Ladies, do you ever wish your vagina came with an owners manual?
I know I did.
What if I told you there was a way to understand our female reproductive system in a way that is beneficial to our overall health and wellbeing ?
Thanks to research done in the last couple of decades, we now have a way.
First things first here, I am no expert on this topic. I am merely a student. The goal of this post and any that may follow relating to this topic will be to help you learn along with me. I’m speaking primarily to women on this but I think it’s valuable information for everyone regardless of whether or not you are a proud owner of a female reproductive system. If you’re a boyfriend or husband, it would be beneficial for you to understand what phase of her cycle your partner might be in. Maybe you’re a personal trainer or nutritionist with female clients, having an idea of their phases will enable you to better work with them.
The first thing to understand is women are cyclical creatures. Our moods and energy levels are not constant week over week. We live in a society that operates the same way day in and day out, probably due to the fact that until about 100 years ago, women were not viewed as equal to men as members of society. Our biology does not work the same way it does for men. As our society evolves and women gain more positions of power, it is important for us to learn about our bodies and systems so we can make optimal use of our natural abilities. I find it rather interesting that women have four phases. There are also four seasons to the year and four phases of the moon. It’s a beautiful synchronization and a reminder that we are connected to the universe.
I’m going to present you with a short version of each phase, approximately how long the phase lasts, and the optimal activities and recommended exercises during each one. The exercises are just recommendations, always listen to your body!
So far in my research, I’ve noticed there isn’t a consensus on what is the start and finish of the cycles. Some state the start is at menstruation and others when the bleed stops. For the sake of not confusing the heck out of you, let us just say the start of the female cycle is the day the bleeding stops. This is called the Follicular Phase.
Follicular Phase is a time of rebuilding and last about 7-10 days. This is your body preparing the egg. During this time all hormones are low and are slowly increasing their concentration to support the following phase. This is a time for planning, brainstorming, vision work and scheduling. This is a good time for low/medium intensity cardio, biking, higher rep weightlifting, circuit training or pylometrics.
Ovulatory Phase this is when the release of the egg takes place. During this time there is a sharp rise in Estrogen followed by a rise of LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicule stimulating hormone). Testosterone also begins to surge. This phase lasts about 3-4 days. You may feel more social and energized during this time. This is the optimal time for meetings, social gatherings, calls, collaborative work, and talking through ideas. Exercise recommendations include HIIT (high intensity interval training), cardio, heavier weightlifting (a good time to try your P.R.!),
Luteal Phase the body is thickening the lining for the egg. The estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormones reach their peak and begin to fall at this time. This phase lasts 10-14 days. This is a good time to write, concentrate on solo work, and crossing things off your to-do list. At the beginning of this phase you may find weightlifting/strength training to feel good but as the hormone levels drop you may find restorative movements like yoga or pilates to be better suited.
Menstrual Phase, probably the phase with which most of us are already familiar. Hormones quickly decline to their lowest concentration. Duration is anywhere from 3-7 days. Mentally, it’s a great time to tap into your intuition, evaluate, and meditate. As far as physical activity goes, it’s 100% ok to take a nap in lieu of a workout. If you’re feeling up to it, slow flow yoga, mat pilates, breathe/deep core work are all good options.
There is a lot of information out on this topic at this point. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here. Nutrition is also supportive of the phases, between food and gut health lies the secret to balancing our hormones. I will go further into recommended foods in a separate post.
Meanwhile, ready for more?
Here are some expert resources:
Dr. Jolene Brighten, she wrote the book “Beyond the Pill”. Her website is full of well written articles regarding vitamins, nutrients, and plenty more information regarding everything relating to hormones and the female reproductive system. Tip: use the search function to find articles relating to what you may be interested in. https://drbrighten.com/
Book: “In the Flo: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life” by Alisa Vitti. This is female biohacking 101. Alisa goes into the research that differentiates females from males and how to use our differences to our advantage.
App: MyFlo this is #1 downloaded period tracking app on itunes. There are others out there but this is the one I currently use. Track your period and the app will let you know what phase you are in and show you the recommended activity and nutrition at each point. You can also provide symptoms and notes to help support your cycle synching.