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This One's For the Girls

Have you ever wondered why week to week you can feel completely different in your workouts? Perhaps you've experienced two steps forward only to then experience one step back. Take a wild guess as what might be the culprit? If you guessed hormones, you guessed correctly.

The first thing you need to do to better understand when you might be able to push your body for more gains and when it's wise to ease up and work on movement and technique is to get to know your menstrual cycle like the back of your hand. Beyond keeping a daily journal of what you eat, how you feel, your sleep and how you perform and beyond using a period tracking app, you should do the following:

Determine the exact time within your cycle that you ovulate. This can be done by logging your basal body temperature as well as by using an over the counter ovulation kit. (These things are game changers, I can speak from personal experience, this is Jill not Al, BTW.) Typical ovulation occurs on day 14 after your period ends. (When looking at a 28 day cycle.) What the ovulation kit taught me is, I ovulate much earlier, usually around day 4 or 5!

Why do we care about ovulation? Pregnancy aside ovulation plays a key role in your body's response to your workouts. After ovulation, during your high hormone phase there's an up rise in estrogen, progesterone and even changes within your immune system. All three significantly impact your entire body and therefore during this time your workouts need to be more calculated. Estrogen affects cognition, (what number was I on again?) and reduces reaction time among other things.

So to cut right to the chase in a "typical" 28-day cycle the first 12 days (which are low hormone phase days) will most likely be when your body can withstand and respond better to high intensity, power-based workouts. Around ovulation some women experience a lag, some a surge so listen to your body and adjust accordingly by either pushing hard or easing up. In the final two weeks after ovulation when you're typically in a steady hormone phase work on the lower, neuromuscular movements and higher cardio before coming back around to the deload/period week.

Once you start tracking your cycle and layer it over your mood and sleep you'll start seeing patterns that will allow you to maximize and minimize your workouts. This will help you get dialed in and feel good about training even when you're not experiencing huge gains.


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