How to adapt your training through your menstrual cycle

a woman exercising with kettlebell at the gym
Train smarter through your menstrual cycleWestend61

The training cycle

Here's how to adapt your training to your hormonal changes

Phase one

Your body adapts well during this phase, so it’s a good time to build muscle and strength. Increase intensity and reps, though do so gradually to avoid injury. Though cramps may bother you, exercise reduces symptoms, as well as releasing feel-good endorphins
However, during this phase, there is some evidence that your neuromuscular control maybe lower, so include muscle-activation exercises (eg running drills) in your warm-up, particularly before intense sessions.

Phase two

You can continue to focus on intense sessions and strength training. You will find that your energy levels increase through this phase so take full advantage to max out your efforts. With your pain threshold being higher at this time of the month, it is a good time to really get into those tight spots with your foam roller: you can take it! Finally –and this is far more appealing–ensure you get enough sleep to help you adapt to this heavier training load. Your body will thank you for the rest.

Phase three

Your endurance may actually peak in this phase, so try to focus on moderate-intensity endurance training - ie your long runs. However, if your your energy levels are starting to to dip, try lowering the intensity of the session, but keep the duration the same. Your overall power is starting to dwindle at this point in the cycle, so considering reducing your reps in the gym, or chose lighter weights, and be sure to include some flexibility and low level conditioning work.

Phase four

Though symptoms of pre-menstrual tension (PMT) may strike, all types of training are actually beneficial –not only for your general fitness, but also to reduce symptoms. Vigorous exercise causes the production of endorphins, chemicals that can reduce your perception of pain and trigger positive feelings. Other complementary exercises, such as yoga and Pilates, have also been shown to reducePMT. They ease stress, which can take the edge off PMT symptoms.

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