January is the typical time that mum's are writing down their goals… often I see it, “lose weight”, “be happier”, “increase fitness”… but the problem with this, is that so often we don’t understand our bodies like we could and should. It wasn’t taught in schools (and it very well should be!), our own mothers quite often don’t hold this knowledge, and we’re left wanting to change, but no idea how to make the changes last (anyone else seem to have the same goals every single year?...) So I’m going to let you in on a little secret I’ve learnt…. Women should be exercising DIFFERENTLY during our menstrual cycles! *GASP* Yes, that’s right… 4 different phases during our menstrual cycle, means FOUR different exercise styles throughout the month! No, you aren’t going crazy when your workout felt easy and you loved it one week, only to feel like you’re dying and gasping for air the next (dramatic much? Hehe)… not really, but you get the point.
Our hormones are changing throughout the month, which means how we approach physical movement should be changing too. So let’s break it down and make it easy to understand… I got you Mumma, I know you’re tired, and that you just need quick and easy information to digest. If you are in your menstruating years, your months move in a cyclical fashion… you move through menstruation, to the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase… and this then lands you right back into the menstruation phase (hence why its described as a circle). This cycle continues over and over again (unless you’re on hormonal birth control or are menopausal). When you are in your menstruation phase (bleeding phase of your cycle), you may be feeling tired, withdrawn, and suffering PMS symptoms. If you are on your first days of your cycle, it is OK to slow down and REST… in fact, it’s important to listen to your body when it is asking to slow down, so don’t feel guilty for having a rest when you need it. If you are feeling great during your period, doing some gentle exercise like pilates or yoga will get the blood flowing through your body, without putting unnecessary strain on your bodily systems. As you move into your follicular phase, estrogen levels are increasing, and with it your energy levels rise as well – woohoo! So we want to be focusing on lower body strength gains as well as endurance training (Hellllloooo HIIT Training! HIIT packs a punch, while also being much quicker than other exercise styles). Our bodies are designed to tolerate the heat better during the follicular phase too – so don’t be afraid to push yourself to hit some personal bests during this part of your cycle. Next you’ll move into ovulation phase, when you’re feeling flirty and social. Grab a group of friends, and exercise together. Your energy will still be feeling pretty high, so do something FUN! (spin class or body pump class sound enticing?) Make the most of this social aspect, and push each other to reach new exercise heights… because moving our bodies isn’t meant to be a drag, making it fun means you’re more likely to keep doing it.
And lastly, you’ll move into your luteal phase. This is when progesterone is increasing, and estrogen levels start to drop. You’ll feel your energy levels start to drop at this point in your cycle too, so weight training may start to feel harder to you. Focusing on upper body strength and technique in this part of your cycle is a key component. Lighter weights and more reps will help you feel your muscles burn without pushing your body as much as you could at the beginning of your cycle. If you love your cardio training, look at doing low intensity at a higher volume or more frequently (eg walking for a longer period of time, or doing it more times during your week). You’ll be amazed at how much better your body will recover between training sessions, and how much more love and appreciation for training you may gain simply from matching your training to the right phase in your cycle. Like I said at the beginning… why isn’t this information taught in our P.E. classes at school? Because I sure think it’s important for every single woman to know!! Sophie xx