Written by Rita Catolino, B.A. Health and Fitness Expert, Certified Trainer & Best-Selling Author
Photography by Paul Buceta
Hair & Makeup by Monica Kalra

Let’s face it, most of us women have one recurring thing in common that can deter us from sticking to our goals—whether in the gym or the kitchen—on various days each month. Menstruation, and our entire hormonal cycle with all of its phases, can make working through workouts challenging. It’s actually a great tool though, to gain insight as to why we feel certain ways at various points of the month, recognize how that impacts our training, and learn what to do about it. Understanding and adjusting one’s training regimen according to the various stages of the menstrual cycle can optimize a woman's overall performance and results. 

Whether in menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, or the luteal phase, each month has hormonal fluctuations that can impact energy levels, strength, and endurance. 

During menstruation, women may experience fatigue and lower energy levels due to the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels. This is a great time to focus on lighter workouts that prioritize flexibility and mobility to accommodate these changes. Yoga, Pilates, and low-intensity cardio (such as walking) are ideal during this phase. These exercises can help alleviate cramps and bloating while still providing a gentle form of movement.

As women progress into the follicular phase, estrogen levels rise, leading to increased energy and stamina. This is a great time to incorporate more strength training and high-intensity workouts into your routine. Try to increase your weight on your squats, deadlifts, and bench press during this phase to build muscle. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and cardio workouts can also be beneficial during this phase to capitalize on the surge in energy levels.

“Each month has hormonal fluctuations that can impact energy levels, strength, and endurance.”

Ovulation happens halfway through the menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels peak and a boost in energy and overall performance tends to occur. This phase is ideal for pushing to the limit with challenging workouts that focus on speed and power. Plyometric exercises, sprints, and agility drills are great options for increasing strength and endurance. This is your time to “give it all you’ve got,” girl!

Estrogen and progesterone levels then drop in the luteal phase, leading to potential fatigue and mood swings. During this phase, it is important to listen to the body and dial back on high-intensity workouts. Instead, focus on moderate-intensity exercises such as steady state cycling, swimming, or brisk walking. Additionally, incorporating more restorative practices like foam rolling, stretching, and meditation can help manage stress and anxiety commonly associated with this phase.

Knowledge is power, so pay particular attention to the signals of your cycle. Learning about why your energy, performance, and even your mood fluctuates during the month is a great asset to create a smart and attainable fitness plan, and optimize efforts and results throughout the menstrual cycle. 

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