Reviewed by

Manon Pauwels - Personal Trainer - Head Coach


Sport according to your cycle?

Reviewed by

Manon Pauwels - Personal Trainer - Head Coach

Ever notice how some days you feel like you can absolutely crush your workout? And, other days, not so much... What’s the deal? It has a lot to do with your menstrual cycle, and when you understand how it works, you can use it to your advantage. That’s right! Your period is no longer an excuse. It’s a super power!

Harnessing your hormones

Your hormones influence how you feel and also how your body responds to exercise. Your pain threshold, recovery and endurance are partly controlled by your hormones. But during the different phases of your menstrual cycle, your hormones and energy levels are constantly changing, so whether you follow a strict exercise schedule or not, there is unfortunately no magic workout schedule that works for everyone.

The female body works completely differently than a man’s. An exercise routine that suits a man will not necessarily work for a woman. Whether or not your workout plan is successful does not depend on your endurance, but on the fact that your body is different from a man’s.

A perfect match

Dr. Stacy Sims, a world leading expert in female physiology and endurance training, discovered how to match workouts to the different phases of your cycle to get the best result.

Here are two reasons to follow her magic formula:

1. You deal with stress better

You probably know when your premenstrual phase is, right? Well, be careful not to exercise too hard in this phase because when you do, you produce too much cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. To do this, your clever body “steals” estrogen and progesterone which causes hormones to be a bit out of whack. The result? You’re likely to have less power and recover more slowly.

Don’t forget to pay attention to what you eat too! Too little food can cause stress and definitely makes exercise a slog. Try taking magnesium supplements that help with sports performance. These magical little tablets can help with fatigue and stress too.

2. You can reduce cravings

In the week before your period, you actually burn calories faster than usual. No, this is not an excuse to binge on your favourite snack, but you do need a little extra – about 300 extra calories per day.

You may have also noticed that you get some intense cravings the week before your period. It’s those hormones at work again, which can cause your serotonin levels to drop. Serotonin is the feel-good hormone that makes you feel satisfied, full and confident.

So, a little extra food can help bring your serotinin levels back into balance and help with those cravings. Skip the ice cream and instead, try sweet, carbohydrate-rich whole foods like sweet potatoes, honey and dates. They’re like sweets from nature and they have the added bonus of making you feel relaxed thanks to the little serotonin boost! Yum!

Learn how to eat according to your cycle here.

Time for action

So how do you actually match your workouts to your cycle? Here’s an example schedule we’ve created to help you get started. It’s based on the four phases of your cycle: menstrual, follicular, ovulation and premenstrual.

❣️ Menstrual phase

The best activity when you have your period is going to be different for everyone. It’s important to listen to your body and do what is right for you. If you have energy during this phase, you go girl!

Get your butt to the gym. Join that cardio class or up your weights. In the first half of your cycle, you actually build muscle more easily, so make the most of it!

But, if you feel weak, don’t push it. Take it easy and instead, do a yin yoga class or go for a quiet evening walk to help soothe any cramps.

✨ Follicular phase

This phase happens about 7-10 days after the last day of your period. You might start feeling happier and more energetic and that’s because your estrogen levels are on the rise. Your testosterone also increases. This gives you more strength in fitness, more desire to train and better recovery.

This is the perfect time to get outside more. Maybe even try a new sport. Rock climbing, anyone?

During this phase, you’ll excel at things that need more power and speed. Opt for cardio exercises like cycling, swimming and interval weight training and if you’re a runner, now is the time for hill repeats or sprint training.

☀️ Ovulation phase

Boom! This is the phase where you are at the top of your game. The ovulation phase, which is the 3-4 days you are most fertile, is all about stamina and strength. In this phase, you’re likely feeling more confident and social too, so now might be a good time to grab a friend and go to a group exercise class. Try a sweaty HIIT session, a heavyweight training or power yoga.

It’s important to note that during this phase you are also more susceptible to injuries (due to the fluctuations in estrogen that occur after ovulation). As a result, it is important to pay extra attention to your form when working out during the second half of your cycle to avoid injuries.

🧘‍♀️ Luteal phase

Time to wind down.

10-14 days after ovulation but before your period, you might be feeling a bit more tired. That super woman strength and stamina you experienced in the ovulation phase will be replaced by a need to rest and recover.

You’re going to want to choose much lighter activities during this phase. This could also be a good time to focus on flexibility, form and technique. Swap out those high-intensity exercises for things like slow yoga, Pilates, gentle bike rides or lightweight technique strength training.

Now that you know how to match your workouts with your cycle, it’s time to go crush it!

Did you know that strength training is good for your hormones?

You may think strength training is for men, but trust us, it's not all about muscle. You don't have to become another Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's not necessarily about your muscles, but about your hormones.

Strength training has a positive effect on estrogen and testosterone. It ensures more muscle growth and stronger bones - which is important as you get older, because your muscle mass and muscle strength decreases as you age. Women no longer produce estrogen in the ovaries after menopause. The body can only obtain estrogen through aromatase (the body produces estradiol, a form of estrogen, from testosterone).

Why should you do strength training? With strength training you build muscle mass, the more muscle mass, the more testosterone: which is converted into estrogen.

PMS and strength training

If you suffer from PMS, strength training can also help reduce symptoms. Exercise also helps to keep your estrogen levels in balance. This is important because low estrogen levels can increase the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Want to know more about this topic? Check out
Roar, a book by PhD Stacy Sims, or download the Nike training app for Android or iPhone.