Body Image, Exercise, holistic self-care

Cycle Your Workouts

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

The most fascinating thing I have noticed since tracking both my activity levels and my menstrual cycle at the same time is how much they play into one another. I have been comparing the two at the end of the month and seeing what it tells me, and it has a lot to say.

When self-isolation first started back in March, I began tracking my activities and movement on a calendar (no, I do not have a fitness app, I prefer kicking it old school). Tracking my menstrual cycles has been a thing for me since 2015 and I use the Flo app. The app tells me Aunt Flo will be there Saturday and at 12 am on Saturday she is knocking on the door… I am just that regular, as are the other phases of my cycle. Each of these phases affects my level of productivity, focus, motivation, etc.

P.S. The Flo app has general recommendations for each cycle phase surrounding mental focus, exercise, food, and love, all based on what is happening to your body during these phases. I am not sponsored, or an affiliate, I just LOVE the app.

Workout programs don’t consider hormone levels

When we begin a workout program or set monthly goals, we rarely consider our hormonal cycle and how that may affect what types of workouts that will serve us the best. I mean, there are times I get up and even the idea of a walk sounds miserable, whereas maybe last week I woke up before my alarm and was PUMPED to get a workout in, this is my body telling me what it needs and that it cannot be functioning at the same levels every day, us women are just not that simple.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

The four phases of the menstrual cycle

So here goes, I have listed the four phases of a menstrual cycle and what I noticed about myself in relation to what research and the Flo app says happens to most women.

  1. Follicular Phase (lasts 7-10 days – mine only lasts about 5 days)
    • The Hormones: Hormones levels are still low following menstruation, but beginning to climb, studies show that estrogen levels rise quickly during this phase and is linked to more pliable muscles, which means more injury prone!
    • The Flo app tells me that creativity is at its highest during this phase and I believe it because I get more excited to try new things, or things I am not used to doing, looking at my activity calendar, this is usually when I break out the stability disks, when I experiment with my own workouts, or try out new personal trainers online workouts.
  2. Ovulation Phase (lasts 3-5 days – mine lasts about 5 days)
    • The Hormones: Hormone levels are at their peak – I am feeling vibrant and confident AF during this phase and it is known to make women more verbal and social, meaning this is the best time to work out with friends, your significant other, or join a fitness class.
    • The Flo app tells me that my energy is at its highest during this phase and I can tell that I take full advantage of that. These are the days I see I rode my stationary bike, I walked longer, I did a full hour workout and I did yoga, all because I wanted to and it felt good. 
  3. Luteal Phase (lasts 10-14 days – mine lasts about 11 days)
    • The Hormones: This is the longest phase and at the beginning hormone levels may still be high and focus is sharp, but then they begin to fluctuate up and down (otherwise known as hormonal waves of PMS) but midway through, they typically take a nosedive, leaving women sluggish and tired.
    • The Flo app tells me this is when I’m my sharpest, but I don’t agree. I can see how I still have a lot of energy towards the beginning of this phase, I see HIT exercises still happening and weightlifting, but usually during the entirety of this phase, which happens to be the longest phase of them all, I see a lot less activity, a lot more days of just walking, gentle yoga, etc.
  4. Menstrual Phase (lasts 3-7 days – mine lasts about 5 days)
    • The Hormones: Hormone levels are at their lowest, as you would imagine and it is crucial to listen to your body during this phase, some months I want to push harder, some months I don’t, it just depends on the intensity of my cycle.
    • The Flo app tells me that this is the time for lots of rest, more naps, and slower movement, but again, I do not agree. I think all the slow stuff usually takes place in my long luteal phase and at this point, I am ready to go and my energy levels return quickly. Don’t get me wrong, you will catch me with a heating pad and tears the first day, but the next four, I am usually trying to work out those stupid cramps.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

When mapping out your workouts for the week, try loosely planning around your current menstrual cycle phase, listen to your body and make adjustments to your activity levels accordingly. Seek out getting a personal trainer, of if you have one, asking them for further advice.

Well, there you have it

After reading this, I hope you stop getting upset when you are PMS’ing and you can’t get through 3 rounds of an AMRAP workout when last week you got through 5. Hormone levels have more control than we do and our bodies need our full support during all phases.

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