How Your Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Fitness Motivation and Performance

text © 2018 Dana-Sofie Šlancarová, dana-sofie.com / photo © pixabay.com

(This article was written for my colleagues from the Longevity Blueprint Quest by Ben Greenfield and Mindvalley but many others can benefit from the principles described below. These principles are general and can be applied to many areas of women’s lives.)

Do you know how to optimize your fitness training?If you are a woman, I bet that at some point in your life or maybe regularly you’ve found yourself in the following situation: There are days when you simply love what you’re doing and you love your life. You are full of energy, full of enthusiasm, in a great mood, and feeling invincible. Nothing is a problem, nothing is too difficult, nothing is too heavy. And by heavy, I mean for example the weights you use for your exercise or your kids you still need to carry along.

However! At the same time, there are days when: You’ve got no energy. Enthusiasm seems to be an emotion only heroes from fairy tales carry along. Mood swings and even depression creep in, claiming it’s their rightful time to stay in your life now. Everything looks like a huuuge problem. Everything is difficult, complicated and feels so heavy. You hate exercising and sometimes you even hate your kids, your husband, your work, not to not to mention yourself!

Is there any clue to it? Can it be changed and/or improved?

Most probably you were told that women simply have these changes of moods and energy levels and you just have to endure it – either being a woman, or being someone who lives with that woman.

As a lifelong biohacker of my own life and especially as an avid explorer of women’s cycles, I want to tell you one secret that has most probably been kept away from you.

All the changes that you as a woman experience in your life, all the mood and energy swings, all the “loves” and “hates” that seem to change from day to day, all this has a predictable pattern!

Let’s take a concrete example. At a certain point of time you entered the Longevity Blueprint Quest (or any other online or real-life fitness program)with the idea of building your strength and supporting your health, longevity and beauty. For the first week your motivation is kept high by the enthusiasm of the presenter and the positive group energy of the quest Facebook group. Moreover, since everything is new, it’s no problem to tough it out and exercise every day and do your daily hot&cold shower routine and intermittent fasting and tabata…

However, as days pass and turn into weeks, your willpower and outer motivation decline and you start to ask yourself (and maybe others in the quest Facebook group, too): How can I manage to stick to the presented routine and feel motivated all the time? How can I overcome the feelings of fatigue and tiredness that seem to creep in? How can I deal with my (sudden) hatred of exposure to cold?

As a woman you are cyclic and your cycle has 4 phases

The answer is simple, logical and even scientific. If you are a woman, your life is influenced by your monthly hormonal cycle. And this cycle doesn’t affect only those days when you are menstruating or when you are moody or suffering from PMS in your premenstrual time. In fact, there four different phases during the (ideal) 28 days of your cycle.

And in those phases not only do you go through different energy levels or emotional aptitudes, but everything is simply different compared to what it was like the week before or what it will be like in the week to come!

 

Let’s therefore have a close look at those four phases so as to see how we can achieve better results in anything we do, the Longevity Blueprint Quest included.

As I told you, there are 4 phases, and you can easily remember them as the 4 seasons of the year: spring, summer, fall (autumn) and winter.

I will start with winter since it’s a phase that can be most easily recognized by nearly all women. Winter corresponds to the menstrual phase, ie. the phase when you bleed (unless on the pill, pregnant, breastfeeding, after surgery or menopausal). This phase can be characterized by:

  • very low physical energy,
  • high need to rest and relax,
  • feelings like “leave me alone”,
  • inability to focus clearly, or carry out mental work for a longer time,
  • feeling “spaced out”,
  • a necessity to have two parking places available when parking, ;-)
  • daily routine tasks such as dishwashing or even talking to kids or husband or colleagues seem to require incredible amounts of energy,
  • some women even encounter pain, back pain, belly pain, cramps, headaches etc.

I always describe this phase is not only as winter but also as night (check this article for more) which means this is the phase in which we need to rest! What would happen if you didn’t sleep at night? And how would you feel if you didn’t sleep several nights in a row? It would definitely not enhance your overall performance – and most probably it would lead to a collapse. Remember this well when feeling tired in the menstrual phase if you tell yourself you don’t have time to rest! You have! Resting and relaxing will pay back in the long run.

Menstrual phase is a slow and quite phase

As for sports and fitness, I suggest that during the menstrual phase you choose such sports and exercises that are slow, light, quiet and definitely do not overwhelm yourself. Yoga or qigong are definitely good, and slow walks are just awesome. Slow dancing, meditation, breathing techniques or a massage can come in handy, too.

And remember: What you do not feel like doing today you will definitely catch up with tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. Less is more in this phase!

And as for the hot&cold exposure: During the premenstrual and menstrual phases, your body temperature rises and is about 1 degree of Celsius higher than in the previous two phases, which makes you feel little feverish: and in this case you definitely do not want to be exposed to cold, or too much cold, or too long to cold!

So it’s pretty okay to respect your body’s needs and not push yourself only because someone said so, or because there’s a detailed protocol, or because your male companion wants to do it. If you listen to your body first, you’ll see there’ll be days within your month when you have plenty of energy and when you can build on both your strength, endurance and your cold resistance with much less effort and much more inner motivation.

Nevertheless, I would also like to mention that it doesn’t have to take a whole week when you do not exercise at all and take no cold showers at all. I usually recognize about 2 days in my cycle, one about four days before my menstruation starts and one day when it starts, when I usually don’t feel like doing anything and can persuade myself only to walk the dog and nothing more.

