Nicola Carey began playing cricket the same way that most Australians do: in the backyard…
Are you one of the many Canberra women who have taken up running since COVID hit our community?
Do you have a running schedule or program? Do you schedule rest weeks, when it’s that time of the month? Have you noticed there are weeks when you really struggle with your running and energy?
If that’s the case, you may want to consider changing your running routine to match your cycle. A female running program shouldn’t be generic. We need to nurture our hormonal cycle to get the most out of our body.
When we run, our hormonal balance is constantly changing due to our menstrual-cycle-induced oscillations in estrogen and progesterone.
Your menstrual cycle is controlled by four main hormones:
- Luteinising hormone
- Follicle-stimulating hormone
- Oestrogen hormone: The female primary sex hormone
- Progesterone hormone: Helps thicken the lining of the uterus; when levels drop, your period begins.
Firstly, let’s assess if you actually have a hormonal imbalance. Do you experience:
- Mood swings, irritability and fatigue
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Headaches and brain fog,
- Stomach cramps, and food cravings.
If so, let’s modify your running around your cycle. This article is about balancing training and hormones—I won’t be delving into nutrition, coffee stress, external stress levels, or sleep hygiene (all very important factors when looking into the female body).
More research is needed to find out exactly how hormones affect women’s physical training, but below will simplify the phases for you.
First, I’ll break up the average 28-day cycle into two unique stages:
1) Days 1- 14 (Follicular Phase)
2) Days 15-28 (Luteal Phase)
DAYS 1 TO 14 (FOLLICULAR PHASE) Or the ‘Ramp up the running!’ phase
Depending on the individual, your period will begin on day 1, and at day 14, ovulation occurs, which means your oestrogen levels are increasing and your progesterone levels are decreasing.
You have a two-week window of opportunity to really go hard, where your oestrogen levels have peaked before the yucky Luteal Phase kicks in.
- Increasing volume of runs, and frequency of runs.
- Increasing resistance training.
- Add hills, plyometrics, fartlek or surges.
- Incorporating full-range movements like squats, deadlifts, burpees.
DAYS 15 – 28 (LUTEAL PHASE) Or the ‘Let’s check-in, and do more self-care’ phase
During the Luteal Phase there is a rise in progesterone and a drop in oestrogen. And—yes, kaboom—you may experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during these two weeks.
Yep—the mood swings, the inexplicable fatigue, the bloating and constipation which is great fun. The list goes on, depending on how gifted you are.
- Decreasing volume of runs, and decreasing intensity.
- Change resistance training to lighter weights and higher reps.
- Increasing body mobility training and de-loading joints (Pilates, Hydrolates (Pilates in the water), Yoga, etc.
- More recovery days—maybe hike instead of run?
- Be extra kind to yourself.
Here’s a simple, quick and easy circuit you can do to improve your running strength (at any phase).
If you’re in Luteal Phase, drop back the amount of repetitions (six reps), if you’re in Follicular Phase, pop the resistance straps on, grab your weights and increase the repetitions (10-12 repetitions)!
1) DEEP LUNGE
2) SINGLE LEG (SL) CALF RAISE
3) SL BRIDGE
4) SIDE LYING HIP ABDUCTION
5) MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
You can print the PDF here, and IGTV clip is dropping into Instagram later today.
We’re a complex bunch but don’t give in to the hormones. Each of the hormones mentioned above has a very specific role to play and affects how successful your body will respond to your training.
Be kind to yourself, and if your running low on energy, you may want to consider changing your running routine to match your cycle.
Run happy (for two weeks)