Have you ever considered tailoring your exercise program to align with your menstrual cycle? For those of us who like to exercise in a more yang (vigorous) style, perhaps this could be a consideration. Below is a rough outline of what is happening in our body during a cycle and how we can best train for good health during that period.
The follicular phase of our cycle runs from our period (day 1 of bleeding) through to ovulation.
When bleeding occurs, keep in mind that our body is losing blood, so it’s important to rest when required. This is a good chance to have exercise rest days which in addition will improve overall training. If we feel up to it, we can do yin style exercise, such as yin yoga, tai chi or a gentle walk.
Based on a 28 day cycle (a normal cycle can range from 21-35 days), ovulation occurs on day 14. Some research suggests that injuries are more likely to occur in the days leading up to ovulation, so it is a time to practice mindfulness when we are training leading up to ovulation. Perhaps start to track aches and pains in a period diary to see if they occur just before ovulation. We should always let our health care professional know of any regular patterns we note.
This is the time to make some big gains in our muscle mass and strength doing a weight training style of exercise. With high oestrogen (more yin in nature), we may find ourselves with a positive outlook and good moods. Often more energy and strength is common during this phase.
Oestrogen in Chinese medicine is a moistening and nourishing hormone that allows for our body to recover from greater training volume than in the luteal phase.
Towards the end of this phase all hormones are high, including a rise in testosterone meaning this is the optimum time for strength training.
The luteal phase is the second half of our cycle, from ovulation until next period. This is almost always 2 weeks, so if our cycle is shorter or longer, the difference will be in the follicular phase.
Progesterone is more yang in nature compared to Oestrogen. As progesterone rises, our body temperature rises which can sometimes lead to night sweats and some irritability. Night sweating is called “thief sweating” in Chinese medicine and is something to let our health care professional know.
As we become more in tune with our cycle, we notice that there might be less endurance and energy than in the previous phase. In the luteal phase, the body has released an egg. It is preoccupied with the possibility that there is an potential opportunity to grow life. So rest days are encouraged during this phase or changing our training regime to more a yin style.
During this phase, premenstrual symptoms (PMS) may start to present. It is important to remember PMS is common, however it is not normal. Bloating, cramping, lower back pain and other PMS can impact our ability to use our body. In particular, if we don’t use our core correctly (due to bloating, lower back pain or cramping), it may result in injury. We should mention any symptoms we notice in our next consultation with our health care professional.