Have you ever had that feeling where one week you feel amazing during your HIIT class, and then the next week you struggle to even get out of bed? Let’s be honest, we have all been there. Ladies, this is your menstrual cycle at play.
It is so important we educate ourselves on how the menstrual cycle works and what is going on in our bodies; it truly is the ultimate superpower. It’s so much more than just your period, which is only a fraction of the cycle. The best bit? Having this understanding of how our hormones adapt allows us to be more connected with our bodies.
Our hormones run our bodies which drastically change throughout a 24-34* day cycle. Throughout the 24-34 days, we go through four different phases of the menstrual cycle – phase one: menstruation, phase two: follicular, phase three: ovulation and phase four: luteal. During these phases, our hormones change, which impact us in so many ways, from how we are feeling, what we want to eat, how we want to move our bodies, even to when we want to have sex. Below I have broken down the four different phases and some tips on movements to support your body through the different phases.
Phase one: Menstruation (your period)
Duration: 3-7 days
The first day of your cycle is when you get your period. This is the start of a new cycle and the start of your menstruation phase. During this phase your hormones are at their lowest, so it's good to check in with your body and see how you are feeling. Don’t put pressure on your body throughout this time as there is so much going on inside your body. If you want to hit snooze on your alarm instead of going to a class, understand that this is okay. If you do feel up to movement, look for light restorative movements such as walking, yoga and light Pilates.
Phase two: Follicular
Duration: 7-10 days
This phase starts the day you no longer bleed. Your hormones are starting to increase, and you might notice a surge in energy levels. At the start of this phase, you might lean towards more pilates, short runs and by the end of the phase, you might gradually build up more energy for longer runs, HIIT Pilates and high intensity training.
Phase three: Ovulation
Duration: 2-3 days
The feel-good phase, your hormones are still increasing and during this phase you feel amazing. You normally feel a little more social and interactive. Your body naturally starts to release more vaginal mucus as it's looking for sex. This is the time when you are most likely to conceive. You will feel more motivated to push yourself a little harder with movement, as the body will recover quicker during this phase. Look for more high intensity to get the endorphins flowing, such as running, boxing and HIIT Pilates.
Phase four: Luteal
Duration: 10-14 days
The longest phase of your cycle, which is why we tend to break it down into two parts, pre luteal and post luteal as our hormones go from the highest to our lowest.
During pre luteal coming out of ovulation, your hormones will peak and this is the best time to look for strength training such as weights and pilates. It’s a great time to aim for PBs, whether that's in the gym or out running.
Heading into the second half of this phase post luteal your hormones start to decrease, and you may start to see PMS symptoms. Listen to your body and reel the movement back in. Take it easy on your body as it is preparing you for your period once again.
It may seem a little overwhelming at first, but once you start to really listen to your body and become aware of the different phases, you’ll start to notice the recurring patterns. I highly recommend tracking your cycle, by an app but also journaling down each day how you feel, if you moved your body and how you felt afterwards. This will then allow you to know when is the right time we should be pushing our bodies and when is the right time to enjoy that sleep in. Remember this is your superpower to harness and have a deeper understanding of how our bodies work, so enjoy the process and learnings along the way. You will be amazed at what your body can do!
Words by Hannah Moloney, ANNAMO Founder
ANNAMO is an online fitness community that I founded that educates menstruators on how to train with their cycle – with curated classes to suit every mood of your cycle, from PMS to powerhouse. Check it out here.