Use the power of your flow: How our menstrual cycle affects our training
Our cycle does a lot to us and our bodies. Mood, performance and motivation are constantly changing. Why don't we take advantage of this change? We show you how to use the power of your cycle for your training.
Words:ChristinaImages:UnsplashJune 16, 2021
Understanding the power of our flow
Do you know this too? One week you can barely make it through your workout and torture yourself to the end and the next week you can’t get enough and put in several extra workouts? Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with your fitness level or training progress. A big part of the reason for this is our menstrual cycle. Our hormones control our motivation, mood and performance – we know that. So why don’t we take advantage of that knowledge and include it into our workout plan?
To do this, we have to understand the monthly cycle as a natural rhythm. Once we understand when and why performance rises and falls, it becomes child’s play to keep up with these changes and adapt our sports program. Otherwise, it is even possible that we train rather against our body and our natural flow.
A training plan based on the cycle also has other advantages: You reduce stress, push your immune system and increase your performance. Believe us, in the end you will simply feel better, be fitter, be stronger and be faster. We show you how to use the power of your cycle and make your training as effective as possible. But first, we need to understand a few more connections.
The connection with your immune system, your stress level and cravings
Our immune system is one of the things that is affected by our cycle. It is constantly challenged and sometimes it is stronger and sometimes weaker depending on the hormone level. At the very beginning of the cycle, for example, your immune system is at its strongest, which can have a positive effect on your performance. During ovulation (around day 13 to 19), your immune system drops significantly. And shortly before our period, it may be particularly vulnerable and we should allow ourselves a little rest.
Our stress level can also be controlled by our menstrual cycle. We are put under stress in different ways during the individual phases. In some periods we cope very well with stressful situations. In other times, we have to handle it very carefully and find a suitable valve. Right! Sport is a great way to do this. Movement can be a natural booster for our mood and well-being. But be careful! Nevertheless, there is only a fine line between sports that are good against stress and sports that even cause it. So always take enough time for regeneration and think about the right nutrition.
Speaking of proper nutrition. Everyone knows it and everyone hates it: the craving for sweet or salty food a week before your period! Yes, this is also due to our cycle. Your body shows you that it lacks energy to prepare for the upcoming menstruation. But the solution to cravings is quite simple: good calories. In the week before your period, eat 100 to 150 more good calories a day. Fruit, nuts or legumes are especially recommended. Honey, sweet potatoes or dates can also inhibit the desire for sweets and you can stay committed to your healthy eating during your training plan.
How to use the power of your cycle
Now it’s time to get started. The best way to do this is to divide your cycle into phases and start on the first day of your period. In each phase there are new things to consider, recommended training methods and intensity levels.
Listen to your body phase (Day 1 to 5 of your cycle):
These are the first days of your period and it is very important that you trust yourself, your body and your feelings here. Some women feel super energetic and motivated. You feel the same way? Then use this energy for your training and do whatever you feel like! However, about half of all women feel weak, unmotivated and bloated during their period. At this stage, it’s important to reduce the intensity of your workouts, if necessary. Anyone who is now longing for peace and some time off should treat themselves to it.
How to exercise:
As Cramps, joint and muscle pain, headaches and low energy levels are just some of the symptoms during this time of period, light cardio, shorter stints of aerobic exercise and swimming or yoga are all good options at this point.
Extra power phase (Day 6 to 13 of your cycle)
This phase is usually the feel-good time in the cycle. During the time after menstruation, the follicular phase, our hormone levels in the body increase in preparation for ovulation. The body makes the hormone estradiol available, which gives our muscles a dose of extra power.
How to exercise: I
t’s all about speed and power. High intensity workouts and weight training. At this stage, strength training can lead to more than just increased muscle strength. Also, now is exactly the right time to learn new skills and techniques. What about a HIIT session or a sprint run? Do one more set and run a mile faster – in this phase you will break your personal record!
Use the energy phase (Day 14 to 20 of your cycle)
During our ovulation our oestrogen levels reach a peak as our progesterone levels stay low. As a result our energy is at its highest and our body’s overall tolerance for pain increases. It is a good time to push yourself physically and enjoy the extra cardio endurance that often comes with this time of your cycle.
How to exercise:
Cardio and strength. Use your persistence and schedule long, moderate aerobic sessions and longer endurance workouts. How about resistance training? However, the weights should not be too heavy – rather try yourself out in the area of functional training with your own body weight. You are more the runner type? No problem, here we recommend easy runs or hikes in hilly terrain.
Regeneration phase (Day 20 to 28 of your cycle)
In this time of your cycle, the luteal phase, the progesterone in the body increases. You might not have as much endurance during this time. Maybe you struggle to hit previously achieved goals. This can be frustrating. But don’t judge yourself at this stage. Better and more powerful days are around the corner.
Anyway, the luteal phase is a good time to schedule rest days and give your body some regeneration. In the days leading up to your period, activities that relax your body can help to relieve symptoms like cramps and muscle fatigue.
How to exercise:
Mobility and regeneration. Don’t make it too hard on yourself and plan light activities. Focus on flexibility and technique. Imagine hitting your own reset button once and using that time to meditate and do yoga or pilates. Still have motivation left? Loose runs or long walks are great, too.
To sum it up – Menstrual cycle and training
Our flow is our force. There are great possibilities to use the individual phases of our cycle and to adapt our training optimally to them. In energetic phases we go full speed. When our hormones make us tired and slow down our performance, we counteract with yoga and relaxation. It is possible to work together with our body! We should use this chance: the chance to see our period as a strength.
female cycle, menstrual cycle