Flexing Our Knowledge to Help You Train Smarter, not Harder: Cycles, Exercise and YOU

Photo by April Laugh on Unsplash

The role of hormones in physical performance

There is a generational shift going on in how we talk about the link between menstrual health, sport and athletic performance. In May 2022, #3 best golfer in the world from New Zealand Lydia Ko broke the silence when asked about her performance, indicating that it was “that time of the month.”

Lydia Ko, AP, https://www.marca.com/en/golf/2022/05/06/6274b5c2ca4741e40d8b4582.html

The effect of the menstrual cycle on women’s* physical bodies

Studies are now emerging that provide a better understanding of the menstrual cycle, highlighting how exercise and nutrition can be altered to advance female athletic performance, and reduce injury risk. Research is finally revealing the importance of gender-sensitive training to account for the physical and physiological differences between the sexes, such as hormones, the amount of muscle we naturally carry, and base-level strength

Image credit: Athlete Monitoring

The menstrual cycle can be a barrier to optimal performance

A global survey (of over 14,000 women) conducted by Orreco, Strava and St Mary’s University Twickenham revealed that 78% of women say that exercise relieves discomfort associated with their menstrual cycle, however 74% also reported that their menstrual cycle negatively affected their performance.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash
Photo by Morgan Sarkissian on Unsplash

The tide is shifting in connecting the menstrual cycle to sports outcomes

Slowly but surely, we are seeing a shift toward elite athletes actively tracking and utilizing the menstrual cycle as a key tool to optimize athletic performance. In the UK, the British Olympic hockey team uses menstrual cycle tacking to adjust training programmes, while in the US, the women’s national soccer team members have tailored programs where each cycle is tracked. The players most affected by certain symptoms across their monthly cycles are provided adequate support to manage their health.

Work out smarter, not harder: Tips across the menstrual cycle to think about when engaging in exercise

Menstrual cycle tracking is the first step to better understanding your unique body and needs.

It’s one tool of many that anyone who menstruates — not just professional athletes — can use and benefit from to help promote healthy behavior and optimize performance. Whether one uses an app, calendar, or just paper and pen — it’s great to start tracking your cycle!

Edri of Google Play Store

Phase 1: Menstruation — days 1–5 (ish)

While bleeding, hormone levels are at their lowest, which also translates to energy levels being at their lowest as well. Focusing on mellower exercises — such as stretching, foam rolling, yin yoga or casual walking — may just be the best way to truly let your body flow, during your flow. Periods are not a reason to not be active, but it’s also ok to listen to your body and be gentle.

  • How much flexibility do I need from my period product based on my physical movement?
  • How frequently will I need to change my product and can I easily find somewhere to change that product when I need to?

Madami staff product / service recommendation: Our colleague Milena is obsessed with the Lily Cup Compact by Intimina.

Lily Cup by Intimina

Phase 2: Follicular — days 5–13 (ish)

Rising estrogen is causing your energy levels to rise, which means it’s good to take advantage of your natural proclivity to move your body. Target high intensity training in the early follicular phase. Your body is primed for rigorous cardio exercise, testing your fitness limits and trying new things. Pole dancing class, anyone? This can be a great time to think about more intensive exercise such as running, biking, dancing, and hiking. This can also be an important time to think about your nutrition and making sure you are getting the right vitamins and nutrients to fuel your movements.

Madami staff product / app recommendation: Aaptiv

Aaptiv

Phase 3: Ovulatory — days 12–18 (ish):

With estrogen and testosterone at the highest levels of the cycle, you have lots of energy to use but when your estrogen levels peak, you are most prone to the risk of soft tissue injuries due to hormone fluctuations on ligaments, muscles and tendons. Tracking and monitoring during this time is key to lower your risk of injuries. Focus on strength development and implement knee stability exercises to reduce the risk of ACL injuries during ovulation phase

Madami staff product / app recommendation: Wild AI

Wild AI

Phase 4: Luteal — days 18–30 (ish):

In the first 5 days or so of your luteal phase, you’re still enjoying the focus and energy of your ovulation due to estrogen and testosterone. Until progesterone really starts to kick in, it’s nice to use this energy to build muscle via strength training, weight lifting or challenging yoga poses. During the second half of this phase — especially when progesterone levels peak, your body’s calling on you to chill and perhaps focus on flexibility and balance, so exercises like pilates and gentler yoga could be great options for you. Vitamin E and magnesium could also be great to supplement during the later luteal phase (days 25 onwards), as they help relieve pre-menstrual cramps.

Madami staff product / app recommendation: The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden

The Period Repair Manual (book) by Lara Briden
  • Things that can go wrong
  • How to talk to your doctor
  • Treatment protocols for all common period problems including PCOS and endometriosis
  • Special topics such as Histamine Intolerance and How to Choose a Probiotic
  • Suggested brands for supplements.

Make the most of your own cycle

Remember, everybody and every cycle is a bit different, and what we’ve given here are merely tips and guidance, but is by no means intended to be prescriptive. It’s important to honor your body in a way that supports your cycle.

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Madami

Madami

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Madami is a purpose-driven advisory & innovation agency specializing in femtech, sextech and gender lens investing