Cycle syncing our workouts is about gaining new perspective and honoring how we feel in each phase.
This means putting the extra energy we have in the first half of our cycles to good use and resting or doing restorative exercise in the second half.
Wait, what?! Did she just say rest?!
Before you get your panties in a wad, I know what you’re thinking. How am I going to lose weight and balance my hormones by resting or doing restorative yoga?
This concept is especially difficult for women since we tend to gravitate toward rigorous, sweaty exercise in order to lose or maintain weight when in reality, doing these intense workouts in the wrong phase can actually backfire and slow the process of reaching our goals. So no, running every day will not help you lose weight more quickly.
Alisa Vitti (my idol and the author of Woman Code), often talks about male olympic athletes and how they train with their 24-hour hormonal patterns. They’ll eat at specific times, strength train at specific times and do cardio at specific times. This allows them to work with their cortisol and testosterone levels to prevent injury, increase fat loss and maximize muscle gain. Obviously, professional athletic training is all very purposeful and science-based.
As women, we can and should be exercising with our cycles and fluctuations too, but our hormonal patterns stretch out over an average of 28 days rather than a 24 hour period.
This is exactly why we can’t compare our daily schedule to that of a man’s! Men can do the exact same thing every single day and be perfectly happy. They have a hard time relating to our hormonal fluctuations, simply because they don’t experience them. Sure they have off days but for the most part, it’s the same pattern every day.
Caring for our bodies means taking the way we’re designed (as women) into account and using that information to optimize our workouts, lose weight naturally, improve performance, achieve the results we want more quickly and feel great while doing it.
What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing is a commitment to each phase of the month, for the long term. We must shift our mindset to invest in our health as it shapes how we age! This means learning to recognize how we feel before, during and after a workout, and doing so for each phase. Over time, it becomes a practice where you’ll soon be able to recognize the shift in hormones and know what you’re body is craving and wanting at that time, in all aspects of life – not just your workouts!
I love the “high” from high intensity exercise just as much as the next person but each month, there are times when it seems like every cell of my body is discombobulated and going against me, like I’m not on my A game. My balance is off, my stamina is noticeably lower and my cozy bed is calling my name. Then there are times when high intensity exercise feels somewhat effortless, like I’m fully in tune with my body and loving every sweaty second. Other times, I just want to feel strong and train my booty with weights.
I know you ladies can relate!
Exercise is meant to burn off extra energy (when we have it) and make us feel good. It’s not about pushing through strenuous workouts we absolutely hate when we’re sluggish, off balance and lacking in energy, just for the sake of crossing cardio off our to-do list.
There’s no reason to do a workout that’s too intense for the phase you’re in, only because you think it will help you lose weight, because it won’t. All it will do is use up every last bit of your stored energy and then use up your adrenal gland reserves to offset what estrogen and progesterone are not providing for you during that phase. This causes a spike in stress hormones, which we do not want, because when the body is stressed, it holds onto any extra weight we’re carrying due to cortisol.
I would often wonder what the heck is wrong me during my “off days” when the only workout I want to do is meditate/sleep on my yoga mat? LOL. Am I being lazy? Should I power through even though I’m really not feeling it?
The answer is no!!
Listening to our bodies and honoring how we feel works to our benefit. Being lazy versus actually not having energy is something only you can decide but don’t worry, following Alisa’s protocol (listed below) helps us determine where we’re at and what exercise we should be doing. When we honor our flow and take care of our bodies, things begin to work themselves out naturally.
I’ve been cycle syncing my workouts for a little over 2 months now and life is SO much easier. I can switch things up each week so I don’t get bored, I don’t have to do HIIT or cardio while on my period and it takes the guesswork out of so many aspects of day-to-day life.
It changes everything about our relationship with our bodies.
Cycle Syncing Our Workouts:
This is the time to try new workouts! You’re more open to stepping outside of your comfort zone at this time and new activities are more likely to stick if you start them in this phase than in any other phase. So try a new class with a friend or join the gym you’ve been wanting to join. You also have the energy for harder workouts, so things like cardio, dance classes, yoga sculpting, etc. Have fun with trying new things and being in new situations!
You have the most energy and are the most social during this phase, so use it to your advantage! Go all out with cardio, HIIT (high intensity interval training) weight lifting, plyometrics and bootcamp. Group settings are great at this time since connecting and socializing with others feels good! Hot yoga or any fast-sequence yoga class, spinning, or any type of super sweaty workout to burn off excess energy.
This phase lasts for two weeks (or 10-14 days). During the first week, you may still have high energy, so continue on with the strenuous workouts during the ovulation phase, then start to scale it back with more core-focused workouts like pilates, vinyasa yoga, mat work and body resistance exercises. You may prefer to workout at home rather than going to the gym during this time! Since you may start to feel sluggish and experience water retention, choose lower-resistance cardio like the elliptical, or walking.
This time is all about resting, recovering and doing soothing, restorative activities to flush cortisol and get some good-feeling hormones fluctuating in the body. Stretching, twisting, medicinal type of yoga, yin yoga and walking. Lots and lots of naps! When you feel like napping (especially on day one and two of your period), do it! Toward the end of your period, your energy begins to rev back up again for the follicular phase.
Where should you start?
- Get my book, The Happy Hormone Guide book!
- Start by tracking your cycle from your last period, using the My Flo tracker app
- Begin cycle syncing by implementing the suggestions for food, exercise and lifestyle. Even if your cycle is irregular, start in whatever phase the app says you?re in and follow it. Doing this will help balance your hormones, even if your body isn?t matching up yet, just stick with the recommendations. There won?t be major changes overnight but in 2-3 months, you should start to notice differences. There are specific programs you can purchase but I haven?t purchased these; I?m just using the book and app and her other resources and learning on my own.
- Check out these exercise articles on the Flo Living blog
>>>> read part one: the pill and tracking your cycle
>>>> read part two: foods for each cycle phase
>>>> read part three: supplements & herbs
Have you guys started cycle syncing your workouts?! How are you liking it so far?! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on all of this! Hope you have the best weekend and Happy 4th of July to all my American readers!!
Hey, Shannon! I’m 36 years old and am only *just* being exposed to the phases that women go through each month. I can’t believe we’re not taught this stuff! I’ve asked other women my age, and none of them have heard anything about it. This article is super helpful as a starting point, and I can’t wait to dig deeper. Thanks for putting this information out there!
If the follicular phase also begins when menstruation starts, how can the suggested activities be so radically different? During the follicular phase you say we’ll have energy but during the menstrual phase you say to rest. I’m confused!
Hi Teresa! Not sure where you are seeing that but when menstruation ends, the follicular phase begins!
Hi Shannon, I am loving all of your blogs and recipes 🙂 I wanted to know…what is your workout routine? Jenna xxx
This might be a stupid question, but what if you take birth control and hormones are a little more regulated?
That’s totally fine – it’s still beneficial (more so if you plan to transition off the pill/birth control) but I always say we must listen to how our bodies are feeling and that’s the most important thing!
I am pretty much obsessing over this right now! I have loved reading all of these and I am so excited to give this a shot!! Thank you for all the research and hard work you have put into this. I love your blog! Your awesome girl!
Thanks so much Tori! So glad you are loving it – I’m just as obsessed with all of it as you! It’s worth trying out, right?! Hope all is well and let me know how it’s working for you!