Listen Up Ladies, Let’s Talk Hormones. . .
In a world where tracking has become the norm, we think nothing of tracking our calories, training, sleep, money, bills . . . even Steve, the delivery driver, is fully trackable these days!! But what if I told you that you’re missing one magical metric that could really enhance your training, yep you guessed it – hormones!!
Month in, month out, our cycles come and go, and while some of us may be fully attuned to our bodies, others may not give it a second thought, (and there’s no right or wrong), but when it comes to training, hear me when I say tapping into your cycles could be a real game changer in terms of strength, performance, results, and here’s why . . .
Knowledge Is Power
By having a greater insight into our monthly cycles, we have the ability to create a targeted training plan. We’ll know when to go hard, when to back off, when to smash that PB and equally, when to rest as hormones play such a pivotal part in performance.
Feeling strong on Tuesday but weak on Saturday? Hormones. Technique on point one day but struggle to lift the next? Hormones. Giving the Duracell bunny a run for his money on Wednesday yet struggling to get off the starting block on Sunday? All together now . . . hormones!
Of course, I’m not granting you a one way ticket to excuseville by suggesting it’s the only reason, but if you tap into your cycles, you might just surprise yourself. So next time you’re just not feeling it, don’t beat yourself up, listen to your body and check in with your cycle, after all knowledge is power.
Here Comes The Science Bit
Before we delve further into the technicalities of our monthly cycles, it’s important to note that any studies based on menstrual cycles are from that of women who are not on any form of hormonal contraception ie, the pill, implant or injection, however for those that are, there’s still a lot of information we can take from it.
First things first, get to know your cycle! Some women are like clockwork, some would say they’re regular (give or take a few days), yet others can be anywhere up to 39 days, which is still classed as normal believe it or not! But for arguments sake, the following examples are based on a standard 28 days cycle.
Did you know that your cycle is split into two halves, follicular and luteal which fall either side of ovulation?
- Follicular Phase – Begins with day 1 of your period, which typically lasts between 4 and 6 days, with the remainder of this phase taking us up to ovulation.
- Ovulation – Typically around day 14 but can occur several days before or after, depending on cycle length.
- Luteal Phase – The remaining part of your cycle which can last anywhere between 9 and 16 days following ovulation.
So what does this have to do with training I hear you ask? Well, as our cycles progress, our levels of oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate. We experience low oestrogen, high progesterone in the early follicular stages which is then flipped into high oestrogen, low progesterone as we enter the later stages of the luteal phase. So don’t be disheartened if some days you can, and some days you can’t. It doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your ability, or that your fitness is fading as there’s a good chance it’s hormone related, so check in with your cycle.
Listen To Your Body
Much like the Moon and the cycles of nature, it’s important to remember that there’s a time for doing and a time to retreat, as it’s impossible to fire on all cylinders day in, day out. Therefore, in this section we’ll talk you through each stage of your cycle and how best to maintain your training goals.
Can’t face a high intensity workout? No worries, why not switch it up and try some gentle yoga, a walk, or something less strenuous, anything that keeps us away from the fridge . . . thank you premenstrual cravings! It’s important to avoid over stressing the body in this phase with heavy loads or beastly cardio sessions, they will come trust me!
Fill Up On: Healthy fats as these will boost your mood and cortisol levels.
Follicular Phase (Pre Ovulation)
As oestrogen begins to rise, so does our strength and motivation, so why not take advantage of this surge in energy and get that high intensity workout in the bag! However as we enter the later stages of this phase, there has been evidence to suggest that we may be more prone to injury so make sure you take the time to warm up and cool down properly to avoid any unnecessary down time.
Fill Up On: Proteins, greens and grains as these will regulate blood sugars which will help to avoid inflammation.
Then, when oestrogen is higher during late follicular and mid luteal, this is the time we can really push female bodies, so go for it! Energy levels are high, motivation and concentration have improved so this is the perfect time to smash that PB.
Fill Up On: Antioxidants such as berries, greens, smoothies and raw veggies.
Hello PMS! By this stage of our cycle you may notice that you fatigue quicker, you’ve lost your mojo, or that your moods are swinging more than your kettlebells! This is thanks to the peak in progesterone and dip in oestrogen, therefore why not take this window of opportunity to focus on your mobility and technique. Don’t feel bad for dropping your usual reps, lifting lighter or training for a less amount of time, nail the basics without the heavy load.
Fill Up On: Satisfying foods such as red meat, fish, eggs and dairy products that will boost your happy hormones thanks to a healthy dose of Vitamin B12.