Have you been wondering how to optimise your run training around your menstrual cycle? I’ve got you covered!

Whether you’re a new runner or someone who’s been running for years, optimising your run training around your menstrual cycle can be a game changer in becoming the best runner you can be.

As a perimenopausal woman in her 40’s who has worked with predominantly female runners, I understand how difficult it can be to keep up with training and follow that training plan that was designed by a man for a man.  Plus it’s not easy to perform at your best while dealing with PMS symptoms. That’s why I’m here to share with you how running and your menstrual cycle can go together so you can reach your full potential as a runner and feel happy and balanced throughout your cycle.

 

training with our menstrual cycle 

Understanding your menstrual cycle how it can impact on your training

The menstrual cycle is divided into the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.

The follicular phase

During the follicular phase, which generally lasts from days 1 to 14 in an average 28-day cycle, your body produces more estrogen. During the follicular phase in females, estrogen production increases to prepare the body for ovulation. This hormonal surge in estrogen promotes cardiovascular health and reduces muscle damage.

Here is a bit of a run down on how you may feel during the early and later stages of the follicular phase of your cycle.

day 1 to 2 (menstruation begins) – Some of us feel great others can really feel crappy at the start of our period. PMS symptoms like cramping, bloating, fatigue are common.   If you aren’t about to do a race, either take a rest day or switch to a super easy active recovery session like walking, gentle swimming, an easy spin on the bike or yoga.  Skip the high intensity session and focus on recovery.

day 3 – 4 & 5 – We start feeling better and energy levels getting back on track.  We can start building back into our usual training volume, though keeping the intensity low. This is when we usually feel pretty motivated, energised and strong. Ready to get out there and train.

day 5 to day 13 – This is when we feel at our best and when we feel awesome for those moderate to hard training sessions.  The rise in estrogen before ovulation can inhibit pre-exercise storage, so we may need extra carbs the day before and during exercise if we are planning on doing a high intensity session. 

Read more on when speed running feels hard

Ovulation

During the ovulatory phase (around days 14 to 16), your body produces more progesterone, which can affect your energy levels and increase fatigue.

This can be a bit of a mixed bag for everyone.  We can either feel awesome or experiencing PMS like symptoms such as ovulation pain and cramps and fatigue.  Its all about awareness of the signals your body is giving you.  Depending on how you feel when you ovulate you may need extra sleep and recovery around this time or you may be ready to go and smash out some hardcore sessions.   Booking a massage, chilling out with a book, just being kind to yourself are all good options.  Your risk of injury does increase around ovulation so warming up and cooling down become more important during this time.

Luteal phase

The luteal phase is when most women experience their PMS symptoms. This is when progesterone levels are at their highest, leading to increased water retention and energy depletion.

Your luteal phase may look something like this

day 16 – day 23 – As progesterone and estrogen rise together you can feel your energy levels rise which can be a good time to get some quality sessions done. Though some women do feel PMS symptoms in the 7-10 days before your period so be mindful of early PMS symptoms popping up.

day 23 – day 28 – this is when progesterone and estrogen are gradually declining and when we can experience PMS symptoms, which look different for everyone. Women experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms related to their menstrual cycle, which can include, bloating, cramping, mood swings, and fatigue, which can affect not only their training but their daily lives.  This is a good time to take a recovery/deload week, reducing volume and intensity.  Easy runs and active recovery sessions are good to plan on these days.

 

How to plan your training around your menstrual cycle

Planning your run training around your menstrual cycle can help you feel your best and perform at your peak. Here are three steps to get started:

tracking your menstrual cycle

1. Track your cycle

Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you get a better understanding of the timing and symptoms associated with it, making it easier to plan your running schedule accordingly. By being aware of when your period is due, you can make sure that you’re not pushing yourself too hard during the days where you may be more likely to experience PMS symptoms. This also helps you to avoid overtraining as well as fatigue, which can lead to decreased performance and lack of motivation. Tracking your cycle will ultimately help you get the most out of your training sessions.

2. Adjust your training schedule

After you have tracked your cycle and you have an idea of what your body is doing and feeling adjusting your training to fit you rather than the other way round means you can plan those build weeks, those high intensity interval or long key runs sessions when estrogen is the dominant hormone and do more easy or active recovery sessions that when progesterone is the dominant hormone and you are feeling fatigued, bloated and blah.

3. Keep a training diary

Keeping an ongoing training diary can help you learn to listen to your body, and make adjustments in your routine when changes in your PMS symptoms arise. Track the days of your menstrual cycle, how you feel before and after your workouts, what type of activities you did, the intensity level – all these details will help you recognise patterns and make necessary adjustments. For example, if you notice that running at a certain intensity leads to an increase in PMS symptoms, then you have enough information to know that it’s best for you not to run at that intensity during this time. Being aware of these patterns and tracking them over time can help with creating a sustainable training plan for you and help with reducing your PMS symptoms.

I know life is busy but it’s worth squeezing in the 1-3 minutes each day.

Check out some tips on carving out time

Tips for managing PMS symptoms and hormone changes

No-one likes feeling bloated, fatigued and like they can’t run. 

In addition to planning your training around your menstrual cycle here are some tips for helping reduce those PMS symptoms and manage those hormone changes.

1. Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for helping to manage hormones. Aim or at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.

2. Diet: Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help you to support your body’s natural hormone production and regulate your menstrual cycle.

3. Supplements: Certain supplements like magnesium, probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for some women in managing their PMS symptoms and hormone levels. 

4. Mindfulness Practices: Practices like meditation, yoga or deep breathing can help you become more attuned to your body’s signals, better able to identify changes in your hormones, and cultivate self-compassion towards yourself during those times you feel particularly crappy with PMS symptoms or hormone changes.  

Final thoughts how to optimise your run training around your menstrual cycle

As a female runner by understanding the effects of hormones on your body, tracking and planning for your training around your unique cycle, not only  can you reach a healthier balance in your life but also achieve new levels of running performance. Your running can work in with your body, not the other way around.

If you would like support with optimising your run training around your menstrual cycle, reach out to find out more about online running coaching. I’m here  to help you take control of your training to fit with your body and reach your running goals.