Is your menstrual cycle the key to boosting your fitness?
Cycle syncing – doing different types of exercise according to the time of month – will not only help your workouts, it could help you manage PMS, too.
Exercising regularly is key to health and wellbeing but if you work out exactly the same way everyday, it might be time to start doing something called cycle syncing instead.
“Cycle syncing is taking advantage of your menstrual cycle when we think about planning elements such as diet and exercise,” gynaecologist Dr Raelia Lew tells The House of Wellness TV.
“Having a bit of knowledge and education about the menstrual cycle and being able to predict how we might feel at a different time of the month or in a particular week of our cycle is something that can empower us to plan activities that suit how we’re likely to physically feel,” Dr Lew says.
Why cycle syncing is a smart move
As well as matching your workouts to your mood, cycle syncing can deliver health benefits, too.
Personal trainer, women’s hormone coach and founder of Beautiful Bodies Society, Jade Leray explains:
“It’s about making your cycle work for rather than against you in order to achieve your health goals, as well as balancing your hormones to help make your cycle more enjoyable and manageable when it comes to cravings, mood, energy levels and sleep,” Jade says.
Jade, who has recently launched a new app called Get Synced by BBS which helps women unlock the power of their period using a sync-to-cycle approach, explains the link between hormone changes and exercise:
“For example, progesterone is very stress sensitive and it’ll disappear quickly at a time when we need it to stick around, if we have too much stress from high-intensity workouts during the luteal phase of our cycle,” she says.
“This can then lead to stronger symptoms of PMS.”
How to adjust your training around your cycle
To understand this it’s important to understand how hormones fluctuate.
“Women who have a menstrual cycle have different hormone levels at different times of the month,” Dr Lew says.
“Specifically in reference to the hormone oestrogen and the hormone progesterone.”
In simple terms, during the first half of a four-week menstrual cycle, which is called the follicular phase, levels of oestrogen progressively increase while progesterone stays low.
Oestrogen levels surge around ovulation, which in a text-book cycle occurs two weeks in, and it’s during the second half of the cycle, called the luteal phase, that progesterone levels peak.
“Oestrogen makes us feel motivated,” Dr Lew says.
“It makes us feel drive, it makes us energised.
“Someone who is cycle syncing might time their more intense goals and try and achieve their more intense exercise thresholds at that time.
“It’s the hormone that’s really taken advantage of by athletes.
“When we ovulate we release that egg and the cells of our ovaries switch gear and start to make the hormone progesterone.”
Dr Lew says progesterone can make us feel more bloated, moody and tired, as well as making ligaments a bit more stretchy, which can increase the risk of injury.
“At this phase of the menstrual cycle things like low key exercise are recommended, more like yoga or pilates.”
Why you need to know your cycle
Menstrual cycles last an average of 28 days, but this varies between women and even from cycle to cycle.
Similarly, the exact length of your follicular and luteal phases will be unique to you, too.
Tracking your cycle for few months by keeping note of when your period starts, as well as recording signs of ovulation and symptoms of PMS, will help you get to know your cycle. There are also apps that you can use to track your cycle.
More on menstrual health:
- How to use your menstrual period to truly thrive
- A guide to environmentally friendly period products
- Why menopause is high risk for mental ill health
Written by Karen Fittall.