Cycle syncing involves paying attention to the shifts in energy throughout your cycle due to hormonal fluctuations, and organising your exercise routine, diet, social calendar, work events and even sex life around these ebs and flows. Organising your life in this way allows you to respond to your body's changing needs rather than expecting the same output every day.
How To Hack Your Period: Menstrual Cycle Syncing Exercise & Workouts
In This Article
How To Hack Your Body
Have you ever noticed that your regular workout feels so much harder right before your period, or that you are bursting full of energy in the middle of your cycle? If you’ve noticed this change in energy throughout the month, you’ve tapped into one of the biggest hacks to exercising when you have a menstrual cycle.
Unlike men, who operate on a 24-hour cycle with higher energy at the beginning of the day and lowest before bed-time, women operate on a roughly 28-day cycle. Most women will experience lowest energy at the beginning and end of their cycles, and peak energy at mid-cycle.
Having a menstrual cycle means that your body is experiencing large fluctuations of hormones in each week of the month. These hormonal changes influence not only when we bleed, but also when we feel energised, fatigued, productive, social and withdrawn.
In the first week of your cycle, when you are bleeding, you may notice your energy is very low. Your body feels like resting and taking it easy. In the second and third weeks of your cycle, you might have experienced a big surge in energy - wanting to smash out harder workouts in the gym, or go for a run rather than a walk. In the final week of your cycle before your next period, you have likely felt your energy start to dip, and potentially some mood swings or PMS symptoms getting in the way of your regular exercise routine.
Rather than fighting these changes and trying to push your body to do the same exercise every week of the month, tapping into this changing energetic cycle has profound benefits on your overall health and hormonal balance.
Each week of your cycle, your body goes through some pretty significant hormonal changes. These changes influence everything from your mood to your energy, food cravings and ability to socialise and connect with others.
Cycle syncing involves paying attention to these shifts in hormones and energy throughout your cycle, so that you can meet your body where it’s at and using the strengths of each phase of your cycle.
Just like there are four seasons in the year, the menstrual cycle can be viewed as four distinct inner seasons. Understanding your cycle through this lens helps to associate shifts in your mood and energy so that you can plan your life around these changes.
Cycle syncing can be used to plan dietary changes, structure your work schedule, organise social events and optimise your sex life (more on this in another post!). It can also be used to alter your exercise regime throughout the month to maximise your highest points of energy, learn when to rest and reduce your chance of injuries.
We’re often taught to push harder, achieve more and workout at our maximum, but is this really serving our bodies? How many times have you expected the same from your bodies day after day, and become frustrated when you weren’t able to keep up? Women are biochemically different to men. Following a one-size-fits-all fitness plan doesn’t work for most people with a changing hormonal landscape.
The natural fluctuation in hormones causes shifts in energy and mood, so it makes sense to sync our exercise around these changes. Altering your exercise plans throughout the month allows you to maximise the gifts of each phase rather than being frustrated by your body’s inconsistencies.
The cycle syncing exercise plan below is intended as a guide to get you thinking about the common shifts throughout each week of your cycle. Ultimately, every cycle is different and it can take several months of paying attention to learn what serves your body best.
I encourage you to use the guide below as a starter. Then, begin documenting how you feel on each day of your cycle, along with what type of exercise you did and how that felt. Cycle syncing practices take time to develop because they require you to be inquisitive and pay attention (something many of us aren’t used to doing!).
I recommend starting a simple journal where you can rate your energy and mood out of 10, as well as record your exercise and whether or not that felt right for you that day. After a few months, you will own one of the most valuable resources: a guide to your body. Not even the best trainer in the world can make you such an individualised plan!
Your goal is to develop an intuitive sense of what your body needs each day, so you can respond to whatever changes come your way with compassion rather than frustration.
- Slow, gentle, restorative movement
- Stretching, using a foam roller
- Slow, meditative walks in nature
- Yin yoga (or other restorative forms of yoga)
- Or nothing at all but couch and Netflix time! Listen to your body here for what will best serve you at this time
- Light cardio: jogging, swimming, brisk walking
- Strength and body-weight exercises like home workouts that include pushups, planks and squats
- Pilates mat and reformer classes
- Something new and interesting you haven’t tried before: rising hormone levels stimulate your brain to be more open and receptive to trying new things
- Higher intensity workouts, cardio sessions, heavy strength sessions
- HIIT classes
- Circuit classes
- Spin class
- Bodyweight circuit
- Dance classes
- Group classes - make the most of your social, attractive energy!
- Higher estrogen levels may increase your risk of injuries so make sure you warm up and cool down properly
- Light to moderate cardio
- Hatha yoga and more intense forms of yoga
What if I don’t currently have a cycle?
What if I’m on hormonal birth control?
Hormonal birth control suppresses the natural creation and release of hormones like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone in order to prevent pregnancy. This means that if you are taking hormonal birth control (like the pill), you will likely not be experiencing the same energetic shifts throughout the month as if you were naturally cycling.
This doesn’t mean you won’t experience other shifts in your energy, moods and ability to socialise each week. You may find that you spend more time in one of the inner seasons, or that you have an entirely different pattern to the one outlined above and that’s okay!
