How does the menstrual cycle affect your training? And should you alter your training around it? Personal Trainer and Online Coach Lucy Lismore explains.

The average menstrual cycle is around 28 days and it's split into two distinct phases- Firstly we have our follicular phase which starts on the first day of our period and it lasts between day 1 and 17. The second phase is called the luteal phase and that starts after ovulation and ends on the first day of your period.

The Follicular Phase

The follicular phase is marked by an increase in the hormone estrogen and along with this we see a suppressed appetite, increased blood sugar regulation, better muscle repair and also improved performance in exercise. Along with that we also have an increased pain tolerance, so this means

that it's a fantastic time to go heavy with your lifts push, yourself in your training and really work to your maximal effort.

The Luteal Phase

The luteal phase, which starts after ovulation and lasts to the first day of your period is marked by an increase in the hormone progesterone.

Now, this is when things start to feel a little bit hard and we start to see things like poor sleep and increased appetite; a lower pain tolerance and decreased energy. You might also notice that your mood and motivation decline slightly— and that's because we have a decrease in serotonin. Along with that we also see a rise in our basal metabolic rate between 8-12% so if you feel

like you're a lot hungrier you're not imagining it; your body actually requires a little bit more energy during this phase.

Due to all these factors you might find exercise feels especially hard during this time, especially in the few days leading up to your period. And, for that reason you might want to opt for something such as low intensity steady state cardio or some active recovery; or just some more gentle exercise such as yoga.

The main thing to remember is that exercise will probably feel a lot harder and that has nothing to do with you, it's more of a physiological thing that’s going on, and something that we would expect to see. So you can change up your training accordingly.

On another note because our muscles repair a little bit slower and we have a decreased pain tolerance during the luteal phase, there is a slightly higher chance of injury, so just be gentle with yourself; make sure you're warming up correctly and just be a bit more careful with your form.

Contraceptives and Hormones

If you're on hormones or contraceptives, this isn't going to be exactly the same. You can check out some information online or you can visit your GP for a little bit more information about what to expect in your specific situation.

Make it Work for Your Body

All in all you can train throughout your entire cycle, however you like, and everybody's going to be a little bit different, so it's about finding what works for your body.

The most important thing is to be aware that there are going to be fluctuations in not only your mood, motivation and strength; but also your recovery and your energy, so you may want to adapt your training to fit that. 

If you want to keep training and just keep pushing through your workouts, it’s always good to remember that the follicular phase is coming, and you can really make the most of your training then.

Team Bulldog