How Your Menstrual Cycle Can Affect Your Fitness: A Detailed Guide

by Omotola Spence

Hey ladies! Let’s talk about the menstrual cycle, a period that often goes unnoticed but plays a major role in our lives. 

Menstrual period, which you can also call women’s monthly visitor, comes with crazy cramps, mood swings, ridiculous cravings and other unpleasant symptoms. Have you ever thought about how your menstrual cycle impacts your fitness journey? 

Well, get ready. Today, we’ll be delving into the world of the menstrual cycle, exploring its effects on workouts, energy levels and overall well-being.  

Understanding how your menstrual cycle impacts your body would help you to become more strategic about your fitness and achieve better results. It would also help you to be less hard on yourself, on days you can’t give 100%. 

Now, let us take a closer look at the different menstrual cycle phases and how they affect your fitness.

Stages of the Menstrual Cycle and Their Effects on Your Fitness

  • Menstrual phase (day 1-5):  a time to rest and recover

The menstrual phase is the first phase of your menstrual cycle and it starts on the first day of your period. This phase is when you experience bleeding or what is commonly known as your “period.”

Just think of it as nature’s gift to you for not getting pregnant. During your period, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop. 

The egg from the previous cycle was not fertilized so the thickened lining of your uterus, which would support a pregnancy, is no longer needed. So it sheds through your vagina. Sounds like an unfair gift if you ask me, but what do I know?

A lot is happening during this phase and your body is primed for some much-needed rest and recovery. The drop in hormones, particularly estrogen, can make you feel fatigued and less motivated to hit the gym. 

This is the time to take things slow, no need to push through intense workouts. Do some light yoga, and go for a walk or a light run. The key word during this phase is “low-intensity.”

These activities help to ease the cramps and bloating as well as promote better blood flow and relaxation. You might experience heightened food cravings during this period, a preferred hack is to opt for healthier snack options. Instead of a huge bowl of ice cream, you can opt for a parfait.

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  • Follicular phase (day 6-13): boost the intensity

During this phase of your menstrual cycle, your body starts gearing up for potential pregnancy by releasing follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which triggers the growth of follicles in your ovaries. As your body says goodbye to FSH, your estrogen levels start to rise. Hence, you experience an increase in energy and stamina. 

This is most people’s favourite part of the menstrual cycle. Think of it like a breath of fresh air and the perfect timing to take your fitness routine up a notch. You’re more motivated and committed to putting in the work. At this stage, you’re more likely to tackle high-intensity workouts with ease and enthusiasm.

You can lift heavier weights with better stamina at high-intensity training. You have more endurance for long runs. Also, you feel great and ready to smash new fitness goals. The increased estrogen can boost muscle recovery, helping you build strength more effectively. 

What a great time to be alive! Now, let’s move to the next phase.

  • Ovulation (day 14): peak performance

This is the phase of your menstrual cycle where your body reaches its peak in terms of energy and vitality. Estrogen level is at its highest, making you feel strong, confident and like the next Laura Hovarth. It’s the perfect time for intense workouts, setting personal records, pushing your limits, trying out new sports and just giving your 100%.

Your mood and cravings are likely to be more stable during ovulation, which can contribute to a positive workout experience. So, go ahead and embrace those challenging workouts you’ve been eyeing.

  • Luteal phase (day 15-28): mindful movement

This is largely acclaimed as the most chaotic phase of the menstrual cycle. Everything starts to act up during the luteal phase. You might notice mood swings, weird cravings, fatigue, or even depressive thoughts. 

A popular theory is that if you start to feel worthless and like your life is falling apart you’re most likely in your lutheal phase and your menstrual period is around the corner.  Progesterone is on the rise, and it can affect your energy levels and mood. 

You might not be able to go as hard as usual at the gym and that’s okay. Instead of pushing yourself too hard, focus on more mindful movement. Activities like pilates, gentle yoga, light cardio and swimming can help you maintain fitness without overtaxing your body. 

Listen to your body’s signals, and if you need extra rest days or lighter workouts, don’t hesitate to adjust your routine accordingly.

Thoughtful Recommendations for Women on Their Period

  1. Cravings and nutrition

During your menstrual cycle, especially in the luteal phase, cravings can be like an unwelcome guest. You might find yourself reaching for the chocolate or ice cream more often.  A recommended hack for this as mentioned earlier is to plan for your meals and substitute your cravings with healthier alternatives. 

Incorporate nutrient-dense foods into your diet, such as veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains. These choices can help stabilize your energy levels and mood swings, making it easier to stay on track with your fitness goals.

  1. Tracking your cycle

To truly understand how your menstrual flow affects your fitness, consider tracking it. Numerous apps like Flo and Period Tracker are available to help you monitor your cycle and anticipate your body’s changing needs. 

By paying attention to your menstrual cycle, you can tailor your workout routine, nutrition, and other self-care practices effectively.

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  1. The importance of rest

No matter the phase of the menstrual cycle you’re in, don’t underestimate the power of rest. Your body is going through a hormonal rollercoaster, and sometimes, it just needs a break. Adequate sleep and rest are crucial components of your fitness journey.

Conclusion

Accepting the changes that come with the menstrual cycle and learning to work with them can lead to a more dedicated and less frustrating fitness routine.

Remember, it’s not about pushing through every day with the same intensity. Rather, it‘s about understanding your body’s unique needs throughout the month.

Your menstrual cycle isn’t a blocker to your fitness journey. Rather, it’s a valuable tool that can help you achieve your goals while maintaining your overall health and well-being. 

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Edited by Priscilla Ajayi.

About Author

Omotola Spence
Omotola Spence
Hi there, I'm Omotola Spence, a communication and marketing specialist with a dynamic journey around the technology sector.
I am passionate about fitness, gamification, social impact projects and championing the SDGs.
As someone who thrives on non-conformity, I've never been content with the status quo. I love living life on my own terms and embracing new adventures along the way. It's this unique blend of professional expertise and a penchant for exploration that I bring to my role as a guest blogger on this platform.
Join me as we delve into a range of topics, from tech to fitness, and beyond. Together, we'll explore, learn, and grow. You can connect with me on my social channels. Let's embark on this exciting journey—one blog post at a time.

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