Why does today's workout suck? The answer is your hormones...
14th August 2019
Have you ever noticed that some days you are super strong, feeling on top of the world and you are smashing those goals! And then other days, you're struggling to manage half the program you found so easy last week, you're struggling to find the silver lining and you're wondering why you took on such a huge challenge?!
The answer is in your period.
Women are not the same as men. We are not chemically (hormonally) designed to train the same way, every week. And we need to stop beating ourselves up for trying and inevitably failing.
In this blog I'm going to focus on what training to do in each phase of your cycle and what role your hormones play in your exercise regime. Your hormone levels are what activates every bodily function, which in can really affect your energy levels, how your body actually uses fuel and the types of exercise you should do. If you can get this balance right, you will reduce your P.M.S symptoms, maximise your training efforts and feel great every month!
There four phases of your cycle, most people know about Ovulation and Menstruation. But the two major phases are the Follicular phase and the Luteal phase. These two phases of overarch the two halves with your cycle and the ovulation and menstrual phase sit within those two phases.
When: starts the first day of your period until the day of ovulation
- Oestrogen increases over the 14 days.
- Increase in testosterone
- Decrease in serotonin
As your period finishes up, you can start to increase the intensity of your training. You will be feeling energised, happy and positive thanks to Oestradiol (form of Oestrogen) which is a feel good hormone that helps to combat stress. Oestrogen is also anabolic - which means it helps to grow tissues such as muscles.
Higher intensity training will also help to combat the slowing metabolism the week before you ovulate.
As your testosterone rises you will have an increase in strength and muscles are repaired quickly. Which means your recovery time will be quicker in this phase.
You will find that you might be slightly uncoordinated as your period finishes up because of the decrease in serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that relays messages from different parts of the brain. So warm up with some mind-body connection exercises - Pilates is great for this!
This combination of high testosterone and oestrogen makes your body a muscle building and repairing machine! You'll be stronger, be able to train longer and even have a higher pain tolerance.
When: usually around day 10 - 16
- Follicle Stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced day 10 - 16 to facilitate ovulation.
- Oestrogen levels peak
If you thought last week was good, girl - this week will be AMAZING! Your strength and energy levels peak at ovulation so take advantage of all this strength and power and go for gold! Chase that personal best!
Also during this phase you will find that you are far more flexible. You need to be careful to avoid injuries by warming up sufficiently and doing your conditioning exercises at end range during your stretch sessions.
When: The day after ovulation until your period
- Progesterone is on the rise and peaks at day 21. Then drops off to facilitate your period.
- Oestrogen levels rise again slightly
Your temperature rises 0.7ᵒC the day before ovulation and stays higher until your period. This increase in body temperature means your body will fatigue quicker in hot, humid conditions. Your body is under more cardiovascular stress with; increased blood pressure, increased heart rate and increased breathing rate.
Longer, less intense workouts are best in this phase because you don't have as much glucose available in your muscles. This means your body needs to convert fat cells into energy which is a longer process. Before you get too excited, if your body has glucose left over after your workout then thanks to oestrogen and cortisol, it gets converted straight back into fat. Longer sessions at a lower intensity will help to avoid this.
Progesterone actually promotes fat storage which is why we feel more bloated and 'fat' in this phase.
Progesterone is also anti-inflammatory which means recovery will be slower because of the low levels of oestrogen and testosterone, you are not building muscle in this phase just repairing.
You need up to 270 extra calories per day but beware the cravings - our will power is low thanks to the lower mood without our happy friend oestradiol.
When: whenever it arrives! Usually day 24-ish
- All hormone levels are low, we are resetting.
You should still do light exercise during your period. Research has shown that within 10mins of exercise cramping reduces, back ache eases, mood improves and mental alertness increases.
Your pain tolerance is also higher during your period so you should be able to push through that pole-sit pain!
The best types of exercise for this phase are; Pilates, walking and yoga. Light movement will make you feel better, but don't over do it. You need to rest as your body resets ready for increasing the intensity again towards the end of your period.
Exercising to your menstrual cycle as you can see, means that your workouts need to change week to week. You increase the intensity from the last few days of your period until peaking at your best at ovulation and then tapering off until your period. And you DO NOT feel guilty about it. As you can see, your chemical make up of your body changes, it has points where it is primed for high intensity at your highest effort and points where you need to dial it back.
If you push too hard in your Luteal phase, the result is going to be feelings of frustration, disappointment and an increase in your stress levels - specifically your cortisol hormone levels which will disrupt the levels of your other hormones leading to other issues such as excess fat storage and exacerbated P.M.S symptoms.
Scheduling your exercise regime around you for menstrual cycle is just the beginning - it's a superpower you did not even know you had! If we live around our menstrual cycles, if we train and eat around our menstrual cycles our symptoms would not be so bad and overall our lives would run smoother and we would feel so much better! Through diet and exercise so you can really minimise your P.M.S symptoms and get amazing results in your fitness and all areas of your life!
The trick is knowing where you are in your cycle and tracking your symptoms. Then plan your workouts according to what phase you are in!
If you would like a free planning guide to help schedule your workouts around your menstrual cycle