Synching Period & Exercise

Synching cycles Pt I Exercising cycles

Women: Does your cycle hinder your fitness progress? What if you could use knowledge of how your cycle works to work in conjunction with your progress and fitness goals instead of letting your cycle hinder them and work against your body?

If you have a normal cycle here is some solid understanding to leverage your cycle for you and lower your chance of injury and backtracking progress.

Let’s go over the four cycles in this post and the best type of exercise for each!

Menstrual phase: this phase lasts between 3 and 7 days. Progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest points during this phase which can lead to inflammation, irritability, muscle fatigue, and low energy. It’s important to listen to your body; if you feel exhaustion it’s best to stick to low activity activities such as stretching, yoga, pilates, or training with low intensity and high focus on technique and form. Strenuous activity during this time could aggravate your energy levels and put strain uterine ligaments. Low energy levels could lead to setbacks and injury. However, low progesterone and estrogen also decrease the time your muscles need for recovery. This means if you can bring yourself up to it, it’s a great time to do heavy load strength training such as 5x5’s with the weight being at around 80% of your max (max being the most you can lift at all). The other plus to doing this now is the low estrogen levels cause you to be less prone to injury, which is a good time to lift. This doesn’t mean to forget proper warm up and cool down though, as these are always important!

To sum up: Listen to your body, if you feel up for it, it’s great to get some heavy lifting in but if not it is far better to take it easy and work on technique and flexibility.

Follicular phase: This phase sees an increase in estrogen that rises gradually throughout the next 7-10 days. This is an important focus for injury prevention, especially for the knees. Female collegiate athletes were shown to have up to a 3.6 higher chance of ACL injuries compared to their male counterparts, according to Duke Integrative Medicine. Multiple studies (1 & 2) have shown that these injuries increase due to hormones associated with menstrual cycle shifts. In the follicular phase the rising of estrogen has many benefits, but it also causes the hamstrings to be more malleable and the muscle spindles to have a reduced muscle stretch reflex. These two reactions leave the knee more vulnerable for injury and less able to provide joints with sufficient support for absorbing force. This means that during this phase it is important to keep your knee health in mind and really focus on proper warm up, cool down, and stretching along with strong technique during your routines. There are a few choices here: testosterone levels are rising along with estrogen, which significantly increases your energy levels and brain power. This means you’ll likely find more challenging exercises, HIIT training, and/or heavy lifting less difficult and more rewarding. It might be the perfect time for you to try something new as well as with these energy peaks you’ll likely feel a bit more adventurous! HIIT bootcamp or pole dancing anyone?? Lastly, high testosterone is great for strength training, so feel free to hit the weights and make some progress, but be sure to keep your knees in mind when exercising.

Let’s sum up: Energy levels are high which is great. Rising estrogen levels increase the risk of injury, which isn’t great. Strength training, HIIT, new classes, and more intensive workouts are great during this time due to rising hormone levels, just be sure to stay cautious of your knees which are a bit less reliable when estrogen is on the rise.

Ovulation Phase: This phase is the absolute peak of a woman’s cycle. Hormone levels are at the peak of their rise leaving most women feeling their best and their bodies the strongest. It you feel like wonder woman in this phase, own it! This is pretty similar to the follicular phase in the sense that energy levels are high, brain power is high, but also the risk of knee injuries is high. Many women also feel more connected with social interaction during this time due to the support of verbal and social centers of your brain from the ovulation process. Because of this, a class setting or working out with a partner and/or trainer tend to be extra helpful tools during ovulation. This is a time for increased alertness and enhanced learning, another great reason to push yourself in a class while fulfilling any social desires. This is also a time when your body tends to burn through more fat (which has a slower release than carbs) as an energy source. This means this is an optimum time for endurance training, which makes workouts like HIIT a solid choice during ovulation.

Sum up: This is where you’ll find your peak performance, so don’t be hesitant to work on that endurance and strength training. If you’re feeling social, a class or someone to workout with is optimum! But, still make sure to focus on your warm ups, stretching, and movements as your knees are still at higher risk of injury during this time

Luteal Phase: This phase (10-14 days) has hormonal dips that may wreak a bit of havoc on the body, especially your energy levels. Specifically, estrogen and progesterone dip then rise and then dip again during this time of your cycle. These fluctuations raise the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) during this time which will also affect your workouts, NEAT, and calorie intake (and those cravings are more likely to pop up for a visit). The first half of this phase you’re likely fine to continue working on strength, endurance, and energetic training as the levels of progesterone and estrogen will still be on the higher end. But toward the end of this phase your levels of these hormones will be significantly low, causing you to have a lack of energy. It’s best to listen to your body and input some yoga, pilates, walks, and stretching into your routine. Bonus, partaking in these activities a few days before your period arrives tends to decrease PMS symptoms (does anyone else want to die from cramps and bloating if their sedentary? No, just me??) such as bloating, mood swings, and cramping. Pushing your body right before menstruation can cause discomfort, especially to your womb (which is double the size by the end of this phase) so relax and listen to what your body needs.

Summarizing time: Listen to your body. Have energy during the first half of this phase? Great, get those workouts and make some gains! Feeling a bit low and tired with a desire to just nest about? Listen to those cues and nurture your body with some pilates, yoga, or just plain walking and stretching. Your womb is preparing and undergoing massive adjustments so it’s important to respect your body's boundaries during this time while still keeping active.

The next cycle syncing post well cover nutrition advances throughout your cycle.

If you found this helpful and/or informative let me know! And as always, feel free to leave feedback, questions, love, etc!

Agel J, Arendt EA, Bershadsky B. Anterior cruciate ligament injury in national collegiate athletic association basketball and soccer: a 13-year review. Am J Sports Med. 2005;33(4):524-530. doi:10.1177/0363546504269937

Asprey, T. (2020, May 14). Cycle Syncing: How to Hack Your Menstrual Cycle to Do Everything Better. Retrieved August 09, 2020, from

Bechard, E. (2017, June 22). Workout Flow for the Ladies: Syncing Exercise With Your Cycle. Retrieved August 09, 2020, from

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Mar; 46(3): 600–609. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000134

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