Training according to the female physiology.
Women shouldn’t follow a training program based and formulated on men’s physiology because we are affected by a huge hormonal shift between oestrogen/oestradiol and progesterone.
When menstruation appears, a new cycle of idealised 28 days starts. The menstrual cycle is divided in 2 phases: The Follicular Phase and the Luteal Phase. The Follicular Phase starts when menstruation appears (the bleeding) and it ends when ovulation occurs. The Luteal Phase instead, starts when ovulation occurs and ends just before a new menstruation starts.
The Follicular Phase:
The follicular phase starts with the first day of the cycle (menstruation) and it ends when ovulation occurs; in this phase we can utilise glycogen very efficiently as the hormone oestrogen is at its highest level.
When the body utilises glycogen more efficiently, training should be focused on high intensity, speed sessions, strength training, fitness tests. The pain threshold is higher than normal in this phase, therefore fitness tests and/or racing and heavy weights lifting sessions are ideal for it.
When ovulation occurs, some pain can appear, this is technically called “mittelschmerz”, which means mid-pain in German and underlines so well that specific pain that arrives suddenly and can make some women feel low, groggy and with a low immune system mid-way though their cycle. It has been shown that it is common for women to get sick or injured when ovulation occurs because the hormonal shift causes the body to lower the immune system. When training consistently, this is important to know to avoid injuries, therefore, when ovulation occurs and/or women get mid-pains, a longer warm up is needed to avoid issues with muscles/ligaments like strains and sprains.
The Luteal Phase:
When ovulation occurs, the luteal phase starts, and the body shifts from utilising carbs to utilising more fats.
This is the moment to crack on with endurance training and go for the distance (time on feet and zone 2 HR).
In this phase, oestrogen level lowers and progesterone levels get high. The core temperature rises during this phase, hence why women go through cravings; cravings must be listened because when our BMR (basal metabolic index) is higher, we need more fuel.
In this phase women should eat more healthy fats and less carbohydrates to regulate hormones and listen to what the body needs.
Healthy fats fuel endurance, therefore, for marathoners, ironman athletes and triathletes this is the time to get the miles on your legs and stay in zone 2/3 in each discipline. For all the other athletes, non-athletes females, this is the right time for gentle yoga, long walks, gentle swims, less reps and less weights when lifting.
If a woman follows this way of training, she will then have 4 weeks of training determined by her cycle, a 3 week block with 1 easy week in the last seven days:
-FOLLICULAR PHASE: 2 weeks of high aerobic (HIIT, Tempo, Sweet-Spot sessions, hard CrossFit Wods and heavy weights sessions)
- LUTEAL PHASE: 1 week of low aerobic (low tempo, zone 2 Heart rate monitor, long endurance, endurance wods, yoga)
-LUTEAL PHASE: 1 week EASY (low aerobic, yoga but less volume than the previous week).