Every woman knows how your period can affect your mood (ok boys, you probably noticed too!) and your body, but how about your training? Is there a way to organize your training periodization so it will not affect you as much? Good news ladies…YES! Here is how your period affects your body and how you can adapt your training for best results!
On average, a menstrual cycle lasts 28 days and consists of 3 phases:
Phase One - The Follicular Phase (14 days):
In this phase, your estrogen levels are at their highest, meaning a surge in your testosterone level (not as much as men of course). All of this means, good mood, high motivation, time to bring on your heaviest training sessions. You will find it easier to push yourself hard and respond to stress. Additionally, your body craves healthy foods, so if you were looking to change your eating habits, now is the right time!
Phase Two - The Luteal Phase (7-12 days):
This phase is characterized by an increase of your progesterone level, meaning water retention, bloating, lethargy, mood swings, and irritability - basically you feel like sh**! Your basic metabolic rate also increases because of an increase in your core temperature, so here come the cravings for salty and sweet foods. In this phase, it will be hard to focus on speed and intensity. As such, focus your energy on endurance rather than intensity Try to maintain healthy eating habits and eat a bit more if you are feeling hungrier to help curb your cravings, your body will need the extra energy anyways since your basic metabolic rate will be a bit higher.
Phase Three - Menstruation (2 - 7 days):
Alright this is where you feel the most discomfort, but training can bring on some good endorphins. We all know how endorphins can boost your mood and decrease your pain. Also, when you train, you sweat, which will help you lose some of that water retention from the last phase.
So, yes, periods are not always welcome, but scheduling your training according to your cycle can help. Having your period is also a good sign that your body is healthy, and that exercise is not too intense that you are in amenorrhea (no menstruation), which can bring on early osteoporosis.
If your planned race is scheduled in the second or third phase of your cycle, take it into consideration. Rest more, eat more, practice a “test race” in that same period during a prior month, and see how your body reacts. Just as you would with new gear and your nutrition. Happy training ladies!
Dr Melissa Rattue, CMFC, MU, sports med specialist CASEM