Hormones and Fitness – Part One

Hormones – They’ve got a lot to answer for!

No, it’s not an excuse, but it is a very valid reason for why things can go terribly wrong in your Fitness programme if you don’t understand how your hormones are affecting your training.

Our hormones don’t stop and start. They are constantly flowing through our bodies at fluctuating levels throughout the month and this can mean constant changes to how you feel emotionally and physically during your menstrual cycle.

There’s the ‘Good Weeks’ – When you’re full of energy, your skins glowing and your libido is boosted (make the most of it!)

Then there’s the ‘Bad Weeks’ – When you seriously can’t be bothered to do anything you don’t have to; you feel like a fat pig and you could eat everything in sight!

It’s not surprising that these constant changes in hormone levels mess up our fitness goals!

Our changing hormone levels throughout the month can really affect your ability to exercise and knowing how your menstrual cycle influences your workouts can be really helpful – e.g. If you’re able to push your workout or if you should just go for an easier option. We’ve all been there – frustrated at not running our fastest 5K, not lifting our heaviest squat weight, or just not having the energy for our usual workout. It’s frustrating!

‘Time of the month’ is not a reason NOT to exercise (I remember forging letters from my mum to excuse me from PE because I had my period!). You just need to plan a workout to suit your hormones.

Although everyone’s menstrual cycle is different, here’s a guide to what’s happening during your cycle and which type of exercise is more beneficial at each stage.

Week 1

‘I’ve just started so I’ll watch a Netflix series and eat pizza’

There’s actually no medical reason why you shouldn’t be able to exercise during your period.  In fact, it can be beneficial and for many women it can help ease the symptoms of PMS due to endorphins (which are the body’s natural painkillers) released during exercise. It might be the last thing you feel like doing and you might not reach a PB during this time, but you’ll probably feel better for it.

Week 2

 ‘Woohoo I’ve finished!’

After your period your oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone levels start to increase which is when your energy and motivation rises, so now is the perfect time to use that energy for your most intense workouts. Testosterone (usually associated with men) affects women too and while its in high levels you can really use it to increase your strength training capabilities. So now is the time to go for your deadlift PB!

 

Week 3

And just when you’re back on a roll….

On around day 14 of your cycle (usually when your workouts are back on top form) – you ovulate – and this rapidly decreases your Oestrogen levels!  You probably feel more tired and workouts become a huge effort again. However, at this stage of your cycle, your lungs function better, so it’s the perfect time to progress your cardio workouts! And according to research, women tend to burn more calories during this phase too – so fuel up!

 

Week 4

If you’re going to have a rest week, then this is the time.

At some point this week your body will begin preparing itself for your next period. Tummy ache, fluid retention and your mood turning slightly psycho! Your body temperature rises which might cause you to sweat more during exercise.  If you don’t feel like an energetic workout, this is the week to focus on stretching and Yoga is the perfect workout.  Your training may not be at its best, but just give yourself a break – your body probably won’t thank you for pushing it to the max this week.

It really is worth Listening to your body and trying to work with your cycle, not against it and by doing this, you may find you don’t lose the plot completely while your hormone levels are constantly changing.

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