How each phase of the menstrual cycle impacts gym performance

woman doing lunges

The whole month is affected (Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

If you exercise, it’s likely that when it comes to the week of your period, your fitness schedule will get a hit.

What you may be surprised to hear is that your hormones and menstrual cycle affect your performance at the gym all the time – not just when the flow starts.

FEWE personal trainer Emma Simpson says there is a lot at stake over the month – and we should adjust our training routines to get the best out of our bodies.

Emma tells us, “There are more than 150 symptoms of the menstrual cycle, which often means that training or exercise can feel more difficult.”

First, you need to understand the different phases of the cycle.

Stages of menstrual cycle:

Phase One – Menstruation or ‘Flow’

This is when you have your period. The brain is more susceptible to pain and emotions can be exacerbated, so this is a good time to seek balance.

Phase two – follicular or ‘floating’

After your period, you may have a boost in confidence. Here your physical and emotional resilience is at its highest.

Your FHS hormone is increasing along with estrogen levels, which means your skin is likely to glow as estrogen increases collagen and hyaluronic acid production in your skin.

Phase Three – Ovulation or ‘Transform’

There is a lot of hormone shift here, and it can make you feel more tired with ups and downs.

Phase Four – Luteal or ‘Recovery’

This is a challenging time of the month as your mood may drop as you approach your period. Some people experience PMS symptoms during this phase such as cramps, mood swings and pain all over the body.

– Rebekah Hall, Hormone Education Specialist

How does it affect your fitness routine?

Phase one

With all those fluctuations, you may find it difficult to maintain a set, strict exercise schedule throughout the month – and in fact, it’s normal to feel that way.

Emma says: ‘During phase one of your cycle, it’s important to remember your body is not as strong as it normally should be, so trying a new fitness class or personal best target this week is not the best idea.

“Rather leave this week for the long walks, yoga, pilates or a gentle bodyweight or weight training session.”

Phase two

She continues: “During phase two of your cycle, be careful when exercising, because there is a greater risk of tendon injury when you go into ovulation – which is higher with your estrogen levels.”

Phase three to four

“Between phase three and four of your cycle, your progesterone levels will rise, which means you may experience a rise in body temperature,” Emma adds.

“You may also notice you do not have the same endurance as the first two phases of your cycle, so make sure you take some extra rest days, especially in the build up to your period.”

It is important not to punish yourself when you are struggling to stick to your routine – rather look where you are in the cycle.

It might be time for a day of rest.

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