Everyone’s cycle is different and so it’s difficult to be super specific and prescriptive when it comes to training and nutrition advice around it — although this five-day email course is a pretty good foundation. Education is important, of course, but because of the unique element, half of the educating will have to come from within.
Movement and mindset coach Rianna Kate is an expert when it comes to training her clients to do just that, helping them mindfully tune into their bodies and cycles in order to see the best results in the gym, and life in general. Here Rianna breaks down six important points to remember as you adapt your workout and nutrition around your menstrual cycle.
Journaling Can Help You Spot Your Patterns
We tend to have a very shared experience of “oh, I don’t feel that good”, or “I feel really angry today” moments which, until you start journaling, may seem like a very random pattern. But as soon as you journal and document your cycle, you will find it’s probably the same day every month. We also have these sort of transitional days when going from phase to phase, which I like to compare to an airport. It can be incredibly stressful and a bit chaotic because you’re going from place to place.
I had a day before my last menstrual phase where I just felt angry at everyone. And then the next day I felt like Buddha. I had just landed in my menstrual phase and it was this great sense of relief and I was like, “Oh yeah, I was at an airport yesterday. Okay. Fair enough.”
Trace Your Mood And Energy Levels
For a lot of women* it’s normal to feel quite depleted of energy around their late luteal phase (the luteal phase encompasses the second half of your menstrual cycle and starts after ovulation and ends with the first day of your period). I can usually tell within around 12 hours where I am in any phase and when I’m going to move into the next one just from noticing how social I feel, my energy levels, how hungry I am, my basal body temperature (which increases around the time of ovulation and is at it’s lowest during menstruation), or symptoms like breast tenderness and how sore my muscles are.
Maybe You’re Just Training At The Wrong Time
If you’ve had a high training volume in your luteal phase you might wear yourself out. It’s natural then to mentally taper off your training as you enter your menstrual phase and you might even take a few days off.
Then you might go back to the gym, at which point you’ll probably be in your menstrual phase and you’ll find it so much harder to train. And in my experience, a lot of people go, “Damn, I took a few days off, and now I can’t train anymore. It’s massively hindered my progress.” When actually that’s not the case at all! You’re just training at the wrong time.
I think that’s what happens to a lot of women*. It’s certainly what happened to me. I thought I could never take two days off again because it would really impact my results. But now I take four days off from training every month and there’s no impact.
Leave Period Days For Resting
If you experience a menstrual cycle, then your period days are your rest and recovery days. For my clients I don’t programme anything other than gentle stretching, yoga and going for a walk in their menstrual phase. Make sure you also dial up your self-care during this phase and spend some time reflecting and setting goals for your next cycle.
Adjust Your Schedule One Part At A Time
Start slow and don’t try and change everything at once. The first thing I adjusted was my training because that’s the thing I had the most control over compared to my work schedule. If you are self-employed, but don’t train a lot, maybe your work schedule is the easiest thing to adjust. I personally left food and nutrition as the last thing to change, but again, if that’s what you have most control over then prioritise that.
Please note: you can easily go food shopping to prep for your luteal phase, then come back and find that your period has come early and you’re all out of whack, which understandably can be very frustrating. So just remember, you need to be flexible, and eventually you’ll find your flow.
Chasing Social Media’s Abs Obsession Is Unhealthy
It’s not essential to train in sync with your menstrual cycle, it’s just much easier to get results this way. You can ignore it and go with conventional weight loss tools to get abs. But a healthy menstrual cycle is the fifth vital sign of your health and visible abdominals are not.
Everyone’s like, “Oh, I want visible abs.” I’m like, “Okay, but what is your body fat percentage? What is your menstrual cycle like?” Because if you have no menstrual cycle, but you have visible abs, you’re not actually healthy as a woman*.
When people are strong and have physical abs, it can be a sign of health, but it’s not necessarily the same for everyone with a menstrual cycle. You have to find what is healthy and normal for you.
*please note this generalisation does not include people who identify as women but do not possess the biological equipment to menstruate. It is still possible to sync up with a cycle (like the lunar cycle for instance), but your hormones will be doing something different.