Seeking to understand the relationship between hormones and exercise is on the rise in the fitness industry. ‘Bio Markers’ were dubbed by the American Council of Exercise as one of 10 fitness trends to watch this year, and fitness professionals are starting to take notice. Whether you train female clients or want to take your own results to the next level, read on for our tips on on how women should train before, during and after their period and how to factor hormones into your fitness routine.
“It’s time for us to get real and start talking about this!” says Australian Institute of Fitness Training Maestro Nardia Norman. “Personal Trainers need to be more mindful of these considerations and cut through those barriers women have put up about their hormones.”
Norman says the relationship between female exercise programs and hormones has been separate for far too long. The industry is now shifting towards an ideal female training style that acknowledges women are not the same as men, and can actually capitalise on the difference. By having a clear understanding of the female body, hormones and how the affect a woman and her cycle, we can complete exercises that will be more beneficial and congruent with how the body is working at the time. Keep reading for our 8 tips for smarter female training:
“This monthly process of creating, releasing or shedding has with it distinct hormonal fluctuations.” says Norman. “In the first two weeks due to increases in oestrogen, women are feeling their best. This is called the follicular phase. After ovulation occurs, we shift into the luteal phase and we see a dip in oestrogen and rise in progesterone. This is when things slow down, we experience a lower mood and more lethargy.” During the luteal phase, the increase of of cravings for fatty and sweet foods is more prominent. It’s also the time when your energy intake and expenditure is increased. The follicular phase is a better time to be doing cardio based exercises whereas the luteal phase is better for strength based exercises.
Using caffeine to get a bit of an energy boost should be avoided. Caffeine dependency can lead to other stressors on your body. You can change your sensitisation to caffeine by alternating three weeks of caffeine drinks with a week of decaf drinks. In your week off from caffeine, choose other drinks such as decaf green teas and herbal teas.
As much as you may feel like crawling into a heap and staying in bed on your worst days, the best thing to do is to keep moving. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity every single day, but staying active can help relieve cramping and headaches and help with any unwanted food cravings. As well as pain relief, exercise that releases endorphins will help with your mood.
Your main focus shouldn’t be on exercise alone. You will need to ensure your diet is consistent with your fitness goals. Don’t skip meals, consume healthy fats and adjust your diet to coincide with your workout for the day. If you’re going to be working harder, increase your protein intake with your breakfast to get the most from your food to fuel your regime.
Make sure you or your clients start recording how they feel and perform at different times during the month. Download a tracking app and start to get in touch with how a few nights of missed sleep or extra stress impact your hormones and cycle. Nardia elaborates that “the only way to achieve real success is to investigate and experiment on a personal level. Look within rather than to social media or your friends.”
Did you know that elevated alcohol consumption, extra stress or lack of sleep can impact hormonal levels? Nailing diet, sleep and stress levels is a good way to begin the process of elimination if you experience intense or irregular hormone fluctuations.
There is no ONE way to exercise better as a woman, but this is a pretty good starting point:
Heavy lifting is ideal for the beginning of the month when we’re at our most powerful. As things start to slow down most women should find more success by moving into lower weights but consistent intensities. This means something more like a bodyweight circuit or interval training on the treadmill is ideal if you’re period is coming up.
Instead of trying to work against your hormones, use them to your advantage. Tracking your cycle and how you’re feeling throughout your cycle is the best way to get started and to understand how your body works for you. Every woman will have different reactions, feelings and symptoms throughout the month. By having a better understanding of your cycle, you can work with your hormones rather than against them.