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How the menstrual cycle effects movement

The menstrual cycle is an important part of a womxn's overall wellbeing. Exercise during this time can be beneficial, though it is important to understand the body's needs. Approximately 80% of people experience some form of physical or emotional discomfort during their menstrual cycle - it is well known that exercising can help reduce these symptoms by reducing menstrual cramps and managing mood swings. However the cycle extends much further than the few days that bleeding occurs and the fluctuating hormone levels in the body can dramatically effect performance levels in both mental and physical activities.

Understanding how the cycle affects a mind and body, then adapting work and exercise routines to take advantage of the highs and lows, can help people achieve more and help prevent stress and burn out.

Here is a basic overview of the average cycle, always remembering that everybody is different and each cycle unique.

The menstrual cycle has four phases:

1. Menstruation is the beginning of the cycle and typically lasts between 3 Days and 1 week. this is where the lining of the uterus breaks down and exits through the vaginal canal.

During this phase the hormones progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest, which can result in feeling less energy and motivation. Movements such as low intensity cardio, yoga, pilates, light weights, swimming, walking or a casual bike ride will help relieve symptoms and not put a spotlight on performance.

2. The follicular phase, is actually concurrent with menstruation in the beginning, as it starts the same day as the period. However it continues past the bleeding stage, until ovulation. This phase includes the stimulation of multiple hormones, including follicle stimulating hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, and luteinizing hormone.

During the follicular phase, estrogen levels are rising and so are energy levels, this is the time to up the intensity, try HITT, dancing, running, strength training, weight lifting etc…

3. The ovulation phase lasts for about 12 to 48 hours and occurs when an egg is released from an ovary.

During this phase hormone levels remain similar to the follicular phase, so the higher intensity training can continue.

4. The luteal phase lasts from ovulation until the beginning of the next period, this can be up to two weeks. The follicle that released the egg from the ovary transforms into a structure known as the corpus luteum which releases progesterone along with small amounts of estrogen to maintain the thickened lining of the uterus.

Throughout the first half of this phase the peak energy levels of the follicular phase may remain, but this will start to decline in the latter half. The increased progesterone may actually cause some people to feel fatigued, in such cases training should be scaled back and focus transferred to recovery.

During the luteal phase, when progesterone levels are higher, focus on more genital cardio and on strength activities such as weight lifting or Pilates. It Pay attention body and adjust your exercise routine accordingly.

Regardless of the phase of the cycle, it’s important to stay active and find ways to keep moving, always remembering to pay attention to the body and adjusting any exercise routines accordingly.

These phases effect mental performance as much as physical, here is an interesting article by the bbc if you’d like to read more about it.

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