Not as much of a taboo subject anymore as it used to be - PERIODS.
If you have two 'X' chromosomes and you're past puberty, then you've probably experienced the turmoil of the dreaded 'cycle'. If you're an athlete, regular gym goer or exercise regularly, then you'll know that your cycle and your period can really have a massive effect on your training. Not just energy level wise, but EVERYTHING wise. Ever been at the bottom of a heavy squat and thought your tampon might actually fall out mid lift? Aye...that. Not nice, is it?
What if there was a way you could actually schedule your training around your cycle so that you can get the most out of your training, know when's best to go HAM and when's best to take it easy? Well - you can, and I'm going to explain that in this blog. First of all, you need to know the basics about your cycle, what happens at each stage and how you can expect to feel. Then you need to know which phases of your cycle correspond to the GO HAM days and the CHILL days. To know all of this and put it into practise you then need to track your cycle for a few months using a simple app.
So let's start by getting to know your cycle:
The Menstrual Phase (Day 1-5/7)
The menstrual phase starts on Day 1 of your period and, if healthy, lasts 4 -7 days. This is the phase where your energy is at its lowest and you may feel withdrawn and tired all the time. If you do feel like this, then this phase is where you need to relax things off a little bit. Plan your training around this week being an active recovery week, so perhaps reduce your training sessions around Day 1 & 2 and swap them for a long walk or something else less strenuous and lower impact.
The Follicular Phase (Day 1 - 13)
The follicular phase is when the hormone oestrogen rises, which will give you a decent boost in energy. You'll find that this phase will see you having an improved mood, better brain function and the ability to concentrate better. It's also the phase where you're feeling more assertive and willing to take risks. Feelings of self sufficiency soar and it's also a good time for brain storming, making decisions and starting new projects. With that being said - this is the phase where you'd most likely hit new PB's and will perform high intensity exercise best - so you can afford to plan for some heavy volume workouts in this phase.
The Ovulation Phase (Day 14)
Ovulation occurs on day 14 of your cycle and this is the time of the month where you'll be looking and feeling more confident. So it's a great time for going clothes shopping for new gym gear, as well as a good time for job interviews, public speaking or anything else that requires you to be at your most confident. Your libido is highest at this point in your cycle, I'm not sure how this ties in with being at the gym, but maybe now would be a good time to make a move on that gym member you've had your eye on for a while?! Energy levels are high so this is a great time for planning a high volume training week
The Luteal Phase (Day 15-28)
The first half of this phase sees hormone progesterone increase, and the 2nd half is your PMS phase (if you do suffer from symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome). This phase means you require a lot more R&R. Your sleep and core body temperature may be disrupted during this phase, so increased tiredness may be an issue.
You may find that this phase brings about 'gym strops' or 'gym weepiness'. Don't be afraid to take yourself off to the bathroom and have a good cry about why you can't increase your 1RM by 0.5kg today.
This phase is a really good time to think about doing some lower impact training like yoga or pilates - which is going to help your overall training schedule anyway. I know you probably won't take this advice, but I'm writing it anyway.
So what do you do now?
Download an app and start tracking your cycle and recording your symptoms, that way you can start to see a pattern and start to plan your training schedule around that. If you don't want to get that geeky, then at least now you know why your energy levels can fluctuate so massively - it's not just you, it's science.
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