Something you definitely don’t miss whilst preggo are the highs and lows of your menstrual cycle (although those pregnancy hormones aren’t much better). Having not had a period for eighteen months, it's a real killer when it comes back.
I genuinely thought I was experiencing some mental health issues until I realised what was going on.
It’s possibly the first period you have where you can’t just absolve yourself of responsibility and chill.
It is what it is. Unfortunately there isn't a lot you can do apart from prepare yourself for what's to come as best you can!
I’ve recently started tracking my cycle so that I do at least have some prior warning that erratic behaviour, poor(er) sleep, anxiety and cravings are incoming. Another benefit to tracking your cycle is that it allows you to plan ahead in your training, and with numerous female athletes discussing how their cycle affects their ability to compete at their best, we could all use this to our advantage.
There are certain times in your cycle where things just work better.
You can broadly split the menstrual cycle into two phases:
Phase 1 Follicular Phase
This covers the first day of mestuation up to ovulation (release of the egg). During this part of the cycle Estrogen gradually rises as the egg is prepared to be released.
It is thought that strength training during this phase has the most impact on muscle building and strength gains, so this is the time when you want to really push hard and get all those sessions in.
You may also benefit from adding extra workouts in this phase to enable you to pull back in the next one if required.
Phase 2 Luteal Phase
This covers the time between ovulation and the start of menstruation, when the body is preparing for a potential pregnancy. The hormone Progesterone is increased in this phase which leads to a rise in your body temperature.
You may find this is the hardest time to train (particularly in the final week before your period starts), so don’t beat yourself up if things feel more difficult than usual and you’re not hitting your numbers in the gym. Both endurance and overall strength may decline during this phase leading you to feel weaker and slower so this is the best time to take a rest or de-load day if you need it, or perhaps switch up the heavy training for something more chilled such as yoga or a long walk.
This is also the best time for a bit of self care so prioritise rest and recovery…..candles, baths and plenty of nutritious food.
Every women's experience is different. Some women won't notice any changes whereas in others, their hormonal fluctuations will have a huge impact on their month. There is no one-size-fits-all approach but it's worth being mindful of how your body feels at different points during your cycle. This allows you to adapt accordingly to make the most of the situation you're in and not berate yourself for losing fitness and strength.