While it can sometimes feel like the worst time of the month, it's essential to recognize that our bodies are beautifully complex and adaptable.

When I was younger running and my period wasn’t an issue – I just kept training and on days when I was tire, well… I can’t actually remember feeling tired before kids. But after kids and as I’m getting older things are definitely different. And instead of putting myself on a guilt trip because I can't train or because I feel bloated and ‘bleh’, I have decided to try and learn more about my cycle, and to try and recognizing my bodies patterns to help me in my training.

The menstrual cycle is a natural and integral part of a woman's life. It brings about hormonal fluctuations that can impact various aspects of our physical and mental well-being. While it can sometimes feel like the worst time of the month, it's essential to recognize that our bodies are beautifully complex and adaptable. By understanding and embracing the changes that occur throughout our cycle, we can unlock our full potential and optimize our training routines.

It is important to prioritize rest and recovery. It's vital to listen to your body's cues and adjust your training intensity accordingly. Incorporate rest days and recovery activities like stretching, foam rolling, or gentle yoga on days where you don’t really feel like doing some intense training.

Nutrition and hydration also affects your cycle, a balanced diet rich in nutrients, particularly iron and calcium, is essential for maintaining overall good health during all phases of our cycle. Staying well-hydrated will support your body's needs and aid in recovery. Staying hydrated is a challenge – I’d much rather have a coffee or a glass of wine instead of water. But I try to keep a bottle of water close to me and force myself to finish it before I continue with another task.

By tracking your cycle it can help you become more aware of your body's patterns and help you plan your training program accordingly. 

At the moment I’m using the one that is on my Garmin watch’s app. It’s very interesting to see that on days when I don’t feel great I look to the app and have a ‘aha! Moment when the app tells me to take it easy because of where I am in my cycle. You can use any of the apps available out there – I’ve also used ‘Flow’ and was very happy with it.

Here is some info that I never really took into consideration with my training with regards to how a woman’s cycle works:

Phase 1: Menstruation (Days 1-5): light to moderate exercises - Yoga, Pilates, or walking

I DO: I prefer running, so here I’ll just do an easy 5km or Pilates. But I don’t worry about my pace or time on my 5km

During menstruation, hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, are at their lowest. Some women may experience discomfort or fatigue during this phase, but it shouldn't deter you from training. Gentle exercises like yoga, Pilates, or walking can help alleviate cramps and promote blood flow. Listen to your body, prioritize self-care, and choose activities that make you feel good. Engaging in light to moderate exercises can also release endorphins, which may help improve your mood and reduce any menstrual-related blues.

Phase 2: Follicular Phase (Days 6-14): High in energy - Strength training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT)

I DO: I prefer running, so here I’ll just do longer runs and incorporate some Hill work and gym strength training.

As the body prepares for ovulation, estrogen levels rise gradually during the follicular phase. This increase in estrogen can lead to enhanced energy levels, improved endurance, and faster recovery times. It's an ideal time to focus on strength training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or any activities that require bursts of energy. Push yourself to challenge new personal records and set ambitious fitness goals during this phase. Embrace the surge of energy and leverage it to excel in your workouts.

Phase 3: Ovulation (Day 14): Intense workouts -weightlifting, sprints or speedwork

I DO: I prefer running, so here I’ll just do a 5 or 10km runs and see if I can try and improve my times, maybe run a bit faster and Spinning classes.

Ovulation typically occurs around day 14 of the menstrual cycle. This phase is characterized by a peak in estrogen levels, which can result in increased strength, agility, and improved coordination. It's an excellent time for intense workouts, such as weightlifting, sprints, or any activities that demand explosive power. If you're an athlete or engage in competitive sports, consider scheduling important events or competitions during this phase to take advantage of your heightened physical abilities.

Phase 4: Luteal Phase (Days 15-28): Moderate-intensity exercises - cycling, swimming, or low-impact aerobics.

I DO: I prefer running, so here I’ll just continue doing 5 or 10km runs or maybe run longer distances and Spinning classes, but not push t hard on the spinning.

The luteal phase follows ovulation and lasts until the start of the next menstrual cycle. During this phase, progesterone levels rise, and some women may experience premenstrual symptoms like bloating, mood swings, or fatigue. Despite these challenges, it's crucial to maintain an active lifestyle. Moderate-intensity exercises like cycling, swimming, or low-impact aerobics can help relieve tension, reduce stress, and ease any discomfort you may be feeling. Focus on workouts that provide a sense of calm and relaxation.

Remember that the most important thing is to get to know your body and work out a program that works for you. and keep it adaptable, Some months I feel unstoppable and others I feel like I have to stay in bed. Remember to do what is best for you to achieve your goals!

Happy Running Mommies and Ladies!



written by

Jani du Toit

Mother, Blogger and Pattern maker from Pretoria

Age group: 30
Club: ASICS FrontRunner

My Disciplines
Trail Half Marathon 10k

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