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Fitness in Cycles: Menstruation and its Impacts on Training



Intro:

The menstrual cycle is a natural and vital part of people born with uterus's reproductive health. It is a complex process that involves the release of hormones, the shedding of the uterine lining, and the preparation for a potential pregnancy. While many people may view their period as a monthly inconvenience, understanding and working with the menstrual cycle can actually benefit workout routines and overall health. It is important to understand that many people born female cannot necessarily workout the same way as people born male, which can be somewhat misunderstood. Each phase can impact energy levels, strength, motivation, as well as other things.


The Phases:

The menstrual cycle is divided into four main phases: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and luteal phase. Each phase is characterized by different hormonal fluctuations, which can impact energy levels, mood, and physical performance. By tailoring workouts to these phases, people can optimize their training, recovery, and results.


During menstruation, which typically lasts 3-7 days, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. Many people may experience fatigue, cramps, and mood swings during this time. It is best to listen to your body during this phase and engage in gentle, low-impact exercises such as yoga, walking, or stretching. Intense workouts may exacerbate symptoms and lead to burnout. For myself, I actually take a full rest week during this time as I cannot workout without experiencing severe exhaustion or fainting spells. I always recommend doing little to no activity during periods. However, every menstruating person has different experiences and you should always listen to your bodies.


The follicular phase follows menstruation and is marked by increasing estrogen levels. This phase is optimal for high-intensity workouts, as estrogen can boost energy and endurance. Strength training, cardio, and interval training can all be effective during this phase. Many may also notice improvements in muscle recovery and performance. 


Ovulation occurs midway through the menstrual cycle, when estrogen peaks and testosterone levels rise. This phase is a great time for challenging workouts and pushing boundaries. People may experience increased strength, speed, and agility during ovulation. However, it is important to pay attention to hydration and temperature regulation, as the body may be more susceptible to heat stress. With higher energy and testosterone, this is the week where weights may feel lighter, running won't be as exhausting, and you may be more motivated to complete workouts. One may also find themselves having a larger appetite, as metabolism can increase during this phase as well.


The luteal phase comes after ovulation and is characterized by a rise in progesterone levels. This phase can be challenging for many people, as progesterone can lead to fatigue, bloating, and mood fluctuations. Engaging in moderate-intensity workouts such as Pilates, swimming, or cycling can help manage symptoms and reduce stress. It is also important to prioritize rest and recovery during this phase.


Conclusion:

Overall, working out to the menstrual cycle can help people with uterus's tune into their bodies, maximize performance, and enhance well-being. By understanding the unique hormonal fluctuations of each phase, people can tailor their workouts, nutrition, and self-care practices to support their menstrual health. It is important to remember that every person's cycle is different, and it may take time to find the right balance for your individual needs.


Listen to your body and be kind to yourself throughout the month.

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