Interval Energy: Might Your Menstrual Cycle Actually Increase Your Health Objectives?


Have you ever done a workout at the gym just before your period and got frustrated by just not feeling it while you played a part a few weeks ago and really noticed the gains?

It’s easy to see the menstrual cycle as a nuisance when exercising, but what if there were benefits too? Just as cramps, bad moods, and energy surges can occur at certain times of the month, it is no accident that you feel in tip-top shape during other weeks.

“Even if you don’t track your period and don’t fully understand it, you can still relate to those moments when you feel like your confidence is a little higher – people talk about it like you’ve just had a bit of a Prey – and it all has to do with hormonal changes. And it can be really useful for training, ”says Jess Ennis-Hill.

The former Olympic athlete and three-time world champion has just introduced a new CycleMapping program for her Jennis fitness app, which allows users to track their menstrual cycle and fine-tune their workouts at different levels.

Empower women to work with their bodies

There is increasing emphasis on the fact that there is a large gender gap in research. As Jennis notes, only 4% of medical studies are done entirely on women, and most exercise programs are designed for the physiology of men.

Understanding the role of female hormone fluctuations has received relatively little attention – but now some science is emerging that Ennis-Hill and her team used to develop CycleMapping.

You worked closely with Dr. Emma Ross, who led the sports scientists who assisted UK athletes at the Rio Games – and like Jennis is a great advocate for better understanding and support for women athletes.

Since Jennis was first launched in 2019, Ennis-Hill, 35, mother of two, has been critical of “helping women understand their bodies”. Initially, pregnancy and postnatal fitness were paramount, and now CycleMapping is a matter of course progressing. It’s about taking into account women’s hormones throughout their “lifespan” and allowing them to feel “more controlled and empowered,” says Ennis-Hill.

Ross adds, “We’re usually very good at blaming our menstrual cycle when we’re feeling a little lousy, but at no other time do we say, ‘Oh god, I feel very hormonal today, I feel great ! ‘But actually the whole cycle affects us physically and emotionally and sometimes it gives us more challenging symptoms. But there are other times when the underlying physiology is really powerful for us women.

“One of the overall goals of CycleMapping is to get women to open up their bodies in a way that allows them to see when it’s their ally and when to do some of the other things.”

Everyone is different

Science is only part of the picture, however – in many cases it is also about women being in tune with their own bodies, how they are individually influenced by their hormones, and how their own goals and experiences determine their approach to exercise.

Additionally, some women will give additional consideration due to gynecological health issues such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and fibroids. So always remember that your individual health should play a leading role.

Generally, assuming you have a healthy cycle, Ross says that “hormones fluctuate in very predictable ways over the cycle,” but “we will all respond to these fluctuations and hormones in different ways.

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“Genetically, some of us are more or less sensitive to them, or more or less, and we know that our lifestyle, what we eat and how much and what exercise we do, can also affect this,” adds Ross.

“But we know there are fairly predictable fluctuations and we can work with that. Since we know what the hormones are doing at any given point in time, we can try to understand what the physiology is like when the hormones are high or low and examine how this matches the feeling and movement we might want and maybe our mood and motivation to exercise. “

How can we take advantage of some hormonal gains?

So what are these hormonal patterns and how can we work with them?

The menstrual cycle consists of four phases: menstrual / period phase, follicular phase, ovulatory phase and luteal phase (provided you have not become pregnant).

Although we tend to say that we “feel hormonal” during our periods, Ross notes that it is actually the opposite, since it does when the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are “very low”.

“Some of the chemicals released that allow us to remove our uterine lining can cause cramping, inflammation and pain, possibly joint pain or dull back pain.

Jessica Ennis-Hill

“So at this time we are trying to manage these symptoms and do whatever we can to moderate them – and we know there is a lot of evidence that exercise is a really effective way to treat these symptoms,” added Ross The endorphin boost from exercise can also help with pain and mood.

But equally, you might not feel like doing something too intense or joining a lively class – and that’s fine. Rest days are important, and there are times when opting for something more calming and relaxing can be beneficial for your overall fitness.

Estrogen can be a “brilliant” hormone

“My favorite physiological time on my cycle is in the first half, when my period finishes and estrogen starts to rise,” says Ross.

“Estrogen is a really brilliant hormone for women – it affects our serotonin levels, and serotonin is a good mood hormone so that we can feel energized, alive and in a good mood, which is very helpful when exercising because you may feel like it on top of that you may want to exercise in a group and feel very social.

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“But we also know that estrogen creates what is known as an anabolic environment. Hence, it affects our growth hormone, which helps our muscles repair and grow.

“Research has shown that if you exercise more vigorously during this half of the cycle – that could be HIIT training or strength training – you will have to do less in this second half of the cycle – and you will get greater benefits than if you put these workouts over regularly Your cycle. “

Increase the pace

During the luteal phase, says Ennis-Hill, “your body is much better at trying to burn fat. You may want to do those longer 30/40 minute sessions that don’t necessarily have to be high intensity, but are about maintaining a certain level for an extended period of time. “

This is the case after ovulation, when, according to Ross, progesterone levels rise alongside elevated levels of estrogen. We could feel calmer and happier, Ross adds, because “progesterone has a neuro-sedative effect” (before PMT symptoms appear).

“But we also know that it slows down digestion. Therefore, it can be important to move around in a specific way to keep our digestion going during this part of the cycle. [And] Our bodies are more likely to want to use fat for fuel. Fat is great fuel for prolonged, lower-intensity exertion, while carbohydrates are great for high-intensity exertion. “

To be one of the first to try Jennis CycleMapping, visit to register (Apple and Android versions each £ 14.99 per month).