Have you ever done a workout and wondered why you felt sluggish, despite sleeping and eating well? Women who cycle may feel the effect fluctuating hormones have on mood and brain function throughout the month. However this also has an effect on your muscles, joints and energy levels as well! Matching your exercise choice with where you are in your cycle can have a profound effect on how worthwhile your workout feels! Here is a brief overview of the typical fluctuations of hormones throughout the cycle, and how you can work with it to make you feel best:
Menstrual phase (3-7 days)
This phase begins with the first day of bleeding. Hormones such as luteinizing hormone (LH), progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest, hence why many women find their energy is lowest at this time of the month. This is an important time to listen to your body and move exactly the way your body is asking you to. This might mean a gentle walk or yin yoga. Although if you feel like doing something more intense, don’t hold back! Lower estrogen levels may actually mean you are less prone to injuries at this point.
Follicular phase (7-10 days)
This phase begins after bleeding is complete. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) gradually rises to help an egg mature in the ovary, then drops just before the ovulation phase occurs. Estrogen levels peak at the end of this phase. Interestingly, creativity levels are heightened at this time, so it can be a fun time to try a dance or a barre class, or other new forms of movement!
Ovulation Phase (3-5 days)
Estrogen, FSH and LH levels are all at their highest during the ovulation phase, meaning energy levels are also at their highest! This is the perfect time to break a sweat and participate in more vigorous exercise if you’re feeling the pull. It is also a time where you may feel more sociable, so group exercise classes such as Pilates circuit may feel like a fantastic choice!
Luteal Phase (10-14 days)
Estrogen levels drop a little after the ovulation phase, then rises again with progesterone until midway through the luteal phase. Then they both drop again to prepare for menstruation. This hormonal fluctuation can often make women feel a little sluggish and any slight imbalance can explain pre-menstrual symptoms. This is an important phase to listen to your body and work with what you feel like doing. Higher intensity activities such as weight training, running, vigorous classes may feel great for the first half of the luteal phase, while lighter activities such as walking, yoga and gentle Pilates may be more ideal during the second half of this phase.
Depending on many various factors contributing to hormone health, no two bodies are the same, nor is no cycle from month to month exactly the same. So the bottom line is to really just listen to your body, use this information as a guide and adapt your workout to how you’re feeling.