Movement and the Menstrual Cycle
One week you are hitting PBs the next you are beat from the beginning - doesn't mean your fitness has gone. You want to run this week, next week you wouldn't run for a million dollars - doesn't mean you are failing. Daily hormonal changes may be the culprit.
Understanding the hormonal changes and the impact this has on our physical and mental capacity for exercise can be a powerful strategy for motivation and optimising workouts throughout the menstrual cycle.
This means tailoring your workout or movement by being mindful of energy levels, mood, strength and susceptibility to injury. So what is going on that may determine our willingness and ability to go for gold or lay like a pancake and eat them too?
- Hormone levels start low at the beginning of the follicular phase (end of your period), then oestrogen and testosterone start to rise, which can bring you energy, alertness, and improve your mood
- Alternate strength training and cardio
- Try something new as your positivity rises
- Pay attention to form and alignment as increased hormones relaxes ligaments and can lead more easily to injury in late Follicular Phase
- Peak hormone levels, boosting the effects of the follicular phase
- Energy levels will be at their highest
- Higher-intensity workouts into your routine like cardio and circuits
- Remember to be mindful of the form and make sure you take proper recovery measures after any intense workouts
- Oestrogen and testosterone levels will start to decline, and your body will begin producing progesterone. As a result, you will feel yourself beginning to wind down
- Low-impact strength workouts, then prioritize recovery routines (stretching, yoga, walking, etc.)
- Energy will be at its lowest, so you may feel more tired and lethargic
- Take as much rest as needed. Listen to your body and mind
- Move when you feel inclined, and opt for exercise that helps decrease inflammation and stress in the body
- Stretching, yoga and low impact strength workouts
Regular exercise has found to lessen menstrual pain, cramps and mood disturbances, likely due to the release of 'happy' hormones so get amongst it!
Always listen to your mind and body and stop when something doesn't feel right for you.
Tuning into your body each day and how it feels is always the best choice. After all, we all bleed differently.
It is important to remember these are generalities and there is still not enough high quality published studies on the effects of the menstrual cycle on our bodies physical performance (even less when it comes to those who use hormonal contraception!). Male dominated medicine and science is to blame but there is a growing interest in the menstrual cycle so we will keep an eye out!
Image: Wesley Tingey
Kelly McNulty, PhD student at Northumbria University, Founder of Period of the Period
Maeve McEwen, CPT