One factor that’s often overlooked in training is your menstrual cycle, yet it plays a critical role in the development of your fitness and performance. We find out more about the menstrual cycle and running...
Whether you’re new to running or a seasoned ultrarunner, it’s likely you’re looking for ways to improve your running through things such as your nutrition or your recovery. But have you thought about your menstrual cycle and running? Understanding your menstrual cycle, and how it impacts your body, can be a major part of improving your running performance. It can also improve your overall health and wellbeing.
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The science behind menstrual cycle and running
“The reason we often overlook our menstrual cycle is because there’s historically been limited evidence to help us better understand it,” says Dr Zoe Williams, a wellness ambassador for Garmin.
We’ve been taught lots about how our menstrual cycles affect reproduction, but when it comes to training or overall wellbeing, there’s been limited research. Recently, sports women have started to talk more openly about the struggles they face regarding training and their menstrual cycle. Although it’s early days, it seems things are beginning to improve.
“The good news is that evidence is beginning to mount,” says Dr Williams. “Every week new studies emerge about the impact of a woman’s cycle on her body, performance and health. When you pair this research with tracking technologies, there are huge gains for women to make.”
The benefits of menstrual tracking for running
So, how does tracking your cycle help with training? Understanding what point you’re at can help you make informed decisions that help you to work with your body. “Knowing that you’re due your period gives you the opportunity to ease off the throttle, rather than pushing yourself through a hard session that could do more damage than good,” explains Dr Williams. “Furthermore, by logging your physical symptoms, you can have a better idea of what your cycle type is like – such as being regular, irregular, menopausal or even perimenopausal.”
Smarter menstrual tracking goes a step further, and actively offers you insights on how to improve your training and wellbeing. “Garmin’s Menstrual Cycle Tracking (MCT) uses leading research to deliver you insights right to your app, helping you to stay up to date on what’s best for your body,” she says. “Garmin’s MCT looks at your overall health as well as your menstrual cycle, and tracks how your cycle might be changing your energy, stress and sleep too.”
How to use menstrual cycle tracking
Each person’s menstrual cycle is different, be it the length of time or the intensity of symptoms.
By tracking it, knowing roughly when it’s going to end and when it’s going to be at its peak, you can build your training routine. There are three ways you can use MCT to improve your performance and wellbeing:
- Enhance your intense sessions
Training during your menstrual cycle can be difficult. By knowing where you are in your cycle, you can set tailored training plans. You might do longer runs and sprints on days where you’ll naturally have more energy, or slower tempo runs on the lower energy days. Setting specific plans with an understanding of your body state can ensure you’re training effectively and avoiding the negative effects of over training and possible risk of injuries. Research also says that strength training during the follicular phase results in higher increases in muscle strength compared to training in the luteal phase.
- Improve rest and sleep
Rest days and sleep are important for recovery and performance. Plus, by managing the quality of sleep, you can manage your menstrual symptoms better, as well as your expectations for your exercise routine.
- Improve your training mindset
It is good to set holistic lifestyle goals that avoid putting you under any more pressure than is necessary. By logging your symptoms and being aware of the changes in your body, you can set realistic and achievable goals which, in turn, will help you stay positive and motivated – not just with your training and fitness, but with your general wellness.
Want to know more about your cycle and how to train in each phase? Try How to Master your Menstrual Cycle