How to workout at every stage of your cycle
Doing everything ‘right’ but not seeing results? Fitness expert Lizzie Bland explains why you need to schedule your workouts around your menstrual cycle to maximise results, and help you mentally and physically feel your best every single day.
So you exercise five to seven days a week, eat a balanced diet, hit your step count on most days and apart from a few nights here and there, you have a relatively healthy sleep schedule.
You’re doing everything right in order to lose weight, feel your best, tone your body or whatever your fitness goal is. But despite all your hard work, you can’t seem to see any results. What’s worse is that working out constantly feels like a chore, which instantly drains your energy supply.
To label this dilemma ‘frustrating’ would be the understatement of the century.
But it turns out your so called “perfect” workout schedule could be the thing setting you back from reaching your goals, according to Lizzie Bland, founder of Lean Bean Fitness – and it’s all got to do with your hormones.
“I know women can do everything men can do, however our bodies are very sensitive due to hormones and it’s really important we have different options available and different modifications we can do during whatever part of the cycle we’re in of the menstrual cycle,” Bland said in an interview on Healthy-ish podcast.
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“Men are quite lucky in the fact that they can do anything, all the time and testosterone is probably fine,” Bland continued. “But for lots of women, too much high intensity exercise like too many sprint classes a week, can lead to cortisol, which is a hormone that stores fat, it can leave you exhausted, can give you adrenaline fatigue, amongst many other issues.”
The biggest problem Bland sees when it comes to a female’s training schedule is that they “stick to one thing”.
“They’ll stick to strength training or they’ll stick to high intensity training, so there’s no variability in their workout schedule, which means their body often hits a plateau and they don’t see the results,” she adds.
“The difference between men and women is that men – although they can naturally lift heavier weights and things – they often need a rest day and women generally don’t need a rest day. We’ve got higher estrogen, which means we’ve got better endurance and we can actually go for longer periods.”
It’s in your follicular phase – the two weeks leading up to your period – where you should focus on workouts that require lots of energy.
“That’s the stage where your estrogen is at its highest – you feel confident, motivated and it’s a really great time to hit personal bests, do loads of strength training, you can do HIIT training during that time because your energy levels will be highest,” Bland explains.
But when it comes to your luteal phase – the stage after ovulation and before your period starts – you should consider alternative and more low-intensity exercises.
“If you went into a HIIT class in the luteal phase – which is where your estrogen is starting to drop, your progesterone is getting higher and you’re in the days running up to your period – your energy levels can be very low and you will be feeling pretty crap so strength training isn’t something you’d want to be doing then and HIIT training isn’t something you’d want to be doing.”
Plus, doing high intensity training during the luteal phase will only increase your cortisol levels. And everyone knows that won’t lead to a positive outcome.
So, what should a balanced training schedule look like that’ll maximise your results and leave you feeling energised?
“I would look to do high intensity, do everything that you’re wanting to push yourself with in the beginning of your cycle. In the middle start to tone it down. Exercising during your period is really good, actually – Pilates, yoga and strength training is really good to relieve cramps and things,” Bland says.
She also stresses the importance of variety and looking into incorporating LISS (low intensity steady state) training during the second half of your period, which includes exercises such as jogging, swimming or walking.
“You actually burn more at in the second half of your cycle so that’s a good time to do that kind of training.”
Well, isn’t that great news!