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Hormones and Training: When to Push and When to Chill

There are some magical things about being a woman, and there are times when it can be the bane of one’s existence.

From the discomfort or period cramps to the surges of estrogen, learning how to navigate your training, when to push and when to take it easy, relative to your hormones, will set you up to CRUSH your fitness!

Here are some tips we give our athletes when approaching their training based on their hormones.

Week 1 of Follicular Phase (Period Week)- the start of your cycle

You’re recovering from increased progesterone, but your body is producing prostaglandins to create uterine cramps (which facilitate shedding of the uterine lining).

Prostaglandins affect pain tolerance. If you’re struggling to push hard, and things feel harder this week, its most likely not you- its your body. Warm up WELL for your training. You should be sweaty before you start. This will help with how the training feels, especially the conditioning components.

As your week progresses your hormones begin to settle down. You should begin to feel less bloated and are getting your coordination back. If you’re feeling good, you can add in additional strength training.

Week 2 of Follicular Phase

This is your week to feel really, really good. Estrogen is coming up which helps with your aerobic capacity, as well as cycling heavier weights for reps. Your coordination and power production are peaking. Go in with this mindset. This is also the time of month where you can increase volume of training as a whole. Work on plyometrics, increased strength training, as well as more conditioning.

Week 1 of Luteal Phase

At the start of this week you are coming off of ovulation. Peak concentrations of estrogen and testosterone allow you to push hard and be super focused. This generally lasts for one to two days. It’s a great time to lift very heavy, but you also want to be extra careful- the hormones that make you feel good also cause looseness (aka laxity) in your joints. So focus on perfect movements.

If you’re in the latter part of this week of hormones, you should still be feeling mostly good. Are you tracking? Do you know when you start to experience PMS symptoms? This week you may also want to increase your carbs and calories – you typically burn 200-300 more calories during the second half of your cycle.

Week 2 of Luteal Phase/PMS Week

Every woman experiences PMS differently. Some struggle with focus, concentration, and balance. Others are very emotional and easily irritated. This can be the time of month you choose to take your rage out on a barbell, or it can be the time of month you just go in to the gym and get extra sweaty.

Check in with yourself before you start training. Have you already run into a wall or unintentionally dropped your phone? Be mindful on movements that require a lot of coordination.

Are you feeling irritated? Can you take it out on the fitness? As the week progresses you may you begin to feel better, as progesterone starts dropping.

Heading in to your period, focus on getting more rest than you think you need, eat your carbs (hormones at this point in your cycle affect how you use carbs), and give yourself a break if you just don’t have the energy to push!

And then we being again.

We don’t tell our athletes to stay home from the gym when they are dealing with hormone shifts. We encourage our athletes to head in and at the very least hit 20-30 minutes getting sweaty. Exercise releases endorphins which help make you feel better.

But we also remind our athletes day in and day out to not go in to any training session with expectations. Some days your one rep max feels like your 80%, and some days your 80% feels impossible to do. Knowing where you are in your cycle will help you understand WHY you feel this way.

We also want our athletes to understand that we must learn how to train hard and push heavy at every stage of their cycle, because competitions don’t always fall where we want them to!

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

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