As women, we have an extra aspect of the human body to take into consideration when exercising. Hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle can have a significant impact on energy levels, mood, and overall performance. “Cycle syncing,” a concept rooted in the understanding of these hormonal changes, suggests that tailoring workouts to specific phases of the menstrual cycle can optimize results and promote overall well-being.
Let’s explore some of the benefits of cycle syncing, should you decide to take it into consideration while planning your workouts, and look at guidance on how to design strength workouts in particular around each phase of the menstrual cycle.
Understanding the Menstrual Cycle:
The menstrual cycle consists of four distinct phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Each phase is characterized by changes in hormone levels, which impact energy levels, muscle strength, and recovery. By aligning workouts with these phases, women can adapt their training to maximize performance and achieve better results.
Phase 1: Menstruation (Days 1-7)
During menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. Many women experience reduced energy levels and may feel fatigued during this phase. However, low-impact strength exercises, such as yoga or pilates, can help alleviate menstrual cramps and improve blood circulation. Focus on exercises that promote flexibility, core stability and gentle muscle activation to support overall well-being. By no means does this mean you should avoid strength training all together, but maybe consider taking a “deload” week and lower the weight a tad.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase (Days 8-14)
In the follicular phase, estrogen levels begin to rise, leading to increased energy and focus. This is an ideal time to engage in high-intensity workouts that involve heavy lifting and compound movements. Incorporate exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and bench presses to build muscle strength and power. Take advantage of the surge in energy to push through challenging workouts and increase training volume.
Phase 3: Ovulation (Day 14)
Ovulation marks the midpoint of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels peak. This hormonal surge enhances coordination, agility, and endurance. Focus on incorporating activities that promote explosive power and cardiovascular fitness. Examples include plyometric exercises, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and sports-specific drills. This is an excellent time to challenge yourself with new exercises or increase the intensity of your existing routine. For some women, this is a great time to focus on hitting personal records in strength training exercises.
Phase 4: Luteal Phase (Days 15-28):
During the luteal phase, estrogen levels decrease while progesterone levels rise. This can lead to decreased energy levels and increased water retention, which may affect workout performance. Engage in strength training exercises that target muscular endurance and stability. Opt for activities like focusing on form during strength training, circuit training, and yoga to support muscle building, joint stability, and overall relaxation.
Listen to Your Body
Overall nutrition and hydration are also important to support your workouts. By maintaining a balanced diet rich in nutrients and staying adequately hydrated, you’ll be able to fuel your body during the changes in hormone levels. Focus on consuming sufficient protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to support muscle recovery and energy levels.
Remember to place an emphasis on recovery and self-care practices throughout your menstrual cycle by incorporating activities such as foam rolling, stretching and meditation to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Maintaining a workout journal to track your energy levels, performance, and any observations related to your menstrual cycle is another great way to stay in tune with your body. This will help you identify patterns and make informed decisions when planning your workouts.
Cycle syncing your strength workouts can help you optimize your energy levels, reduce stress, and achieve better results. By adjusting your workout routine to align with your menstrual cycle, you can take advantage of the hormonal changes in your body and achieve your fitness goals more effectively. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting with strength training, cycle syncing can help you get the most out of your workouts and improve your overall health and well-being.
In the end, it’s always important to listen to your body. Pay attention to how you feel throughout your cycle and adjust your workouts accordingly. If you experience excessive fatigue or discomfort, allow yourself to rest or opt for lighter activities. Our bodies are meant to do incredible things. Show it some love, and know that rest and recovery is just as important as training.