I have had questions over the years regarding how to train while dealing with the normal hormonal fluctuations (menstrual cycle) that women have to contend with. Most recently it came up again, so I thought it a good topic for the weekend.
I’m going to break this down in the most basic of terms for the take home message. Here we go!
When dealing with the menstrual cycle, there are three phases that we can look at in order to plan out the training. Cycles typically last around 28 days and that works well in breaking down the training into 4 week blocks.
The first phase after the period is the follicular phase which last about 14 days. For simplicity lets just say that your body is producing hormones that are preparing the follicle to become an egg. This is a good time because the hormones present in this phase make it a good time to hit the training hard. You feel strong, your metabolism is a furnace and you feel strong in the gym.
The second phase is ovulation where the follicle is transforming in the egg. This from day 10ish to day 17ish. But from a training standpoint you can think of this as a transition period. Hormones are still high, so strength and output are strong, but changes are occurring hormonally that start to diminish motor control. So this would not be a good time to learn a complex new movement or play super competitive, athletically demanding sports.
The third phase is the luteal phase, and this is the time when the egg and uterine lining are preparing to shed and thus ending in your period, so the last 14 days. Due to the hormonal make up during that time energy is lower and symptoms of PMS make training at previous levels challenging.
So, all right we have a rudimentary understanding of what happens and the corresponding training sensations but how do we put this into our training so that we can maximize our intensity and absorption?
Basically, the first two weeks after your period you are good to go, crank it out and hit it hard.
The third week, you will maintain training intensity but allow for some of those training days to not be on par with the previous weeks.
Once into the fourth week with full symptoms of PMS and your period, continue to exercise but allow yourself to back it off a bit so that you do not over tax your system. This is important anyway because we should always have a “deload” week so that we can better absorb the training and refresh for the next cycle.
Super simple, but this will help to alleviate any frustrations some of you may be having when your body is pushing back right when you want to keep pushing forward!