Women are not men. We know this logically, yet so many women treat their bodies as though they’re built the same. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the longer women try to coax their bodies to perform using the same methods, the more at-risk they are to create internal harm.
A woman’s menstrual cycle length can vary between 23-35 days, and is comprised of four distinct phases, all with unique hormonal fluctuations. Women are never in the same hormonal state twice a month, and each day is different physically, physiologically, mentally, and emotionally. A man, on the other hand, follows a more linear 24-hour pattern that effectively translates to hormonal groundhog’s day.
So, when women show up each day to their body and life with a “hustle and grind, work harder, do more” approach, they’re living counter intuitively to their own body’s hormonal fluctuations. This means ignoring where they’re at in their cycle, their energy, sleep patterns, and how nourished they are, all while pushing to get the workout in, training harder and longer, or even doubling up on sessions to hit their goals. What most women don’t realize is this could be the very reason they aren’t seeing or feeling the results they’d hoped for.
Learning how to strategically and intentionally plan workouts and movement around your cycle will help you maximize results while minimizing unnecessary stress to your body and female physiology. In this way, you’ll tune into what your body has been asking for all along, so you can show up, perform, and recover better than ever.
To learn how to tell which phase of the menstrual cycle you’re in, pick up the SEPT/OCT 2021 issue of STRONG. Then, match the phase with its workout video below.
Menstrual Phase: Hip-Based Yoga Flow
Your period is truly the time to slow down and allow your body to rest. Use this phase to relax fully, or if you crave movement, try the following yoga-based protocol or a walk outside in fresh air.
Follicular & Ovulatory Phases: Yoga Sculpt
During the follicular phase, your estrogen and testosterone levels are higher, which means you’ll have lots of energy and feel super powerful. These hormones assist in greater tendon and ligament stability, making it the perfect time to incorporate more intense workouts into your schedule. As you come into the ovulatory phase, you may begin to start craving a slower pace, although some women report feeling boosted energy. Pay attention to your body’s cues, and if you’re looking to slow it down, skip ahead to the luteal phase workout.
Luteal Phase: Pilates Fusion
During the longest phase of your cycle, you may start off with energy in the first week and then feel it wane as you come to the end. It’s important to pay attention to your body’s cues. Ignoring symptoms of fatigue can elevate PMS symptoms and cravings, and mess with your sleep and recovery. At the beginning of the luteal phase, keep rocking strength training workouts if that feels right for you, but as you start to feel energy subside, shift into using lighter weights and focus more on your form. This Pilates series is a bodyweight workout that also promotes the mind/body connection.