The bleed… I remember being jealous of my two older sisters for having it. And even though one was on the floor in tears and the other was hiding under her doona. I was still curious as ever.
In this blog post I will explore if training around your cycle is something your body is ready for, how to train if it is ready, who it is and isn’t relevant for, and why it’s important for women to get to know their cycle intimately.
Is your body ready to train?
With many women experiencing irregular periods and reproductive conditions, training around your cycle can be tricky but not impossible. Basically, the body is stressed and the additional stress of training hard would be a burden.
While you’re healing your cycle through appropriate lifestyle changes, the best kind of training will be regular low inflammation training and restorative interventions.
Low inflammation training looks like:
- Low intensity strength training
- Learning a skill i.e. handstands
- Yoga (not the hard kind – you know what I’m talking about)
Restorative intervention looks like:
- Energy healing modalities such as reiki
What if your body is ready?
‘Ready’ means your cycle is regular. ‘Regular’ looks like this:
There are four phases in a woman’s cycle:
Day 1-5: Bleed Phase
Day 5-14: Follicular Phase
Day 15-18 Ovulation Phase
Day 19-28 Luteal Phase
Each phase is characterised by a hormonal blueprint. Our physical and emotional bodies will ‘feel’ different through the phases and we will have varying levels of output, so logically, different foods and training will be essential to support each respective phase. When we start to connect to our cycle like this we can flow with the undulations of these hormones instead of pushing against them.
I use two programs to get around this. One for the Outward Phase (follicular and ovulation phases) then one for the Inward Phase (luteal and bleed phases), since these two phases create almost an even split with regards to hormonal blueprints.
This phase is characterised by a high physical energy as estrogen increases. We have finished bleeding and are looking outwards, wanting to create, connect and express.
Training in the Outward Phase
This is a great time to test your 1 rep maxes and perform challenging strength routines. If you’re not that experienced, it’s a great time to try out a new class or push a little harder in the classes you do attend. Either way, your output is high and you should consolidate on this.
This phase is characterised by a slow decrease in energy as progesterone is rising. These two weeks are a great time to reflect, go inwards and restore.
Training in the Inward Phase
It’s all about blood flow! This is a great time to do lower intensity full body circuits and 10-20 mins of steady state cardio and/or a sauna at the end of each of your workouts. But if you’re not that experienced in the gym, then taking it easy in your regular classes or going to any of the following activities can support your energy in this phase:
- Gentle yoga class
- Long walks
- Dance classes
- Primal Burn at 5th Element Wellness (shameless plug)
- Low intensity body weight circuits
For both the experienced and inexperienced, restorative interventions are great to support this phase: yin yoga, relaxation massages, saunas and mediation can be ramped up in this phase. Get indulgent!
How do you train around your cycle if you’re on the pill?
If you choose to take a contraceptive, then day 1 will be the first day of your sugar pill. Here’s an article with more information: www.5ew.com.au/contraception-or-deception
Who it is and isn’t relevant for?
Training around your cycle is relevant for any woman who wishes to get back in sync with her cycle or has a cycle she wishes to be more connected with.
Training around your cycle isn’t relevant for:
- Women who choose to do performance/competitive sports such as powerlifting or bodybuilding, as losing your period is a natural adaptation to very hard dieting and training.
- Women who are pregnant.
- Women who are on the journey to getting their period back.
- Women who are going through or have gone through peri-menopause or menopause.
- Women who are going through any physical treatment or protocol supported by a health professional.
Why it’s important for women to get to know their cycle intimately?
The undulations of a woman’s menstrual cycle are sacred. If we don’t move with its ebbs and flows we stress the system. Once we become aware of its patterns, we can learn how to support it and reinstate its sacredness.
Recently I was three days out from my bleed, feeling restless and in need of rest, but I’d planned a hard training session with a friend and said I would help out another friend on the weekend. I didn’t feel like doing any of these activities and the beauty of following my bleed gave me permission to honour that. I called my friend and asked if she’d like to get a massage instead and called my other friend to reschedule for later next week. I needed to honour the phase.
I hope this has given you some actions to implement and some thoughts to ponder. Stay curious about your bleed.
“We are cyclical beings, born to experience, understand and honour the undulations of our bleed”
For more on this topic, check out Bianca’s post on the menstrual cycle here.