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Your CYCLE of Workouts

Your CYCLE of Workouts - Fit2B.comDo you notice your workouts suffering every month around your period? Do you feel frustrated when PMS seems to derail your fitness for a week because of sudden low energy, belly bloating, and less motivation to exercise?

What if I told you that trusting your cycle is the key to unlocking your personal workout plan and breaking past your plateau?

As a fitness professional specializing in women’s health as it relates to exercising — and having female parts and a period myself — I cannot deny how my monthly cycle impacts my fitness nor how many years I spent fighting it.

Your CYCLE of workouts - Fit2B.com

Back in college, before I had kids, when I was pursuing my degree in exercise and sport science, dreaming of being a bodybuilder, and practically living at the gym, I put a lot of stock in what I was learning from {mostly male} educators about fitness principles. I would start a 6-week hypertrophy phase or an 8-week endurance phase, only to lose all my mojo two or three weeks later when Aunt Flow came for a visit, wearing all red and taking over my life.

You’d think I’d have made the connection, but even later — despite my own female personal training clients reporting their woes at “that time of the month” — I failed to put it together.  

I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure that many of you reading this have already figured out the beautiful payoff pattern that your cycle offers, but most of you are about to have your mind blown by what comes next …

Planning Workouts Around Your Period Pattern Pays Off!

Your CYCLE of Workouts - Fit2B.com - Do you notice your workouts suffering every month around your period? What if you were to schedule your fitness routine in harmony with your cycle? #fitness #fitmom #fitmama #healthy #healthymom #periods #cycle #PMS #period #core #corestrengthening #diastasisrectirecovery #mummytummy #lifehacks #fitnesshacks #exercise #fit #fitfam #health #motivation #weightloss #workoutI talk about the principle of progression a LOT here on Fit2B since baby steps for true beginners {and returners} to fitness is pretty much our main jam. But have you heard of the principle of periodization?

Periodization is a method for employing sequential or phasic alterations in the workload, training focus, and training tasks contained within the microcycle, mesocycle, and annual training plan … In order for specific physiological responses and performance outcomes to develop, an appropriately sequenced and structured periodized training plan allows for the management of the recovery and adaptation processes.” — NSCA’s Guide To Program Design

Irony: The Fitness Principle of Periodization is typically applied to females  or used by females  in ways that don’t honor their periods.

What if we did, though? What if we planned our workouts to synchronize with the ebb and flow of our entire cycles? What if we quit pushing hard through those low energy days? What if we listen to our bodies?

What if menstruating women looked at their yearly goals and then asked for {or designed their own} workout plans based on macrocycles that honor 2-3 of their full monthly cycles, mesocycles that honor each individual monthly cycle, and microcycles based on menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase (the four microphases)?

Your CYCLE of Workouts - Fit2B.com

Here are 4 reasons to structure your fitness training around your periods:

  1. Periodized plans work, and they are supposed to be appropriate and sequenced to each person’s needs based on their goals.
  2. The most basic, glaring sequence happening in the female body is her monthly cycle.
  3. A female’s menstrual cycle has 4 unique phases (menstruation, follicular, ovulation, luteal) that each impact her energy levels, water retention, and vaginal discharges in widely varied ways. Her body is literally doing something different — not just in her reproductive system — during each phase because of hormonal impact on all the other systems.
  4. The biological, physiological properties of each of the 4 phases naturally encourage a perfect bell-curved training plan. It’s a perfect cyclical pattern of seasons, of rest and increasing intensity, tapering, and recovery.

Suggestions for Setting Up Your Period-Based Fitness Microcycle

Before your period, after ovulation, during the luteal phase: the egg — fertilized or not — sends pregnant-like signals to the body. Breasts begin to feel tender, and the belly often bloats as the body responds differently to salt and other foods. The uterine lining thickens, and the uterus begins to swell. 

At the start of the the luteal phase, you may have LOTS of energy, but as you approach your period your energy begins to lessen and your senses heighten. Your skin tightens along with your mood, and this can make you feel everything — emotionally and physically — keener and deeper. You may find yourself withdrawing, needing more solitude, reflecting on how the last month of life and workouts went, tapering your intensity downward as your energy starts to wane. Again, go with it: Take a long walk alone. Lock yourself in your room for some pilates on Fit2B by yourself.

Members: access our PMS routine here

During your period which is the menstrual phase: Rest and do low-key things like slow hikes, easy bike rides, short strolls with your family, and gentle, non-inverted yoga poses. Your uterus is swollen up to two-thirds greater in size as your period starts. All of this contributes to a sensation of added heaviness in the body, but especially in the pelvic floor muscles because the weight of the uterus is greater.High-friction workouts like running or spin cycling aren’t fun with a pad or tampon string irritating your labia, and those who experience a heavy flow the first couple of days may wish to avoid all activity except what’s necessary — and those “full stop rest” days are fine!

Fit2B Radio Podcast: The One About Young Female AthletesRest days are needed after the hard work your body did all month, and they’re a great time to finish that book or catch up on our podcast! This episode talks about young girls and their period activities and nutrition.

Right after your period starts is the follicular phase: As your period tapers, your energy and drive to exercise should increase daily. Your mind is full of creative ideas for your work, your home, and maybe that new fitness activity you’ve been wanting to try. This is the time to plot it and take a few steps toward it. The workouts you were doing before your period started feel good again, maybe even better and stronger because of that rest you allowed yourself.

Near the middle of your whole monthly cycle around ovulation: This is the time to Go. For. It. Increase your weights a little. Add some extra distance. Hold that pose a bit longer. Work out every day, sometimes twice if you have the motivation. Maybe do your favorite challenging Fit2B video in the morning and take a brisk walk at night. Some women are “fertile” for up to 10 days, and this time is possibly a female’s most powerful. Yes, there are mood swings and mucous discharges, but overall energy should be relatively high and recovery between workouts should be faster. 

What if you are on birth control, and you are not releasing an egg? Your body is still trying to cycle, but the pill is interfering with the normal pattern. I’d encourage you to give this interview we did with Nicole Burrati of Bend & Blossom a listen for more information on that.

EP 34 – The One About Birth Control With Nicole Buratti - Fit2B.com

 


Summarizing Your Cycle Of Workouts: Go With The Flow!

  • Pay attention to your energy levels each day, and track your body’s energy levels for a few months to really grasp your personal pattern.
  • Taper your intensity and down-train as you head into your menstrual phase.
  • Give yourself complete rest and all the pampering as you begin to bleed.
  • As your energy rises after your period during the follicular phase, rise with it! Gradually increase your intensity each day.
  • Save your toughest “peak” workouts for right after ovulation, harnessing your high energy and libido for powerful, bold, strong motions.
  • When you start to feel more sensitive, more heavy, more tender, then it’s time to taper down again.
  • Take each month, each week, each day as it comes. This isn’t about looking ahead at your month and making a rigid schedule. This is about tuning in and doing some tracking to give your body what it truly needs each day.

Watch this! And then leave a comment to share how you handle exercise throughout your period and monthly cycle. I’m so curious to hear from others who train WITH their body’s natural rhythms instead of against them.

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2 thoughts on “Your CYCLE of Workouts

  1. Pingback: Fit2B Contributing to Natural Fertility Course | Fit2B Studio

  2. Samantha Newman says:

    Thanks for this, Bethany. I was going to push myself to work out today even though I am on a heavy period, but now I think my kids and I will just take a stroll around the block in the fresh air. And I love the pms routine, so I think I will do that, too.

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