You have an exercise regime - whether it's a gym programme, group exercise classes or another form of exercise. But sometimes you feel like you're not really in it and your body is doing what you want it to, but you don't know why. There is a possibility that it's due to the time in your cycle.
There are many reasons why you could feel like you are lacking energy during a workout, including nutrition, sleep, water intake etc. However, learning how to train around your cycle can be really beneficial - it can help you understand why you feel the way you do and what your body needs in terms of nutrition.
Here, I will take you through the 4 stages of the menstrual cycle and what you might expect.
Stage 1: Menstrual
The menstrual stage starts on the first day of your period.
At this point, the hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone drop, which makes your carbohydrates and glycogen (a form of energy) easily accessible.
Whilst we often don't feel like working out at the beginning of our cycle, this is actually the perfect time to get in your high intensity workouts - so get into those HIIT classes or a spin session! Use that burst of energy for some sprints!
With that being said, if you suffer with painful cramping or your energy feels super low during the first day or two, you might want to turn to cardiovascular exercise that is a little less intense, such as cycling or jogging, until those symptoms improve. Whilst it might be tempting to sit on the sofa and curl up into a ball whilst you're suffering with cramps, it can actually be really helpful to get the body moving, even with some gentle stretches, yoga or Pilates.
I am pleased to tell you though, that this is the perfect time to ensure you have a high carb intake to stop you from burning out. That's right...you can eat ALL the pasta!
Stage 2: Late Follicular
Hello Superwoman! Welcome to the strong phase!
The late follicular phase starts alongside menstruation, but lasts around a week longer.
During this time, your oestrogen will increase, which is great because this is the hormone that helps the body build muscle. It's time to take advantage of this and focus on full body weight workouts.
You are going to feel super strong this week, so use that energy to lift weights and work on your compound moves such as deadlifts and squats. You might even hit a new PB!
You will probably feel pretty amazing during your workout sessions so make the most of it!
You might find that you also recover faster after your workouts and want to fit in a few more sessions during the week. This is due to the fact that oestrogen has anti-inflammatory benefits, so you might be able to take fewer rest days, if you want to.
Be sure to keep on top of your protein intake to aid muscle recovery and build.
Stage 3: Ovulation
Here, we hit days 14-16 of your cycle, when your oestrogen levels are at their highest, so it is time to push your heaviest weights!
For the first few days, try to push yourself with your heaviest weights. Towards the end of the week, start to decrease the weight as your hormone levels change (see below).
You might find long gym sessions more tiring around this time in your cycle due to an increase in body temperature, so shorten your sessions if you need to. In addition, towards the end of the week your progesterone will increase, which can make your ligaments a bit looser. You may therefore want to avoid putting added stress on your joints and think about adding some Pilates or yoga into your routine.
Stage 4: Luteal
The luteal phase is the last 2 weeks of your cycle, when you're body starts to prepare itself for your period (sigh, here it comes again!).
During this time, your hormones will reduce significantly and in turn, you might see a reduction in energy, as well as increased hunger, tiredness and some mood swings.
Focus on getting protein into your body and reduce your training as needed, perhaps focusing more on low intensity movement. High intensity workouts can feel really tough during this phase so you might want to do something a little more gentle, like a bike ride or a swim.
Take this time to focus on self care and being kind to yourself. Eat good food, get some good sleep and treat yourself to a nice, relaxing bath.
The most important thing to remember, is that you must listen to your body and give it what it needs. Using an app to track your cycle can be super useful, as you can keep a log of your symptoms and where you are in your cycle, which might make it easier for you to schedule your training.