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Working Out For All Phases Of Your Menstrual Cycle

Ladies, it is so important to track our cycles to master our bodies!

Here are some useful tips for my ladies, so you can plan out your training schedule better in line with our monthly visitor.


1. RED DAYS

Our menstruation phase starts when an egg from our previous cycle is left unfertilized and pregnancy does not take place. One side effect of this is that our thickened uterus lining (which builds up to support pregnancy) is no longer needed and is discharged from the body. For 3-7 days, a combination of blood, mucus and tissue gets released from the body and estrogen, progesterone and iron levels plummet, setting off a marked drop in energy while increasing cravings, ie.a devastating double whammy of pain.


If you experience pain and discomfort during the first days of your menstrual phase, then this could be a good opportunity to take some time off from heavy training and schedule a deload week. Don’t worry—you can go hard again by the 3rd day, or as soon as the pain or discomfort subsides.

• WHAT TO EAT:

This is a good time to eat iron-rich foods like red meat with healthy fats (like avocado and salmon) and complex carbs (like multi grain bread and brown rice) to balance your blood sugar. If you experience menstrual cramps then you want to avoid raw foods (like sushi and raw vegetables) as well as highly processed sugary foods (like like milk tea and non-diet sodas) as these might cause more gas production which can aggravate cramps.


• HOW TO TRAIN:

If you are one of the lucky ones who does not experience any pain or discomfort during menstruation, just train as usual, but make sure to hydrate as dehydration is common during heavy flow days. However, if you are one to experience discomfort then short light, low impact cardio such a walking, or swimming is advisable.


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2. Make the Most out of Strength Training before you OVULATE!

The best time to go hard is during the Follicular Phase. This is the time from the first day of period up to right before ovulation, it actually overlaps with the menstrual phase. The hormone follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the ovaries to produce follicles which will contain the immature eggs.


Estrogen levels begin to rise as well, facilitating our body to release the healthiest mature egg (ovulation phase); this is the “feel-good” time of the cycle. This is a perfect time to go HAM—feel free to push your training HARD during this period!

• WHAT TO EAT:

Probiotics, Omega-3, and fiber-rich foods are highly recommended to support digestive health during this time to support the production of hormones. 


• HOW TO TRAIN:

Take advantage of your strength by scheduling your heavy strength days during this time. This is the time to go HARD for those gains as we are at our STRONGEST! Say it with me; never skip leg day during Follicular Phase! 


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3. Watch out for Injuries during Fertile Days

During the Ovulation phase our bodies experience a surge of Estrogen, leading to a rise of Leutinizing Hormone which result with the release of a mature egg. This occurrence provides a boost of energy and extra restful sleep—turbo charging our recovery and muscle repair. However, note our bodies experience higher basal temperatures—meaning our body temperature is slightly higher even at rest, making our bodies more susceptible to overheating faster especially during exercise during this time. 

• WHAT TO EAT:

We want to support the surge of energy production while keeping our elevated body temperatures in check; so incorporate salads, whole grains and smoothies.


• HOW TO TRAIN:

With energy levels still at its highest, you may continue to push yourself especially with the added endurance provided by our high estrogen levels. Pain tolerance is high as well due to low Progesterone so you may use this to your advantage by pushing past your usual pain thresholds! However: don’t forget to warm-up! While the mechanisms behind this is still unknown—there is plenty of anecdotal and preliminary evidence from coaches and researchers showing increased injury risk during this time.


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4. ENTER, PMS! Also called Luteal Phase of the Cycle

As the body releases mature eggs, Progesterone continues to significantly rise to prepare your body for potential pregnancy. You may find yourself with reduced endurance compared to the first 2 phases of the cycle (Follicular and Ovulation). This is the time when you experience erratic mood changes, acne, headaches, tender breasts, insane cravings and BLOATIN️G.


Motivation can reach all time lows during this phase so be prepared to fight it off (this is when discipline over motivation is most crucial), or you can also schedule your deloads and diet breaks during this time. A “deload” is a short period, usually a week, were you will perform significantly less volume, while a “diet break” is a short period, usually a week or two when you will consume more calories (assuming you are at a caloric deficit ). Remember, it will be difficult, but you can still train during this time. This is when that practiced discipline will shine! 

• WHAT TO EAT:

Intense cravings usually happen during this time. While I could  tell you to stay away from highly-processed, high-sodium and fatty food; these foods can stimulate more sugar cravings and water retention. While I constantly preach about discipline over motivation, sometimes we it is simply more prudent to satisfy the crazy PMS monster to keep our sanity intact.


Go ahead and indulge and beat yourself up for it too much. This healthy relationship with food will pay out in the long run, trust me! Important reminder: It is critical to continue eating fiber rich foods such as leafy greens, whole grains and fruits.  


• HOW TO TRAIN:

Decreased performance is expected, so don’t feel too bad easing off that gas pedal. You can take more rests and you can schedule the lighter days of training during this part of the cycle. Mobility work, light cardio or any low impact workouts may be the best during this time (like Yoga and the like, aerobic pool work and leisure walks). Work on mobilizing your joints or stretch those muscles to support your heavier days. It is very important to listen to your body!


Ladies, it is so important to track our cycles to master our bodies! We can’t control the cards that we’re given, we just have to know how to play it!


Lead photos (working out) by Tyler Nix on Unsplash and (menstrual cycle) by Ava Sol on Unsplash