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How the female cycle and training are related?

Do you often feel tired, unwell and/or in pain during or before your period? Are you unsure whether you should exercise during this time? Do you follow through with your exercise program no matter where you are in your cycle?

Introduction

How can you adapt your training to your cycle?

A worldwide survey of 14,184 women who are active in sports shows that menstrual cramps can be positively influenced by exercise and a healthy lifestyle. 82 % of the German women stated that sport reduces the symptoms of their menstruation. At the same time, 71% of German respondents lacked information on the topic of sport and the menstrual cycle. 88% of respondents stated that their sporting performance deteriorates during the menstrual cycle - either before or during menstruation1. However, the connection between the cycle and sport is usually not explained either in physical education classes or in the training of amateur or professional female athletes.

You want to use your cycle phases optimally for training and regeneration? Learn more about your cycle and when and how you train best. When should you switch to gentler sports? When, on the other hand, can you throw yourself into weight training?

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Table of Contents

• The female cycle in fast forward
• The phases in your cycle - when and how to train during your cycle?
• Typical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - do you have PMS?
• What can you do about your PMS symptoms?
• Everything at a glance - sports and period

The female cycle in fast forward

Your cycle begins with the first day of your period and continues until the last day before your next menstruation. The duration varies from woman to woman between about 21 and 35 days. But how does the female cycle work?

The first day of the cycle is the first day of your period, when the lining of the uterus is shed. From the first day, the next egg is already maturing. From about halfway through the cycle, ovulation and the fertile phase occur, after which there are two possibilities:
Either the egg was fertilized and it nests in the uterus, or the egg is not fertilized, in which case your menstruation begins with a time delay.

The two hormones progesterone and estrogen are mainly involved in the female cycle. In the first half of the cycle, as estrogen increases, the endometrium is rebuilt after bleeding and the egg matures in the ovary. In the second half of the cycle, estrogen decreases with ovulation and progesterone increases. The endometrium continues to build up so that implantation, or the next menstrual period, is possible.

The phases in your cycle - when and how to train during your cycle

Menstrual phase - Give yourself a break
With the first day of your menstruation, the previously built up uterine lining is broken down again and shed. Tissue and blood is expelled through the uterus and vagina. During and before your period, you may experience abdominal cramping, bloating, mood swings and pain. You may lack any motivation for exercise, especially intense, rigid workouts.

Take care of yourself during this time. Find a good pace, don't push yourself too hard. Some women report that light relaxing exercise even helps them with period symptoms. Especially yoga with gentle hip openings, walking or slow jogging can support you during this phase.

This time in your personal rhythm is perfect to schedule regeneration. Do you have an ambitious athletic goal? Then now is also a good time to take stock, fine-tune your training plan and incorporate mental training. A very intense workout, however, is not recommended for most women. If you feel like you don't perform as well during your period and can't achieve the same athletic results as on other days, you're not alone. In a 2015 survey of 1,073 London Marathon participants, 30% of respondents said their period had an impact on their performance2.

Follicular phase - Let's go!
After your period, the follicular phase begins. The hormone follitropin, which stimulates the vesicle-like structure inside your ovaries (follicle), initiates this. The egg then matures in this follicle. Normally, only one follicle matures completely per cycle; it grows to about 20 mm in size and is filled with fluid. Now your estrogen and testosterone levels also rise, giving you more energy and good mood. In this phase of the cycle, your self-confidence increases, you feel more comfortable around others and your libido is increased.

Now is the perfect time in your cycle to train intensively, to work on your training successes full of energy, or to tackle new goals. Even muscle building is most effective just before ovulation, according to a study conducted in Bochum, Germany. So: A good time for intensive strength training3.

Ovulation - A high for challenges
Ovulation, also called ovulation, occurs around day 14 (about mid-cycle) and is the end of the follicular phase. Now your estrogen and testosterone levels are at a high. Most women have a mood and energy high now.

Are you facing a big challenge? Then now is the perfect time to tackle it.

Luteal phase - Slow down
The luteal phase is the last part of your menstrual cycle. After ovulation, the egg can survive for about 24 hours. If it is not fertilized, it dies. Estrogen and testosterone production decrease and your progesterone level increases. During this phase, a healthy and balanced diet is especially important. Pay special attention to a tryptophan-rich diet and do endurance sports to keep your serotonin levels high.

Due to the increased progesterone, your ligaments are looser, so pay special attention to injuries. Strength endurance training for muscle maintenance is also useful now, muscle building is more difficult for you in this phase.

Now the first unpleasant symptoms before the period can also begin, these fall under the so-called premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Typical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - do you have PMS?

