Hormone fluctuation associated with a woman’s cycle is not startling news to anyone. It has long been a topic of conversation when discussing emotions and mood swings, however the topic rarely circles back to our physiological state and the opportunities these stages present. The same hormones that give us grief can actually be used to our advantage in physical training.
I am a gym rat by nature and like many other women, I go through small stretches of training where everything is clicking and I get the feeling that it has finally all coming together. “I have officially mastered exercise! I’ll accept my prize now!” Unfortunately, it never takes too long for the other shoe to drop and I find myself unable to perform at the level I had just a few days prior. If you’re anything like me, this is a frustrating and discouraging hamster wheel.
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When discussing this phenomenon with a friend in the health field, she offered an explanation. During reproductive years, a woman continually cycles through four stages: menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal. With each phase comes a predictable swing or dip in hormones, accompanied by varying energy levels and fat storage capacity. Research reveals that the phase of menstrual cycle a woman is in greatly influences exercise performance, recovery and can even be utilized to trace injury trends. What was once used as a thermometer to gauge PMS can actually be formulated to maximize our physical efforts.
I found this information extremely refreshing and oddly comforting. I finally had scientific rationale to explain why I could run at a desired pace and distance one day and not be able to replicate that same performance just days later. The explanation is that I was making physical demands when my body wasn’t hormonally capable to exert that much energy. This made me realize, if I have been working out religiously for a decade without this insight, I’m probably not alone. As I’ve continued to research and speak to women about this, the overwhelming majority are as unaware as I was.
The scope can be broadened further when we look at women and girls in competitive arenas. Women that cycle regularly are not physiologically equipped to perform at their highest capability 365 days a year. By biohacking workout regimens, women can take advantage of peak hormone levels to achieve personal bests while tailoring their training schedule to avoid injury.
The concept of fine-tuning exercise to give women the greatest benefit is one that excites me and is something I intend to pursue. I believe there is much to gain for women at every experience level; whether they’re a seasoned athlete or looking for a place to start, developing an understanding of how to use exercise most efficiently will make a tremendous difference in their lives.
By leveraging their hormone fluctuations, women will finally be able to strategize their exercise plans to gain maximum results, all while eliminating the mindless frustration. Together, we will become stronger both physically AND mentally.
Lexi Johnson is a fitness enthusiast who is currently starting her own business in biohacking exercise for women. Her hopes are to help women improve their physical and mental health by tailoring workouts to the four phases of the menstrual cycle in order to optimize benefits. Ultimately, she would like to share her platform to educate women of the physiological happenings in their body and how they correspond to exercise.