I have always been an active person but have struggled with consistency because my physical drive — aka my motivation to workout — is very much influenced by how I am feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally. And, if I just don’t feel like doing that HIIT workout, I simply won’t do it. On one end, being able to listen to my body has been like a superpower. But, on the other hand, I often find it hard to create balance in my exercise regimen (which does have a positive impact on my mental, physical, and emotional state) and get frustrated when I don’t have the energy for the daily movement that makes me feel good. I know now that the reason for this might have something to do with how my workout choices relate to my hormones — or, more specifically, my period.
Cycle syncing is a popular wellness trend that is all about syncing certain lifestyle choices to where you’re at in your monthly cycle. “Syncing food, exercise, sleep, and lifestyle takes into account the shifts that occur in the female body and plans for those shifts, allowing you to adapt to your most optimal self,” says Dr. Brynna Connor, MD, a Healthcare Ambassador at NorthWestPharmacy.com. And, while I had heard about syncing certain foods to your cycle before — specifically doing something called seed cycling, which involves eating flax, sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds depending on where you’re at in your flow — it never occurred to me that you can actually sync your workouts to your flow. That is until I came across an exercise program called Phase and Function by P.volve.
Meet the Experts
Brynna Connor, MD, is a Healthcare Ambassador at NorthWestPharmacy.com.
Maeve McEwen is a lead trainer at P.volve.
I am a longtime user — and lover — of P.volve, which also happens to be one of Instagram’s favorite functional workout methods, too. And, after time off from exercise, I was looking to get back into movement through a program that would ease me back into working out and hold me accountable. When I found myself on the method’s Series page, I wasn’t expecting to come face to face with the answer to my workout woes. “Phase and Function is a first-of-its-kind, clinically-backed program designed to help you better understand your menstrual cycle, manage period-related symptoms, optimize energy, and aid in weight loss and/or weight maintenance through holistic fitness,” says Maeve McEwen, a lead trainer at P.volve. “Our trainers and clinical advisors created workouts and meal plans that match the ebb and flow of your hormones, your energy, and your mindset throughout the phases of your menstrual cycle,” she adds.
What Is Cycle Syncing Exercise?
Simply put, cycle syncing your workouts is all about choosing types of exercises that pair well with the four phases of your flow, which consist of the menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulatory phase, and luteal phase. Throughout these phases, hormones shift, which also causes a shift in energy. “Instead of doing the same routine and workouts every day, cycle syncing guides you on how to adjust based on these hormone fluctuations and workout according to your natural energy,” says McEwen.
“During the first half of your cycle, after your period ends and up until ovulation, estrogen and your natural energy rise, so the body is more primed for alternating strength and cardio workouts,” McEwen explains. On the other hand, in the second half of your cycle, “estrogen drops immediately after ovulation then slowly rises and falls again toward the end of your luteal phase,” McEwen adds, noting how these hormonal fluctuations take your energy along for the ride. “It’s important to listen to your body and not push too hard to the point of over-stressing your body as you may actually be creating inflammation that becomes PMS or inhibit weight loss goals,” McEwen adds.
The Benefits of Cycle Syncing Exercise
Stumbling upon this program could not have come at a better time. I was just about to start my period and my energy was starting to plummet, which made finding the motivation to work out after a months-long break a challenge. After seeing just how in-sync these workouts are with your flow, I decided to give it a try. Plus, the day one class consisted mostly of stretching and some nourishing movements, which seemed like a nice perk of cycle syncing. But there are real benefits to this approach to fitness, too.
“Cycle syncing can help you be more functional at home and work, increase your performance at work, and work in a more cycle efficient manner, too,” says Dr. Connor. “Hormones affect our energy, mood, strength, susceptibility to injury, and how we use different foods for fuel,” McEwen adds, noting how “syncing your workouts to what is happening in the body hormonally can greatly enhance sustained energy and manage [symptoms of] PMS.”
What It’s Like to Cycle Sync Your Workouts
I was just about to start my period when I started P.volve’s Phase and Function series. You can start this series at any time in your cycle. While the program also includes a meal plan, I decided to focus solely on the movement as I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with too much change in routine.
When you select the Phase and Function series on the website, it takes you to a quick questionnaire about your cycle so that the program can better align with your personal needs. First, it asks you how long your period is, how long your cycle typically is, plus the date of your last period. Once you answer the questions, the program sets you up with your personalized Phase and Function series, starting with a workout geared toward what day you are on in your cycle.
As a visual person, I loved that the exercises are color-coded based on which phase the exercise targets: red for menstrual, green for follicular, pink for ovulatory, and blue for luteal. These colors also match up with the rest of the program’s color coding, which includes a section dedicated to meal planning for your cycle. I also liked how I can just log in and automatically see where I am at in my cycle and what the workout of the day is with little effort. All these features made it easy and simple to navigate throughout all phases of my cycle.
I also enjoyed how educational the exercises are. I’ll admit I didn’t know a ton about what happens at every checkpoint of my cycle, but syncing my workouts to my flow, and listening to the trainers share details about what happens hormonally during each phase while doing so, was really empowering and made me want to take better care of myself based on what my body needs during my cycle. Through the movement and educational moments, I learned about the best types of workouts for each period phase.
For the menstrual phase, McEwen says to “start with gentle active stretching to boost circulation and endorphins.” From there, “move into low-impact strength workouts toward the end of your bleed,” she adds. The follicular phase is all about alternating “strength training, resistance training, and cardio,” says McEwen. Ovulatory is a time for cardio and circuit training. And, for the first half of the luteal phase, you want to continue that cardio while adding in some sculpting exercises before easing into low-impact sculpting workouts followed by recovery exercises like stretching or yoga.
I tried this program for the entirety of my cycle — so, about 30 days — and while I didn’t see any physical changes, I benefited from cycle syncing my exercise internally. During the menstrual phase, I benefited from nourishing stretches and movements that targeted common PMS symptoms such as bloating. I might have gone into the exercises feeling gross, but I walked away from each class feeling more like myself. During the follicular phase, I could feel my energy begin to rise again and the workouts matched that hormonal shift. I felt motivated before and during each workout to actually move my body and improve my strength. By the time my ovulatory phase began, I was feeling energized and ready to kick things into high gear.
Dr. Connor calls this phase the “high confidence days” because of the energy increase and I can totally see why. These workouts helped satisfy my energy levels and left me feeling accomplished physically and mentally. As McEwen mentioned, the luteal phase has two parts: The first half is all about continuing that cardio with the addition of more sculpting exercises, then you phase out the cardio and sculpting workouts in favor of recovery exercises as you prep for your menstrual phase again. I didn’t notice a big difference between the ovulatory phase and luteal phase until I was in that second half of the luteal phase when I could feel my body preparing for menstruation.
While I continued to enjoy the workouts selected for the luteal phase, I was mostly blown away by how much more in sync I personally felt with my cycle. I don’t think I ever noticed that hormonal shift before but, with so much more mental focus on each day of my cycle and how I was feeling, I had a stronger sense of my body’s needs and energy levels. So much so that I accidentally started syncing my workload up with my cycle. As a freelance writer, I am lucky enough to have some flexibility with my workload and deadlines. I was able to move assignments and to-dos around to better reflect my energy during this time.
When I first set out to cycle sync my workouts, I didn’t know what to expect. I mostly thought I would physically feel more aligned with my movement routine — and I did — but I never thought I would walk away with more self-awareness and confidence in knowing what my body needs, based on my own internal hormonal shifts, not external factors.
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