Training around your monthly cycle
Your monthly cycle impacts your training and working with it really helps make the most of your training programme! Here I cover key points and tips.
Collect your own data - using apps or a diary to identify when your cycle happens and help work out roughly when you are in different phases. Everyones cycles are different, from how long they take to what symptoms you experience.
Remember that if you are using birth control this will change things, there are so many options out there I can’t cover them all here. Chat to your doctor or read up on the one you are using to help you understand more about what your hormone levels and and when.
There are two main hormones whose levels go up and down during your cycle, Oestrogen and Progesterone, and understanding how those levels change throughout each cycle can help you understand your performance and your training.
Using a 28 day cycle as an example your cycle starts on the first day of your period. At this point the levels of both Oestrogen and Progesterone are low.
Around days 3-5 into your period Oestrogen levels start to increase and you may find symptoms improve and you feel more like exercising, exercising during your period can be a good way of managing symptoms.
Oestrogen helps our training! When Oestrogen levels are higher it’s a good time to work on higher intensity training and also strength work, the hormone helps us put on muscle mass too! We have slightly higher Testosterone levels around ovulation which again can help with performance and strength gains.
Around the time of ovulation ligaments and tendons can become more lax, which can increase injury risk. Keep training but be aware of this. Progesterone then starts to peak which starts to introduce other impacts that aren’t so useful for training!
Oestrogen not only helps us build muscle mass, it improves recovery time and also seems to have a positive impact on mood and motivation - so planning more challenging training weeks around higher Oestrogen phases is definitely a good idea.
There is some evidence (but the overall picture is still unclear) that Oestrogen helps us burn more body fat, and less carbohydrate. Also that metabolism speeds up towards the end of the cycle meaning we need more carbs at that point. It’s an area of continued research!
When Progesterone is high towards the end of the cycle our core body temperature is slightly raised so be aware of that impact when doing longer sessions in hotter weather and plan some cooling strategies. Progesterone is also a calming hormone that can increase sleep and also improve how we pick up new movement patterns, so an ideal time to work on movement drills, balance and running form!
In the final week of the cycle it’s a good time to be recovering, doing more yoga and less strength training; focus more on endurance and less on speed.