As a general guideline, training with your menstrual cycle is broken down into a 4 week period (pun intended)!
Whilst the days are set to a 28-day cycle, this can absolutely be customised to your cycle and your needs. The type of workouts you choose to do isn’t what matters. What matters is the intensity.
Something to keep in mind here is this is my opinion based on research, my many female clients and own personal experience.
The “ramp-up” begins when the menstrual cycle starts to taper off because most people feel the worst during the last few days of their cycle (because of PMS symptoms) and the first few days of menstruation. Not everyone ovulates on day 14, so the highest training intensity week should occur around ovulation (between days 10 and 16). If you need to shift this slightly to better fit your needs—please do!
Week 1 occurs in the first half of your follicular phase. During this time, you can increase the intensity of your training and start lifting heavy. Think of it as a week to “prime” yourself for maximum load and intensity. This is a great time to do interval workouts, ingest carbs and train hard! Be sure to include a sufficient warm-up, as you’re coming off a down week.
This week is the second half of the follicular phase and ovulation. During this time, you may find that your energy is at its peak. To take advantage of this, you can incorporate a few workouts that use max efforts. Now’s the time to attempt a PB (personal best). Doing shorter, “all-out” effort sprints is great during this time if it is within your ability. Nutrition-wise, a balanced diet of protein, carbs and fats is ideal.
This week is the first half of luteal phase. During this time, you may find you do better with aerobic training. Moderate loads and longer, less intense workouts are ideal. Jumping on an air (assault) bike, rower, ski erg for longer efforts, or circuit-style training are all great options. As you start to move towards the end of this week, taper your training off according to how your body is feeling as you experience PMS symptoms. Be sure to remain hydrated and be mindful of the fact that your core temperature has increased. Although you may be craving carbs, its best to stick to proteins, fats and veggies in this phase!
This phase starts when your PMS symptoms start to become more prominent. During this time, you can do light activities like easy biking, walking, yoga, or just chilling hard.
These weeks are a general guideline that is simply meant to break down the menstrual cycle into four phases of training, this will change slightly from one female to the next!
Rest assured, if your period falls on the day of an important workout or on race day, you aren’t doomed to failure. The most important thing you can do is show up well-rested, fueled, and with a positive mindset. If you’ve done the proper training and prepared your body for success, your body will perform appropriately, even on day 1 of your cycle.
Keep in mind, the effects of chronic stress can greatly interfere with sex hormone production, the best recommendation for training with your menstrual cycle is to be mindful of managing overall stress! Too much stress can result in chronic cortisol output, which can disrupt your menstrual cycle and lead to symptoms of overtraining, including fatigue, decreased performance, and loss of motivation. So listen to your body and stress less!
Do you shift your training according to your menstrual cycle? Tell me about your experience!
This article was written by Rochelle De Luca, co-founder of Sydney’s RE:UNION Training.