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Period and Performance

Ladies, our monthly cycle impacts our athletic performance, period. The hormonal changes that naturally occur throughout the month influence our: cardiovascular system, respiratory rate, temperature regulation, strength output, insulin sensitivity, soft tissue flexibility, when we prefer to utilize carbohydrates vs fats for energy, just to name a few…it’s not just in our heads (that’s another post for another day!).

I share this info not to make you feel defeated,

Nor to say that you should let go of your performance goals.

I share this to say, the more you know about your cycle,

The more you can use this information to your advantage!

Knowledge is power! ?

So where do I even begin this convo?! ?And note that this post is the beginning of what will be an ongoing conversation…

I find many women do not have a good understanding of their cycle, let alone have helpful feedback on how their body is feeling and adapting throughout the month. Many also have limited insight into when menstruation usually occurs for them personally. So let’s start there!

Understanding your cycle:

♥️️ Follicular phase includes menstruation and when follicle development occurs (~9 days). Hormones are relatively low ♥️️ Ovulatory phase is when ovulation occurs (~5 days) and estrogen peaks ♥️️ Luteal phase is when the endometrial lining thickens and estrogen and progesterone are elevated (~14days) ?special note: there are phases within the follicular and luteal phases, too! But for simplicity sake, these are the primary ones to keep in mind.

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Hormone changes and training preferences:

♥️ Follicular phase = lower levels of estrogen and progesterone are more optimal windows for higher intensity workouts, heavier lifting sessions, and personal best attempts. This is also when the body tends to prefer carbohydrates as its primary energy source ♥️ Ovulatory phase = estrogen peaks and improved strength gains can still be realized, but there is an increase in tissue laxity that increases our risk for soft tissue injuries ♥️ Luteal phase = higher levels of estrogen and progesterone happening concurrently, resulting in a preference for lower intensity to moderate steady state training sessions and the body wanting healthy fats more often as its primary energy source.

Athletic performance and overall performance:

While it’s helpful to look at our cycle as a way to improve athletic performance, I think it’s equally important to evaluate how intel from our cycle provides insight far beyond our ability to PR in a race or workout. It’s a helpful window into how our system is managing our energy, fuel, fitness, sleep, and recovery for allll the things all month long. Optimizing our athletic performance involves optimizing our personal performance as well. How are we managing our day-to-day activities, caring for our families, navigating professional commitments, nurturing relationships with others, etc…? We need to consider these factors too that contribute to our health and wellbeing, because they impact our hormones, too!

Being the scientist ?that I am, I’ve decided to run a personal experiment on myself over the next few months. I’m going to track my own cycle more thoroughly, adjust my training plan intensities, and take note of how my body feels. I’m also planning on digging into a few books that have been recommended to me on this topic, including “Roar” by Dr. Stacy Sims and “In The Flo” by Alisa Vitti. If anyone’s interested in joining me – tracking, reading or both – comment below!

Now I’m curious…Are there any group members who track their cycle? And do you use this information to adjust your workouts? If so, has it been helpful?