let the fun begin

Get better results in the gym by training to your cycle, personal trainer explains.

Cravings, mood swings, hot flushes, fluid retention, and inflammation, we don’t need to see them to know the effects our hormones can have on our health. Our diet, environment, stress levels, quality of sleep, nutritional and product choices, medications, exercise choice and intensity, can all affect the sensitive balance of our hormones. What many women aren’t aware of are some of the simple choices they can make to their exercise routine to have some ‘say’ in the way their hormones make them feel. As a young teenager, I wish I had have known some of the information I am passing onto you now! It’s never too late though to start making some changes to support your hormone health.

Exercising to your cycle

Learning to ‘train to your cycle’ can improve your strength, recovery and ability to reach your goals by knowing the times that your training type, intensity and volume should be modified. Over a woman’s average 28-35 day cycle there are 3 main phases, the Follicular Phase, The Luteal Phase and The Menstrual Phase. During each stage the changes in oestrogen and progesterone naturally fluctuate, allowing for a window of opportunity to appropriately modify training variables.

Go hard during the follicular phase

It is during the first phase, the Follicular Phase, that oestrogen levels are at their highest in a woman’s cycle. Women can really capitalise on this by making this the time in their training program where intensity is at its highest. If for example, a woman has a strength training routine, this would be the ideal time for increasing weights, sets or reps, depending on their training goals. If their program is more cardio focused, they can also modify the time, distance, and exercise type, to work with the increased energy and strength they may be experiencing. For example, if training for a long distance running event, your goals may be to decrease your per kilometre time, or to increase the total number of kilometres covered in general without stopping.

A general statement would be that this is the phase you want to be working at your Personal Best, whether that be through strength, duration, speed, or overall performance.

Slow things down during the luteal phase

During the Luteal Phase, energy, mood and pre-menstrual symptoms can kick in as oestrogen levels fluctuate between an initial drop followed by a rise closer to your period. Progesterone also rises to build the uterine lining in preparation for a fertilised egg to be implanted in the uterus. As progesterone rises, so too does the basal body temperature. Your body is preparing itself for the possibility of a pregnancy – pretty amazing right! This phase can last for up to ten days. This is the stage in your cycle where you should be transitioning from the higher intensity of the Follicular Phase to a more moderate intensity.

It is important to pay attention to the subtle signs your body may be giving you and using them as prescription tools for your training. For example, if you are feeling lower in energy, this could be a good opportunity to enter a de-load phase by reducing your weights and overall program load (reps, sets, and total duration of workout). Circuit and metabolic training are good options during this time as they generally include a combination of resistance and cardio.

In the Luteal Phase, your body may not recover as quickly from your training sessions, so supporting it with magnesium and an adequate amount of protein in your diet can help reduce the symptoms you may experience. Some self carestrategies like taking a magnesium and Epsom salts bath can also support the bodies recovery. What moderate intensity looks like will vary from person to person, so keeping a diary of your daily workouts can be beneficial in accurately modifying your training variables in alignment with your cycle. You will be able to clearly see then when your energy and strength are at their highest and lowest and be able to use this to significantly improve your training results.

“Some self care strategies like taking a magnesium and Epsom salts bath can support the bodies recovery”

Take it easy during the menstrual phase

The type and degree of symptoms women experience during menstruation varies. Cramps, bloating, nausea, low energy and changes in emotional state are some of the common ones during this week. How you adjust your training requires an honest check-in with your body. A couple of days of rest or lighter intensity can really work to support the body and the bigger picture of your overall program. Consider using LISS (Light Intensity Steady State) cardio exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, rowing or any cardio equipment where you are working at a steady state with minimal resistance. Reduce your weights and volume in your resistance programming and use the opportunity to work on your mobility so that when your strength is at its peak, your range of motion (ROM) is complimenting that and allowing for optimal muscle engagement.

I enjoy the work of movement founder Ido Portal. Simple exercises like hanging can have a profound impact on improving whole body mobility and reducing injury. Check out the link to learn more about hanging and other mobility exercises that are fantastic for a well rounded and functional body!

0 comments on Get better results in the gym by training to your cycle, personal trainer explains.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *