Training has its good days and it’s not so good days. As women we can often feel fluctuations in our training from week to week. This can be anything from a decrease in strength, to our mood to our energy levels.
It can sometimes fly under the radar and be brushed off as a bad night sleep or busy lifestyle. No doubt these can be contributors, but we also need to consider the changes going on inside our bodies and how this can impact our training from both a positive and negative perspective.
For some our menstrual cycle can have a significant impact on our training. This can feel especially so when it comes to our strength/strength training. As our bodies progress through the key phases of the menstrual cycle, different hormones are released, the levels of certain hormones shift and this can directly impact our output and capacity.
So to get a better idea how this might affect you, lets crash course the menstrual cycle.
Crash course 101
The menstrual cycle has 4 phases:
Menstruation – (period/bleeding)
Follicular phase (before the release of the egg): The menstrual cycle begins with menstrual bleeding (menstruation), which marks the first day of the follicular phase. (Day 1 = first day of period).
During the follicular phase estrogens are released, notably estradiol which increases to its highest levels.
Estrogens have been known to have a positive effect on mood, energy, and strength. Meaning you are more likely to feel good and experience improved physical strength. Where possible the follicular phase is the best time to be pursuing PBs and strength testing.
Ovulation (egg release): Ovulation usually occurs mid-cycle, roughly two weeks before menstruation starts.
A mature egg is released from the ovary and swept up into your fallopian tube to be fertilised. Ovulation triggers the release of progesterone (produced by the corpus luteum, which is the part of the ovary created by the collapsed follicle that previously contained the now ovulating egg). Progesterone helps to thicken the endometrium (lining of the uterus) in preparation to accept a fertilised egg. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, progesterone lowers and menstruation is triggered.
Luteal phase (after egg release): This phase occurs after ovulation and up to menstruation.
During the luteal phase progesterone increases, its main function is to nourish and nurture pregnancy by causing the uterine lining to thicken. Progesterone can be calming and assist with sleep but it can also coincide with shifts in energy levels and mood changes. This phase can compromise our ability to recover.
The luteal phase is where we also begin to experience PMS symptoms. Such as bloating, cramping, back pain & fatigue.
If you find your normal output feels compromised or harder, you may want to consider reducing loads slightly or taking longer rest periods.
If pregnancy does not occur, the lining of the uterus will shed away. This is known as menstruation. The cycle then repeats
The female body = AMAZING
The female body is remarkable and the process it goes through in a matter of weeks is extensive. All women are affected differently by their menstrual cycle but by discussing and being open with your coach you can allow them to determine when and if loads or volume need to be shifted to accommodate being in different phases.
To help identify the patterns your body may present, it can help to track your period. There are so many great apps available that can help log the information and start to build a clear picture of the phases you go through personally and how to best manage your training around it.
Check out our favourite app suggestions below, available on both Apple and Google store.
Learning to work with your body and increase awareness around your menstrual cycle can really help increase consistency with training and reduce/manage fatigue better. It can also be a great indication when to push forward and smash a PB or when to pull back and focus on technique or just moving for the sheer goodness of it.
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