Plan Your Fitness Routine Around Your Hormonal Cycle!

We women are all too familiar with how our hormonal cycle affects our training.  During the typical 28 day cycle there’ll be days where you feel strong and energetic and other days where you just want to sit on the couch in your sweats and eat stuff.  Why not plan your fitness routine around your hormonal cycle?

How To Plan Your Fitness Routine Around Your Hormonal Cycle

First, let’s look at the typical 28-day cycle (for some of us it might be more like 25 days or over 31 days).

  1. The follicular phase is from day 0-14. During this phase, you have a higher than normal tolerance for pain as well as a greater force generation capacity.
  2. The ovulation phase is around day 14. Your relative strength capacity will remain high and you’ll still have that greater ability to generate force.
  3. The luteal phase lasts from day 15-28. During this phase, your body experiences higher than normal temperatures which means your cardio output could be altered.  You’ll be less efficient during exercise in this phase and fatigue will set in sooner than normal.
  4. Menstruation.  During this phase water retention and PMS symptoms subside

Now, let’s look at what you should be doing during each phase.

  1. During the follicular phase, you should be focusing on training progress. You’re stronger during this time so take advantage of that!  During this phase, your body tends to use more carbohydrates as a fuel source.  This means that you can train more intensely.  This is a great time to do some power training which relies on using stored glycogen for quick energy.  This is where you can train through the (good) pain!
  2. During the ovulation phase, your strength is still high and is a great time to attempt personal records! Unfortunately, this is also a time where you’re more susceptible to injury so train smart.  During this phase, estrogen levels are higher which can interfere with collagen synthesis and neuromuscular control.  Risk for ACL injury is at it’s highest during ovulation.  So go ahead and train hard, just make sure you’re doing it with proper form and lots of focus.
  3. During the luteal phase, you’ll retain more water and you won’t be able to participate as comfortably in activities that are more intense. This is a good time to opt for low impact activities such as yoga.  During this time your body tends to rely more on fat for energy so doing low impact activities and moderate levels of weight training would be wise.  Low to moderate activity promotes fat utilization over glucose utilization.
  4. During menstruation, you can start doing higher intensity activities and heavier strength training as your body starts to transition back into the follicular phase. This is also a good time to increase your carb intake a bit since your body is now ready for intense exercise that utilizes glycogen.

Work With Your Cycle

If your cycle is quite regular use this to your advantage.  Use the info above to make the most out of each phase.  If you’re irregular it can be a bit more tricky but not impossible.  Keep a diary of your cycle and use that information to your advantage!  Don’t fight your cycle, work with it!