• Sensitive and/or painful breasts
• Water retention
• Mood swings, psychological malaise
• Pain of any kind (head, joints, abdomen, back)
• Digestive problems (constipation, flatulence)
• Craving

What can you do about your PMS symptoms?

Caffeine, nicotine, sugar and alcohol can have a negative effect on your PMS symptoms4, while a balanced diet rich in vitamins can alleviate the symptoms5.

That's why you should avoid caffeine etc. just before and during your period and try to eat a balanced and healthy diet instead

Nutrition
Of course, you can also do something about individual PMS symptoms. A high-fiber diet can help with digestive problems, and tryptophan may help with mood swings.

Movement
Sports physician Petra Platen recommends sports with light, rhythmic movements, for example slow jogging, for period cramps and back pain. The gentle movement allows the smooth muscles to relax, and the uterus consequently does not cramp as much6.

Iron and blood formation
During menstrual bleeding, the body can lose a lot of iron. Make sure you eat foods that are rich in iron and possibly take a food supplement.

You can also ask your doctor to check your iron levels.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acidscan help you with your period pain. In one study, women took omega-3 for three months and saw an improvement in their period pain[7].

Heat
Many women find warmth very soothing during their period. So why not take a hot water bottle with you to the workplace? Alternatively, you can try a heat patch that you simply stick on your skin or clothing.

Sleep
Make sure you get enough sleep. Monitor your sleep and restfulness throughout your cycle. Some women report sleep problems during their period. Make sure you have a regular bedtime to give your body some routine. Relaxing exercises, gentle yoga or stretching before going to sleep can also be helpful.

Everything at a glance: Sport and period

Follicular phase: Let's go with physically intensive training and muscle building.

Ovulation: You are in top form!

Luteal phase: Relax and try maintenance training and less intense sports. Attention risk of injury!

Period: Depending on your symptoms, this is time for rest or just quiet, relieving exercise.

Lastly, we want to leave you with one more thing: You don't have to feel bad if you can't perform as well as usual during the luteal phase or during your period.

You are not alone! Many women have PMS symptoms. One study suggests that over 60% of women have PMS [8], while other studies suggest that up to 90% of women have at least one PMS symptom.

So, give your body the rest it needs instead of continuing to demonize it.

Bibliography

[1]: https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/­OTS_20190328_OTS0253/internationale-befragung-ueber-den-zusammenhang-von-menstruation-und-sport-zeigt-frauen-mangelt-es-an-informationen-und-aufklaerung-foto. Zuletzt aufgerufen am: 23.05.2022, 15:28.

[2]: Bruinvels, G., Burden, R., Brown, N., Richards, T., & Pedlar, C. (2016). The Prevalence and Impact of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (Menorrhagia) in Elite and Non-Elite Athletes. PloS one, 11(2), e0149881. https://doi.org/10.1371/­journal.pone.0149881

[3]: Han, A. (2009). Menstruationszyklus-gesteuertes Krafttraining : makroskopische Adaptationen an Krafttraining in Abhängigkeit vom hormonellen Millieu. Zeitschriftenartikel. https://www.bisp-surf.de/Record/PR020070600301/Solr. Zuletzt aufgerufen am: 23.05.2022, 15:30.

[4]: Hashim, M. S., Obaideen, A. A., Jahrami, H. A., Radwan, H., Hamad, H. J., Owais, A. A., Alardah, L. G., Qiblawi, S., Al-Yateem, N., Faris, A-I. E. (2019). Premenstrual Syndrome Is Associated with Dietary and Lifestyle Behaviors among University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study from Sharjah, UAE. Nutrients, 11(8): 1939. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081939

[5]: Isgin-Atici, K., Kanbur, N., Akgül, S., & Buyuktuncer, Z. (2020). Diet quality in adolescents with premenstrual syndrome: A cross-sectional study. Nutrition & dietetics: the journal of the Dietitians Association of Australia, 77(3), 351–358. https://doi.org/10.1111/1747-0080.12515

[6]: https://www.spektrum.de/kolumne/­menstruation-hilft-sport-gegen-regelschmerzen/1839997#. Zuletzt aufgerufen am: 23.05.2022, 16:48.

[7]: Rahbar, N., Asgharzadeh, N., & Ghorbani, R. (2012). Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on intensity of primary dysmenorrhea. International journal of gynaecology and obstetrics: the official organ of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 117(1), 45–47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.11.019

[8]: Bhuvaneswari, K., Rabindran, P., & Bharadwaj, B. (2019). Prevalence of premenstrual syndrome and its impact on quality of life among selected college students in Puducherry. The National medical journal of India, 32(1), 17–19. https://doi.org/10.4103/0970-258X.272109