When Olympic Bronze medalist Fu Yuanhui told a poolside reporter that her period negatively affected her performance during her competition, the world was stunned by her candor regarding a notoriously taboo subject (to this day, research shows that most people feel uncomfortable talking about periods). But since every lady who has ever endured a particularly nasty period knows that it can wreak havoc on our daily lives, it’s about time we take a cue from Yuanhui and open up about how menstruation affects our day-to-day lives — including our workout regimens.
To help us better understand how our bodies respond to workouts during our cycles, particularly strength training, we tapped the diligent women’s health experts at Clue to provide us with several science-backed tips to optimize our training during each stage of our cycle.
1. Focus on strength training during and immediately after your period. During the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle (typically from the onset of your period to around day 13 for a 28-day cycle), you may benefit from tailoring your workout routines to focus on strength training. According to Clue experts, some research has found that strength training during the follicular phase results in a greater increase in muscle strength compared to other phases of your cycle. In other words, drop and give us 20 push-ups.
2. Beware of tendon injuries during your fertile window. Tearing your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) could set back your training by weeks or even months — and as it turns out, women are 3-6 times more likely to injure their ACL than men. A recent meta-review of studies found that the risks for tendon injury in women were highest in the days leading up to ovulation, when estrogen levels are high. “More research is needed,” notes Clue’s experts, “but it’s worth doing longer warm-up exercises and not overstretching during your fertile window.”
3. Don’t beat yourself up about not hitting your goals in the second half of your cycle. During the luteal phase, or second half of your cycle, you may find that you don’t have the same level of endurance as you did just weeks before. Because progesterone rises significantly, your temperature is higher, and your body is literally preparing for a potential pregnancy, you’re simply less likely to hit a personal best or max lift. “Don’t judge the results of your training based on your performance in this phase alone,” Clue’s health experts counsel. “Decreased performance is a perfectly normal experience in the luteal phase of your cycle.”
4. Take rest days during the luteal phase of your cycle. While there’s no need to skip working out entirely during the second half of your cycle, it’s definitely important to take an adequate number of rest days from ovulation to the start of your next period. So if you have some vacation days pooled up, the luteal phase might be the ideal window to take a relaxing weekend getaway so you can slay it in the gym come Monday.
Do you change up your workout schedule based on your menstrual cycle? Tweet us by mentioning @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)