Ladies, do you find yourself experiencing varying levels of energy when it comes to your workouts throughout the month? This may be due to your menstrual cycle and those all-too-familiar fluctuating hormones. When energy and endurance levels are low we may tend to find it difficult to stay motivated to complete our workouts, and on the contrary, when we’re energized we may feel as if we can conquer any workout. So what’s a girl to do? Is it possible to plan your workouts based on your cycle phase? It sure is!
Menstrual Cycle Phases
Before we get into specific workouts let’s first talk about the different phases that make up a woman’s menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle consists of four phases: menstruation (your period), follicular (before egg release), ovulatory (egg release), and luteal (following egg release). The follicular phase actually runs concurrent with menstruation at first (starting the first day of your period), and continues past menstruation until ovulation. Within each of the menstrual cycle phases, concentrations of estrogen and progesterone (sex hormones) change. For example, estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest during the menstrual phase. During the end of the follicular phase, estrogen levels start to rise, followed by the ovulatory phase during which time estrogen decreases and progesterone levels begin to increase. During the luteal phase, estrogen is high, as is progesterone, however these hormone levels will drop significantly at the end of this phase if pregnancy has not occurred, and your period will begin again.
Workouts Based on Your Cycle Phase
Thanks to research, we know that because of estrogen and progesterone, specific phases of the menstrual cycle are ideal for certain types of exercise. For example, you may be feeling more energized during the follicular phase (when estrogen levels increase), as well as during the ovulatory phase and the first half of the luteal phase. That being said, these phases may be ideal for strength training and higher-intensity workouts (i.e., HIIT, running, dancing, kickboxing, and/or rowing), especially if you’re hoping to improve your strength and fitness.
Contrary to the follicular, ovulatory, and luteal (first half) phases of the menstrual cycle when you’re likely to feel more energized, you may find yourself lacking energy and motivation during the middle and latter half of the luteal phase (hello, PMS) and menstrual phase. Due to estrogen and progesterone being at their lowest during the menstrual phase, it is not uncommon to feel fatigued in conjunction with all the other lovely symptoms that may accompany menstruation. With estrogen and progesterone being so low, it’s also likely you’ll notice fewer muscle changes during the menstrual phase. With all this in mind, the latter half of the luteal phase as well as the duration of the menstrual phase are typically good times to turn your focus to lower-impact exercises/activities (i.e., yoga, pilates, swimming, biking, and/or walking), and make recovery a priority. Although you may not feel like exercising on some or all days of these phases, exercise may actually help ease some of the common symptoms associated with PMS and menstruation, such as cramps, and can impact hormone balance.
At the end of the day, you need to listen to your own body when it comes to your workouts as well as your cycle. Keep in mind that not all bodies are the same. Not every woman has the golden standard 28-day menstrual cycle, and cycles can certainly vary. If you’re interested in/need help determining which phase of your cycle you’re in, you may benefit from speaking to your doctor and/or the assistance of menstrual cycle tracking apps in addition to ovulation tests and body temperature tracking.