The monthly bleed you experience whilst on the pill isn’t truly a ‘period’ (which occurs after ovulation), but rather a withdrawal from the synthetic hormones you have been taking. This means you may or may not experience the same energetic changes as outlined for the inner winter (menstrual) phase.
My advice for cycle syncing whilst on hormonal birth control is to start a daily journal where you record changes in your energy, socialising, libido, hunger and moods. After keeping this journal for a few months you will have built up a great guide to understanding your body whilst on birth control. Once you transition off birth control in the future, it is recommended to journal your daily and weekly changes again as the transition to natural hormone production will likely represent an entirely different energetic pattern.
What if I have a longer or shorter cycle?
This guide is written to follow a typical 29-day menstrual cycle, but it can easily be adjusted to suit any cycle length. If you have shorter cycles, spend slightly less than 1 week in each of the inner seasons, so that the total number of days equals your current cycle length.
If you have a longer cycle, you may find you spend more time in one or two of the phases, or you simply spend longer than 1 week in each of them. This is where tracking your daily changes is important so you can build up a personalised guide to your body.
Final tips on cycle syncing your exercise routine
Always remember that you know your body best. If you are mid-cycle but feel fatigued, there’s no reason why you can’t follow the principles from inner winter or inner autumn instead. Feeling super high energy right before your period? There’s no reason you have to follow the winding down principals from the inner autumn phase. Switch back to the inner summer ovulation phase principals smash out that HIIT session!
The ultimate goal of this guide is to open up a dialogue between your body and your energetic cycle. Not every menstruator will follow the same pattern, so get curious and experiment with how your body feels after each type of exercise. After a few cycles, you will have developed a plan that is best for you.
** Disclaimer **
Always consult your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any nutrition or exercise program to determine if it is right for your needs. Do not start a fitness program if your physician or health care provider advises against it. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain or shortness of breath or discomfort at any time while exercising you should stop immediately.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Have you ever tried adapting your exercise routines around your menstrual cycle? Do you find you relate to the common energetic changes in this blog? How has your relationship changed with exercise since learning these principles?
I’d love to hear your experience below.
What Is Cycle Syncing?
What Should I Eat Cycle Sync?
Changing what you eat during each phase of your cycle helps to support your body's changing hormones through the month. In the first half of your cycle (pre-ovulation) focus on iron-rich foods (like beef, dark leafy greens and lentils) to replace iron lost during your bleed, and zinc-rich foods (like pumpkin seeds, oysters and cashews) to nourishing your ovaries in preparation for ovulation. In the second half of your cycle (post-ovulation), focus on high fibre foods (like ground flax seeds, beans and avocado) to promote effective clearance of estrogen and omega-3 rich foods (like salmon and mackerel) to reduce inflammation that leads to PMS and cramps.
How Do You Sync Your Menstrual Cycle?
Start by tracking how you feel physically and emotionally in each week of your cycle. Pay attention to your energy levels, productivity, desire to socialise and your libido. After a few cycles, you will have a pattern of your usual energy fluctuations and can begin scheduling your life around these anticipated changes.
How Does The Menstrual Cycle Affect Training?
Research shows that women are more prone to injuries during the ovulation phase of their cycles, however this is also the time where you will likely have the highest energy of the cycle due to a surge in estrogen and testosterone. To avoid injuries always warm up and cool down, and stop exercising if you feel uncomfortable.
What Are The 4 Stages Of The Menstrual Cycle?
The menstrual cycle can be broken up into 4 distinct phases: menstruation, follicular, ovulatory and luteal. These phases can also be viewed as inner 'seasons': inner winter, inner spring, inner summer and inner autumn.
How Do You Work Out Your Monthly Cycle?
To work out how long your cycle is, count from the first day of your period bleed to the day before your next period bleed. Your cycle length is the number of days between one period and the next.
Which Exercise Is Best During Periods?
Gentle, restorative exercise is best whilst you are bleeding. Try gentle yoga, slow walks in nature, stretching, using a foam roller or breathing exercises. This phase of the cycle is designed for rest not strenuous exercise.
What Are Your Inner Seasons?
Your menstrual cycle can be viewed as 4 distinct phases which strongly correlate with the seaaons outside. Your bleeding phase correlates with inner winter - a time for hibernating. The phase right before ovualtion correlates with inner spring - a time of rising energy. Your ovulation time correlates with inner summer - the peak of energy in the cycle. Your premenstrual phase correlates with inner autumn - a time for slowing down again.
Yeah progesterone is known as our natural anti-anxiety hormone but too much of it can cause you to be lethargic. It might be an idea to get your hormone levels checked with your doctor to make sure everything is in balance!
Progesterone really relaxes me (too much) on week 3 (day 15 – day 21). I find I’m super lethargic the same way you feel when you first fall pregnant.
I came across this on a perfect day. Today should be a run day according to my workout routine, but I am meant to start bleeding any minute now and am not up for that run. I was really bummed out, but this reminded me of where my body is, meeting it there, and having more compassion. I am looking forward to spending even more time cultivating this sort of relationship throughout the month. Thank you!