Let me start off by saying I’m not ashamed to admit this but, I had no idea that people who have periods go through four stages of the menstrual cycle.
Hands up if you thought all there was to know was PMS and the actual period itself. I mean, come on! I have a love/hate relationship with my period; on one hand it just gets in the way and always makes an appearance at the most inconvenient of times.
On the other hand, it’s my secret friend that lets me know that my body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing and that everything is probably okay. However, I had no idea why I lost 5-12 days of effective training every month until now. I have now discovered that my menstrual cycle which has nothing to do with the actual period itself actually has a lot to do with it. Confused? Keep reading.
You see, across the different phases of your menstrual cycle, there are A LOT of hormonal changes that can take place; they are usually responsible for affecting your mood and motivation to train but by understanding what’s happening hormonally, you can do what’s best for your body at the right time in your cycle.
4 Phases of Your Fitness Menstrual Cycle
Phase 1: The Period Phase (5-8 days); well this is the part where you have the actual period; you may or may not have cramps but pretty sure we can all agree that this is a ‘meh’ period (no pun intended).
Phase 2: The Follicular Phase (10-22 days); oestrogen is on the rise and your muscles adapt better, recover better and fatigue less which makes it a great time to push your workouts.
Phase 3: The Luteal Phase (9-16 days); progesterone is on the rise so your metabolism switches preferring fats as a source of energy which makes it a great time for endurance sessions.
Phase 4: The Pre-menstrual Phase (5-7 days); everyone is different but this is where you’re usually anxious, irritable, have sore boobs and all you want to do is eat chocolate and watch a re-run of Viking for the 15th time (maybe that’s just me) but you get the point.
Now, looking at these phases and understanding what’s happening, I can see why my workouts are more effective during the Follicular Phase, I lift weights mostly, so this is when I have a sudden spike of energy. I had no idea where this ‘hulk like beast mode’ came from; I just assumed it was because I was big and bad 🙂
I also have random days where I can tolerate the treadmill a lot better so now I can safely assume that this is because I’m in the Luteal Phase and then when Phase 4 would arrives I go AWOL at the gym and I don’t want to talk to anyone, let alone workout LOL
Ladies and gentleman, this is my attempt at explaining CycleMapping! Thanks to super star professional athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and Physiologist, Dr Emma Ross, we now have an innovative fitness app that will help you map different fitness sessions to the four phases of your menstrual cycle so that you get fitter, stronger, be more energised and reduce hormone imbalances as well as build lean muscles. Basically, the app creates personalised training programmes that work with your hormones to give you maximum benefit.
How Will This Fitness App Help Me?
Just by reading about this app, I can already see where I’m going wrong. I lose quite a few days of meaningful training because even when my body is telling me to switch up and do a different type of exercise like Pilates because I’m in Phase 1, I’m forcing myself to use up the little bit of strength I have lifting heavy weights which explains why I end up crashing and binging on a crazy amount of oreos (don’t judge me). Basically, this app will help me identify what Phase I’m in, then tailor my exercises so I get the most of out of my workouts over a 30 day period.
“My team and I wanted to help women all over the world feel better, train better and understand their bodies better” says Jess
“I’ve been in sport my whole life,” continues Jess, “but it was only towards the latter part of my career that the science of matching your workouts and diet to your menstrual cycle was being touched upon.
“We’ve created Jennis CycleMapping because this information is essential to women’s health, but isn’t accessible or widely talked about.
“By opening up the conversation and making it easier for women to understand their cycles, my team and I want to help women all over the world feel better, train better and understand their bodies better. That’s a legacy I will be really proud of.”
Tune into how you’re feeling
All this said, everyone’s body is different, and we don’t all respond to hormonal fluctuations in the same way. You might find that your energy levels vary depending on where you are in the cycle, or you might feel strong all month long. This is not to mention that your cycle may be longer or shorter than 28 days – and if your periods are irregular, the relationship between your hormones and your workout performance may be harder to track.
The important thing is to tune into how you’re feeling. Simply put, this means easing off if you’re tired and pushing harder if you’re on top form. Athletes have won their events, or scored personal bests, at all stages of their cycle, which should indicate that nothing is set in stone.
“When you cycle map, you become more body literate,” says Dr Ross. “Most women have their period cycle happen to them, but this is about taking back the power and mastering skills to ultimately become healthier” according to her recent interview in Vogue.
To find out more about CycleMap and to register for £14.99 per month visit here. There’s currently a 2 week free trial offer which I’ve taken advantage of.