstrual cycle can add a challenging variable to an already overwhelming list of things you need to balance to achieve your goals. While I recognise that these symptoms can differ between individuals, there are a number of performance changes that you can be more aware of from day to day. This article will walk you through the basics of how your
cycle impacts your training as well as some insight into planning around your cycle to take the guess work out of training.


The Basics
First thing you need to know is that the menstrual cycle has 4 distinct phases that can vary in
duration from woman to woman. These phases are the menstrual, follicular, ovulation and literal


Below are the key points to remember about each phase:

Menstrual Phase
● You get your period, typically lasting 3-7 days) and the major female hormones including oestrogen and progesterone drop. This is a great time to take a break… but more on that later!


Follicular Phase

● The follicular phase starts to act on the ovaries to produce immature eggs or follicles from
the ovaries around day 10 of your cycle.


● During this phase a mature egg is released. In terms of training specific implications, oestrogen peaks during this phase and body temperature elevates.


Luteal Phase
● There is a slight increase in both female sex hormones and you may incur some PMS symptoms before your cycle restarts. If find you have few PMS symptoms this can be a great time to train before your cycle starts again!


Your Own Personal Experience

If you have ever walked into the gym and felt off from one workout to another and had no idea why you can’t balance or your strength has left you, it may come down to your menstrual cycle, From talking to many of our female clients I have only just begun to understand how diverse menstrual systems can be. 


These can include but are not limited to:
● Loss of strength, balance or coordination
● Severe abdominal cramping making it near impossible to do targeted core work
● Lethargy, irritability and motivation meaning you may not even feel like getting to the gym
● Changes in hydration from fluid retention to a loss of fluid and other electrolytes dependant on where you are in your cycle.

As I mentioned in a previous article it is critical that you track your cycle and understand when these symptoms occur. If tracking does not make the training and exercise picture clear for you make sure you have a chat to you coaches for that extra bit of insight.

Use the time Constructively as a Deload Week

While some people may find this couple of days a great time to train, I will often get clients to simply move and breathe rather than push the intensity. This goes for both strength training and high intensity interval training. Whilst I program a deload week for both my make and female clients it is critical that you align the deload week with cramping and other menstrual symptoms to make the most of the rest!

Not Getting Your Period?
One of the biggest warning signs of possible overtraining is the loss or irregularity of your period. The balance of hormones throughout the cycle can be thrown out by continued stress and strenuous training without the proper recovery. The loss of period is more so a symptom than the issue itself.

The disruption of hormones can lead to severe fatigue and even loss of bone density. If you do notice an irregular cycle or a loss of your period all together please speak to your GP.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post (link here) make sure to have an open and honest discussion with your coaches. This will leave you feel empowered, in control and ready to get the best out of your training!


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