You know how much I love Laura from This Runner’s Recipes. Our friendship began when we found each other’s blogs back in 2015. Lucky for me, I was the winner of her free coaching services giveaway in December 2015 which gave me a chance to truly experience her coaching knowledge first hand! Laura created the half marathon training plan that I followed for the Long Island half marathon in 2016- my current half marathon PR. She is a wealth of running and fitness information, so well researched and educated. She literally thrives on the technical terms while having this innate ability to explain it all so well in common, easy to understand terms!
Laura and I speak every day about anything and everything. I truly value her friendship and appreciate the below post she so happily put together for us today! Hormones and the menstrual cycle are topics that Laura and I discuss on a regular basis. As female runners, this conversation is really important. Understanding the various phases of your menstrual cycle and how it relates to running is something every female runner needs to know.
Periods and female hormones are still taboo in the running world, despite the fact that 57% of participants in races are women. One thing I love about Meredith’s blog is that she doesn’t shy away from touching on topics like menstruation and amenorrhea.
In my guest post today, I want to touch on just how your unique female hormones affect running – and how to make the most of your cycle and your running.
If you aren’t training for a race, maybe you follow the same routine and run approximately the same mileage each week. If you are training for a race, you might follow a training plan closely, without adapting it to how you feel. But if you are a woman, you don’t want to do either of these! Women have menstrual cycles, which affect how we feel and our athletic performance. By adjusting your running to your menstrual cycle, you can run better and feel better throughout the entire month.
How can my cycle affect my training?
There are two phases in the menstrual cycle: the follicular phase, which begins on the first day of menstruation, and the luteal phase, which begins after ovulation. For women with normal cycles (21-35 days), the follicular phase lasts 13-18 days and the luteal phase lasts 10-16 days.
Once you start menstruating, your hormone levels drop and remain lower for the duration of the follicular phase (with a surge of estrogen before you ovulate). Progesterone in particular is low during this phase, while estrogen is dominant. This is actually optimal for athletic performance: you will feel your best during training, run well, and have plenty of energy.
Progesterone spikes after ovulation and stays high throughout the luteal phase (if you are pregnant, progesterone will stay high past the 10-16 days). Your body temperature is slightly higher and you have more fatigue thanks to the high hormones in the luteal phase.
Because of this, your workouts might feel harder than usual, especially as your period approaches, or you may be tempted to skip your strength training session and take a nap. It’s common to easily overheat during workouts, thanks to the spike in body temperature. You might choose to take an extra rest day to combat the fatigue, or at least choose to scale back your runs.
How can I optimize my training around my cycle?
A smart pattern for running applies the principles of stress and recovery, meaning you push harder for a few weeks and then take a cutback week every three to five weeks to let your body recover. You can easily adapt this pattern to your individual cycles so that you are optimizing your running for your hormones.
Ideally, you want to cut back your mileage and/or intensity either during the second week of your luteal phase due to high hormones (the same hormones that cause PMS) or during the week of your period, especially if you experience painful menstrual cramps.
One helpful habit is to record your cycle in your training log. This will let you see patterns – such as fatigue, cramps, or the like – and how they affect your workouts. You will be able to discern when to best schedule your cutback week and figure out why your long run felt harder than you anticipated.
Other Post Collaborations With Laura:
Finding Balance Between Our Diets & Our Workouts (part 1)
Finding Balance Between Our Diets & Our Workouts (part 2)
Finding Balance Part 3 – NEDA WEEK
Running Coach Q & A: Shorter Warm Ups + Cutting Back Mileage
[bctt tweet=”Guest post from Laura today discussing what female runners should know about their cycle on the blog today! @thisrunrecipes #running #womensrunning #fitfluential #health” username=”cookiechrunicle”]
Do you notice differences in how you feel when running at various points in your cycle?
Do you already plan your workouts around your cycle?
5 thoughts on “What Female Runners Should Know About Their Menstrual Cycle”
This was an interesting read! I definitely notice that paces that should feel easy seem a little harder in the days leading up to my cycle. Depending on how my body feels, I’ll ease up on the intensity.
You are too kind! I value our friendship so much. Thank you for the opportunity to guest post!
I am lucky that I only get cramps on the day my period starts and I don’t really notice any affects leading up to it. However, I haven’t really looked at how i feel on different runs throughout my cycle. I do notice that i feel good right after my period is over. Very interesting stuff!
Awesome article – We have recently created an app (freely available on the app store) – FitrWoman – to provide women with specific training and nutritional suggestions based on where they are in their cycle – it also gives a little calendar and some added information about what’s happening in their body on any day
I really appreciate just how much you touch on the importance of our menstrual cycle and hormones Meredith, and I didn’t really think that much about how the different phases of our cycle affect our training. I need to be more mindful of keeping track of that and try to understand my body and how to structure workouts around that. It always is such an awe and wonder to me how God so intricately designed our systems to go through these phases.