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Period..a guide to using women’s menstrual cycles to tailor training


If you work with female athletes, it's important to understand how women's bodies change during the menstrual cycle and how this affects their training. The menstrual cycle is a natural part of a women's reproductive health, and understanding how it impacts physical performance and training is important for women to optimize their exercise routine. In this article, we will discuss how women's training should change during and around their periods, debunk some misconceptions, and provide examples of exercises that can be beneficial during this time.


The Menstrual Cycle


The menstrual cycle consists of four phases: the follicular phase, ovulation, the luteal phase, and menstruation. The follicular phase occurs when estrogen levels are high, and this is the time when women tend to have higher energy levels and better endurance. This is a great time to focus on endurance-based exercises, such as running or cycling.


During ovulation, which occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle, testosterone levels increase, which can lead to an increase in strength and power. This is a great time to focus on strength-based exercises, such as weightlifting or plyometrics.


During the luteal phase, estrogen and progesterone levels are high, and women may experience fatigue and decreased energy levels. This is a great time to focus on recovery exercises, such as yoga or stretching.


Finally, during menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest, which can lead to a decrease in energy levels and increased fatigue. This is a great time to focus on low-intensity exercises, such as walking or swimming.


Debunking Misconceptions


There are several misconceptions surrounding women's training during and around their periods. One of the most common misconceptions is that women should avoid exercise during menstruation. However, research has shown that exercise during menstruation can actually help alleviate menstrual cramps and reduce bloating and fatigue.


Another misconception is that women should avoid weightlifting during menstruation due to the risk of injury. However, there is no evidence to support this claim, and in fact, weightlifting can help alleviate menstrual symptoms and increase muscle strength.


Examples of Exercises


During the follicular phase, women should focus on endurance-based exercises such as running, cycling, or swimming. During ovulation, women should focus on strength-based exercises such as weightlifting or plyometrics. During the luteal phase, women should focus on recovery exercises such as yoga or stretching, and during menstruation, women should focus on low-intensity exercises such as walking or swimming.


Here are some examples of exercises for each phase:

Follicular Phase:

  • Running or cycling

  • Swimming

  • Aerobic dance

Ovulation:

  • Weightlifting

  • Plyometrics

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Luteal Phase:

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

  • Stretching

Menstruation:

  • Walking

  • Swimming

  • Low-intensity aerobics


In an ideal world, women's training should change during and around their periods to optimize their exercise routine; although many times it's not possible or practical. Understanding the menstrual cycle and how it impacts physical performance is important for women to reach their fitness goals. It's important to debunk misconceptions surrounding women's training during menstruation and to focus on exercises that are appropriate for each phase of the menstrual cycle when possible. By doing so, women can optimize their training and improve their overall fitness level.


References:

  1. Lebrun CM. The effects of the menstrual cycle on exercise performance. Sports Med. 1993;16(1):6-12. doi:10.2165/00007256-199316010-00002

  2. Wikström-Frisén L, Boraxbekk CJ. Impact of menstrual cycle phase on cognitive function. Front Neurosci

  3. Souza MC, Alexandre EC, Santos JA, et al. Resistance exercise and inflammatory balance in women: a randomized controlled trial. J Sports Sci. 2017;35(20):1999-2006. doi:10.1080/02640414.2016.1248929

  4. Agha-Alinejad H, Farzad B, Salari M, et al. The impact of menstrual cycle on performance of repeated sprint ability. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2015;86(4):379-387. doi:10.1080/02701367.2015.1051628

  5. Sung E, Han A, Hinrichs T, Vorgerd M, Manchado C. Improved muscle function and quality after 12 weeks of progressive resistance training in women with early axial spondyloarthritis: an exploratory controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018;99(4):645-654. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2017.09.019

  6. Bruinvels G, Burden R, Brown N, et al. The prevalence and impact of heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) in elite and non-elite athletes. PLoS One. 2016;11(2):e0149881. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149881

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