Hi, I’m Mercey!
Here are the deets
Tracking your monthly cycle can have so many benefits and thankfully, there’s no shortage of period trackers and apps these days that can help you stay on track and know when to expect your flow.
One wellness trend that’s really been generating a lot of buzz lately is cycle synching. Cycle synching is a bit different than just tracking your period and knowing when to expect it. Cycle synching is learning about the different phases of your cycle (there are four, BTW) and synching up your lifestyle to match your body’s rhythm’s and hormonal processes during those phases. Lots of women cycle synch everything from their food, to their love/sex lives, to what types of work and projects they do at certain times of the month.
When I first learned about cycle synching, one of the most intriguing things I learned is that when you sync your workouts to your cycle, you can feel so much better every month and even build more muscle and set yourself up for better success in reaching your fitness goals. It seems counterintuitive since we’re almost conditioned to think that we should do the same types of workouts week after week for best results (which can be true for men) but this type of thinking doesn’t take into account that women’s bodies are different (not any less strong!) than men so we need to work out differently.
Our hormones operate on a 28-30 day cycle, whereas men have a 24 hour hormonal cycle (yes, even guys have hormonal cycles!). One of the things I’ve learned as a journalist in the wellness space is that a ton of advice out there on fitness and nutrition is really only relevant for men (even if the article or magazine is geared to women). This is because a lot of scientific studies that turn into news are only done on men, and so there’s no way that a scientific study on HIIT workouts, for example, would look the same for men and women.
With all of this in mind, you’re probably wondering how you can tune into your cycle and maximize your workouts. Keep reading below for information from Alisa Vitti (aka the queen of cycle synching) on how to hack your cycle to maximize your fitness goals.
How to cycle synch your workouts
First, you’ll want to have a good understanding of the four cycle phases and what’s happening to your body in each phase. (I highly recommend Alisa Vitti’s My Flo app which tells you which phase you’re in and explains it). So the four phases are menstrual (3-7 days), follicular (7-10 days), ovulation (3-5 days), and luteal (10-14 days).
Alisa Vitti says you need to do totally different workouts during the first half of your cycle versus the second half. So that means you literally should change your workouts halfway through each month.
So for the first half of your cycle (which starts right after your period ends and goes until your luteal phase aka PMS phase) you can do intense workouts like HIIT, harder cardio sessions, strength training, boxing, etc. During this time you can really build muscle and burn fat (if that’s your goal).
I think the most important part of this whole idea is that you want to avoid these types of intense workouts during the second part of your phase because you can actually undo and reverse your progress from the first part. According to Alisa, there is scientific research that shows that women who do HIIT workouts in their luteal phase and while on their period actually “turn on fat storage and increase muscle wasting.” Pretty crazy, right?
So yoga, Pilates, barre classes–anything slower and more restorative is your best bet during the second half of your cycle. Your body thrives when you give it some time to restore and recover (not that those slow burn Pilates sessions are easy by any means!). But focusing on these types of workouts during this phase will help keep you in shape and feeling your best, not going against your hormonal rhythms, as Alisa would say.
I will say when you look at things from a more intuitive perspective, you probably don’t really want to do HIIT workouts or intense boxing classes on the first day of your period or while you’re PMS’ing, right? So it’s really interesting to see the science behind why our bodies send us these signals, and it seems like it would be a great idea to work on learning to listen to them more.
Phase 1 — Menstrual phase:
(this is also known as your period or bleeding week)
Optimal workouts: Restorative workouts, walking, yoga, foam rolling, Pilates
Phase 2 — Follicular Phase:
(or right after your period ends until ovulation)
Optimal workouts: Intense cardio, spin classes like Soulcycle, HIIT classes, Barry’s Bootcamp, Rumble Boxing
Phase 3 — Ovulatory Phase:
Optimal workouts: Keep going with your intense workouts or HIIT + strength training
Phase 4 — Luteal:
(the longest phase, also the PMS phase)
Optimal Workouts: Scale back to restorative, yoga, stretching, Pilates or barre classes and walking
If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend the Almost 30 podcast interview with Alisa Vitti all about cycle synching. I also highly recommend Alisa’s book ( Woman Code) if you really want to dive deeper into all things about holistic women’s health and hormones.