Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

This ones specifically for the ladies BUT – men, if you want to learn more about the female body, then feel free to keep reading and listen in. As the more people / athletes become aware that ‘women are not small men’ the better! 😉

I’ve spoken before around the importance of a regular menstrual cycle and how it can impact us as females on a weekly / monthly basis. And you may have read here and there some info around your cycle, and how it can impact your training. I’ve also listened to many podcasts and read books on this topic and know that it can be hard for women to navigate and understand all the technical terms. However I listened to a podcast recently that explained it in CLEAR and understandable terms – so I wanted to share with you this clear and easy way to understand the womens menstrual cycle.

So if you have been struggling to understand / or don’t understand how our menstrual cycle can impact your performance, how structuring our training around your cycle can IMPROVE your performance or simply want to learn more then read on:

As a general outline, the female cycle has 4 phases: 

PHASE 1:Menstrual phase. (the bleed) 
RESTORE: During this phase the body is shedding endometrium lining, and restoring. Ensure sufficient calories and nutrients during this time to to help your body restore. Sessions should be easier / lower intensity  / aerobic based at the start of this phase. (perfect time to include recovery)

PHASE2: Follicular Phase. Increase in energy, preparing for ovulation
RECONNECT: The wonder woman phase! Our energy levels are higher. Perfect time for hard sessions including intensity, strength, VO2 Max . You would generally see your best performances during this time. 

PHASE 3: Ovulation Phase. Release of the egg. Estrogen is at it’s highest, then plummets and progesterone increases (to protect the egg). Some notice symptoms of bloating. 
RENEW: During this phase is the prime time to include more strength, VO2Max, power training. You would generally see strong performances during this time. 

PHASE 4Luteal Phase. Pre menstrual phase (PMS for many) BMR increases, body temperature increases, preparing for menstrual phase. 
RELAX: Take the intensity back lower the final few days leading into Day 1, (this is perfect to include recovery) Allow your body a little extra time to relax and recover in preparation for this. 

SO – even though you may not feel any ‘symptoms’ during specific times of your cycle, there IS a whole lot going on inside your body – and more specifically, with your hormones. So you should be taking this into account in training – and in life! And if you are sometimes left wondering ‘oh not sure why I felt so heavy / tired ./ bloated / lethargic, maybe take a moment to check what phase of your cycle you are in. 🙂 

To learn more, take the time to listen to this podcast – it explains it in the easiest terms i’ve heard anyone explain. You can start at 14min through to ~35min (continue listening though for more!). 


Further reading suggestionStacey Sims: ROAR (also available on kindle)

PS – stay tuned as over the coming weeks I’ll also delve more into pre and post menopausal.

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