Doing that, ie. allowing myself and my body to get the rest I need, I gather up the energy and feel much better the next day – and also the whole next cycle; the whole next month.

Yvett Hlavacova swimming over the English Channel

And there are days even in the menstrual phase when my mental abilities (as I mentioned, when in the menstrual phase, our minds spontaneously enter into deep states of meditation, that’s why we may sometimes feel a little bit “spaced out” and may have problems parking;-) allow me to carry out personal records! My body just runs or swims or exercises with nearly no effort because my withdrawn meditating mind doesn’t bombard me with thoughts that it’s tired or bored or whatever… Have you ever heard of lung gompas, the running lamas? That’s very similar to the female menstrual phase state of mind! :-)

Many female athletes will agree that they won their medals and ran/jumped/swam their records in their menstrual phase. The still valid English Channel female record from 2006 by the famous Czech swimmer Yvetta Hlaváčová is just one example I can give evidence of.

 

But let’s have a look at the other three phases as well:

After winter comes spring, which is the pre-ovulation, or the so-called dynamic phase. This phase can be characterized by:

  • quick increase of physical energy levels,
  • growing emotional stability,
  • being fast and efficient (and impatient, too;-),
  • having high motivation to start new things (even new diets, or new fitness programs),
  • increasing physical strength and endurance,
  • lower need to sleep and eat,
  • focus on work and performance and results,
  • wanting to reach set goals,
  • loving challenges of any kind.

The dynamic phase is therefore the best time to start (or re-start) whichever activity you have previously stopped doing. Simply stop reprimanding yourself that you stopped (it’s sort of natural if you are a cyclic woman!) and start again now!

Both cardio and strength exercises are great, you will love the cold shower – but you may get a bit bored during yoga classes (so try acro-yoga or bikram-yoga instead). Instead of slow walks with your dog, try running, and do not hesitate to go for a long bicycle ride or a hike with your husband or kids or friends.

 

Ovulation is time for team sports

When the summer comes, which is the ovulation phase, your energies change again. This phase is characterized by:

  • more passive attitude compared to the dynamic phase,
  • less motivation and little “drive,
  • less focus on work and performance and results,
  • more focus on people, relationships, emotions and well-being of everyone,
  • care (both self-care and care for others),
  • focus on beauty care,
  • communication and empathy,
  • emotional stability and optimism,
  • heightened libido (sexual desire),
  • enjoying social life, being with people, communicating with them,
  • taking part in team work or team sports.

This may be exactly the moment when you say to yourself: “Yesterday I had so much energy and motivation, but today I feel lazy…?!” Yes. You still have a lot of energy, but you tend to be more passive, more “female” than in the previous, dynamic phase.

You may therefore feel like not exposing yourself to long runs, heavy strength exercises, or the “big 5” routine. For example, hormonal yoga will be just perfect in the ovulation phase. Walks or easy jogging will be something you love, especially when accompanied by someone (remember, you like to be with people in the ovulation phase and to communicate with them). Collective sports are also a great option in this phase because you simply love company and team work!

 

The last phase is connected to fall (autumn) and it is the premenstrual phase, also called the creative phase. This phase is “well-known” by both women and men, especially because of mood swings or unpleasant symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. I, however, want to point out that this phase has many, many advantages that you may know of. This phase can be characterized by:

  • a gradual decrease in energy and optimism,
  • a higher need for rest as the phase progresses,
  • mood swings, feelings of overwhelm or oversensitivity,
  • incredible creativity and intuition,
  • wonderful ideas coming out of the blue,
  • urge to finish things,
  • urge to tidy up and have everything in order,
  • focus on work and on systematic and structured completion of tasks,
  • love of routines and protocols,
  • spontaneous putting on weight because of retaining water in the body.

In your premenstrual phase, spend your time in the nature!

As far as sports, movement and exercise are concerned, the beginning and middle part of the premenstrual phase are just great for any type of activity. Nevertheless, as the phase progresses towards menstruation and bleeding, you may start feeling very tired, overwhelmed and may hate even the idea of being exposed to cold or to heavy exercising.

Therefore, I suggest you take more rest whenever you feel like it or whenever possible (take a nap with your kids in the afternoon), sleep more (see this article) and instead of heavy exercise routines do the household chores since you have the urge to clean up anyway. As Eric Goodman suggests, his foundation training (check it here) can be used even when vacuum-cleaning!

In summary: If you are a woman, remember you are cyclic, not linear. Listen to your body and respect the four phases that your monthly cycle brings you. If you adapt your exercise routines to your cyclic needs and changes, you will find out that you are much more motivated all throughout the month, and that your strength, endurance and energy levels increase and even that your moods are more stable!

I also summarized all I said above into the following table:

Which phase is best for which sport activity?

(click to enlarge the table)


Dana-Sofie ŠlancarováDana-Sofie Šlancarová is a translator, writer, teacher, and entrepreneur. Her passion is to write and teach about the beauty of women’s cycles, pragmatic aspects of menstruation, and the incredible benefits of cyclic time management®.

She is the founder of the Cyklická žena® (The Cyclic Woman) project and an author of several books on this topic, including Návod na ženy (A Manual to Women: Navigating the Modern Man Through the Unpredictable World of Women, still only in Czech) that she co-wrote with Erik Hutter.

www.dana-sofie.com

 

BE CYCLIC AND FIT AND HAPPY!

 

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