How to train alongside my menstrual cycle
Taryn Gaudin Women’s Health Physio
HOW TO TRAIN ALONGSIDE OF MY MENSTRUAL CYCLE
OPTIMISING TRAINING OUTCOMES BY TRAINING WITH YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
Are you wondering how you can time your physical movement, exercise and training to your menstrual cycle? Then read on! In this post I share:
- What are the benefits of training alongside your menstrual cycle?
- What are the phases of the menstrual cycle?
- How women feel at different phases of the menstrual cycle
- How to train alongside your menstrual cycle even as a high-level athlete –
- The phases of the menstrual cycle – How women feel at different phases of the menstrual cycle –
- The benefits of exercise during menstrual phase –
- How you can track your cycle and experiment with movement during different phases of your cycle
What are the benefits of training alongside of my menstrual cycle?
Women’s bodies are very different to men. We have a cyclical rhythm within us. The menstrual cycle. When we training ignoring that we have a menstrual cycle, we perhaps force ourselves to show up to our movement practices and exercise sessions in a way that ignores this internal rhythm. By ignoring our internal rhythm, we miss out on the powerful benefits of working alongside of our cycle which are:
- Feeling more energised and vibrant from our training sessions
- Unleashing movement momentum
- Utilising our energy when it’s available to us
- Supporting your body so that you feel less pain
- Reaping the powerful benefits of rest when we require it
When we train alongside our cycle we are essentially working with the power of our body, rather than against it.
What is the menstrual cycle and how does it work?
The average menstrual cycle is regarded as 28 days in length but a normal menstrual cycle can range from anywhere between 21-35 days in length. This timeframe is defined as starting from the first day (Day 1) of the menstrual bleed, through to the last day before the next menstrual bleed (Day 21-35).
The menstrual cycle is divided into halves with the days up to ovulation being the follicular phase (first half) and the days after ovulation are the luteal phase (second half). The cycle can be further broken down to 4 phases:
- Menstruation-bleed phase,
- Follicular phase (time between bleed and ovulation)
- Ovulation phase, and
- the Luteal phase.
Women vary in their bleed time from around three days up to seven days.
As a general rule, the Luteal phase lasts 14 days. Ovulation, therefore, occurs 14 days before the start of the next period.
In this video Taryn describes the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle and how you can work alongside your menstrual cycle rhythm.
How do women feel at different phases of their menstrual cycle?
It’s common for women to describe feeling particular ways during their menstrual cycle. Here are some examples:
- Menstruation: less energetic, requiring more rest & nourishment, feeling like being less active, less motivated to exercise
- Follicular: (after bleed) increasing energy, building of momentum, feeling like your want to steadily increase your activity, feeling more motivated to move your body
- Ovulation: considered a ‘peak time’ of energy, more motivated to move, energetic, wanting to engage in more intense exercise
- Luteal: a gradual slowing of movement motivation, a winding down after coming off the high of ovulation energy
Note that the rhythm can change over a number of days – as we move from ovulation to the latter parts of the luteal phase our energy doesn’t just stop, but rather can be a gradual progression towards becoming less energetic as we lead back to the menstrual phase of the cycle.
There are some important pieces to note here:
- How you feel at different phases during your cycle will be unique to you
- There is no ‘right’ way that you should be feeling during your cycle
- There are more things that impact how you feel in terms of energy, than your menstrual cycle alone
- Not all women have a regular cycle, and therefore this pattern can fluctuate
- How you feel during different phases of your cycle can change significantly overtime – this may be due to hormones, the phase of your life cycle that you are in, or something completely different
How to train alongside of your menstrual cycle
There are a couple of different strategies that you can use to train alongside your cycle. Before we dive into those, let’s first establish the difference between training as a competitive athlete, versus training for other reasons. If you are training as an athlete, it may seem challenging to embrace the phases of your cycle, particularly when you have a competition or event coming up. As an athlete you will have a particular training cycle that you might feel is more important to tune to than the menstrual cycle – however, the two can exist. If you are an athlete, you can
- Place your more intense, more challenging, and perhaps longer sessions on the days of your cycle that you have more energy to offer.
- Use your rest days, and your active recovery days to lean into the times in your cycle when you have less energy to offer.
If you are moving for simple health and wellbeing, you might feel you have more flexibility in tuning to your cycle and honouring your rhythm
The benefits of training during the menstrual (bleed) phase
Often, women are encouraged NOT to exercise during their menstrual phase of their cycle. However, there is some emerging evidence of the benefits of exercise during this phase particularly for women who experience painful periods. It is suggested that movement helps to decrease menstrual pain.
For women who experience symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, or incontinence with exercise, symptoms may increase during the menstrual phase due to a change in hormones. These women may find low impact exercise more beneficial at this phase in their cycle.
Ultimately, there is a no ‘one size fits all’ approach and knowing your unique body is the best way to move alongside your rhythm. This might take some experimentation and exploration of your body.
How to tune into your menstrual cycle
There are a couple of different ways I like to offer women to tune into their cycle. First, it might be helpful to simply track your cycle – notice how many days in length your full cycle is, how many days you bleed for, and when you may be ovulating. Remember ovulation happens 14 days prior to day 1
As you track your cycle you may ask yourself:
- How do I feel in terms of energy on a scale of 1-10?
- How do I feel like moving my body?
- What movement can I offer myself that reflects how I feel?
- How did I respond to movement?
In this way you can begin to understand your body’s rhythm, and how to train according to your rhythm.
Another suggestion is to have a relatively fixed program, that you move alongside of for a full cycle. Track how it felt on each day. When did it feel resonate? When did it feel easy? When did it feel hard? From here you can begin to reveal to yourself your unique rhythm.
Lastly, and this is my favourite, you can do a simple body scan and tune into your rhythm. I love this way of turning in, because it allows for flexibility if you have an irregular cycle, it allows for you to be responsive to your body regardless of how you feel energetically at different phases of your cycle, and it also honours that there are more rhythms that impact how we feel (both internal and external) than our menstrual cycle. Click here or an audio recording of a body scan practice that you can use to tune into your body. With practice, this will be a very quick and easy check in.
Women are phenomenal human beings. Our cyclical nature and our rhythm are extraordinary. When we can embrace our cycle, and work with our body (rather than against it) we can feel for ourselves just how powerful we are. If you want to learn more about embracing your body, and your feminine nature, I offer you to check out my book Body Conscious: a woman’s guide to holistic pelvic wellness and feminine embodiment.
You can learn more about the book here. Subscribe below to receive the first chapter of Body Conscious FREE