How fertility awareness can help you create your optimal health + fitness plan
I think it’s great that people are talking about periods. It means that people are FINALLY talking about the menstrual cycle and embracing it. It’s still taboo, but the conversation is definitely being opened more.
And the menstrual cycle isn’t just about bleeding once a month – your hormones are cycling. In fact, hormones are constantly changing throughout the month.
(NOTE: I’m using a typical cycle of 28 days to give an example of each phase in this post. But keep in mind that not all cycles are typical, so you’ll want to base this information on your average period and cycle length.)
The typical menstrual cycle
Through a typical 28-day cycle (± 7 days), the lining of the uterus is developed in preparation for pregnancy, and then shed if pregnancy does not happen. This process is controlled by four primary hormones; two of which are released from the pituitary gland in the brain (LH and FSH) and two from the ovaries (estrogen and progesterone). Throughout each menstrual cycle, the levels of these hormones change to trigger the development and subsequent shedding of the endometrial lining and to drive the release and maturation of an egg.
Hormones in the menstrual cycle
Since hormones can affect all parts of your body and life, including your workout routine, it would be really useful to understand what’s going on. The cycle can be split into two phases; the follicular phase and the luteal phase, with ovulation occurring in between. Through the follicular phase, estrogen increases to a peak just prior to ovulation. LH is then released, stimulating the ovary to release an egg. This process is called ovulation. The ruptured follicle (corpus luteum) will secrete estrogen and progesterone, causing the uterus lining to thicken. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum will start to break down, causing levels of estrogen and progesterone to fall. As a result, the uterus lining will then break down and be shed – this is when menstruation occurs.
Better workouts with fertility awareness
While the primary function of estrogen and progesterone is to drive reproduction, they also impact non-reproductive physiological systems such as cardiovascular health, immunity, and the skeletal and central nervous system. Estrogen and progesterone also act on cells in the kidneys, hypothalamus, bone marrow, skin and liver.
In fact, these hormonal changes have the potential to alter the optimal way to workout, eat, recover, and basically just live healthy and well. Although the cycle has two main phases, you can break the cycle further into four distinct phases for the optimal exercise, eating, and healthy habit plan for you and your body.
Phase 1 is the first to the last day of your period (days 1-5)
Phase 2 lasts from the end of your period until just before ovulation (days 6-14)
Phase 3 goes from ovulation until your hormones start to drop, usually lasts 9 days (days 15-23)
Phase 4 includes the days just before your period (days 24-28)
The aim of adding fertility awareness to your health + fitness routine is so that you have NO excuses! Nothing will stop you from working out! Fertility awareness will help you apply nutritional and fitness solutions to any problems and/or symptoms that are going on in your body.
Basically, fertility awareness empowers you to understand and actually do something to help your body. Fertility awareness is about working with your body and your menstrual cycle and getting to know it more intimately, so that you can perform better no matter what!