Menstrual cycle and training- varied responses from my body

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    Topic
  • #67318
    Avni Bildhaiya
    Participant

    Hi,

    I am 32 years old and have been training with uphill athlete for over a year now. Before that I was reasonably active but absolutely not a fit person, but also not someone who cannot make 10 flights of stairs comfortably.
    When I started training I had a severe impact on my cycle as my ferritin was just 7 (std units, don’t remember it now)
    I corrected the ferritin levels and I mostly feel like I can train way more and my problem with periods was gone in less than 2 months.
    Right now what I observe is, and I get that it’s a strange thing to say, no real “dips” in energy or strength during the cycle on some months and some others, one week before the cycle it feels like some one put extra 50 kgs on me and everything is hard.
    I am trying to just understand on the first level, if this has a direct relationship to stress?
    Has someone here experienced something similar?
    Is there anything I could do on the not so easy week in an odd month specifically focused on recovery that does not derail me?
    On a good note, when things don’t feel that hard:
    Is strength training in the second half of the cycle really bad? Or I can just increase the uptake of protein?

    Best Regards
    Avni

  • Moderator
    Jane Mackay on #67319

    Hi Avni,

    What you’re describing sounds very much like what I’ve experienced a lot.

    For your first question: as far as the body is concerned, stress is stress. If it feels like stress, then it is stress, which means respecting that and maybe backing off the training, doing extra self-care, sleeping more, eating more, etc. So, yes, in those weeks, the best thing to do is to really listen to your body. Maybe do yoga instead of strength training, add in an extra rest day, do a recovery run (zone 1), go for a swim or easy bike ride rather than running/climbing/etc. In those weeks, I give myself permission to actually not do anything beyond easy walks, if I don’t feel up to it. A good 1 hr yoga practice with some arm balances can be a good way to get in some low-key strength work. One week every now and then is not going to derail your training over the long term. It is important though the following week not to ramp up a lot right away — maybe repeat the week you did before the “down” week, or just add 5% rather than 10%.

    These are some good articles on strategies for recovery:

    Recovery Strategies for Endurance Training

    Recovery by Feel

    Active Recovery: You May Be Doing It Wrong

    Practical Recovery Essentials

    If you start to have these difficult weeks more regularly, you could cycle your training so that the recovery week coincides with that time of the month.

    As for strength training in the second half of the cycle, by all means, if you feel up to it, do it! Yes, increasing protein intake can help. There is also increased need for hydration during that phase (the luteal phase) and increased need for carbohydrate for recovery. Think: “recover with carbohydrate!”

    As far as nutrition in general, the body can’t store protein, so the most important thing is to make sure you’re eating BOTH protein and carbohydrates throughout the day, breakfast included.

    UA dietitian Rebecca Dent recommends “Uphill Athletes consume 1.4–1.6 g/kg/BW), and for some a higher protein intake of 2 g/kg/BW may be necessary. Protein intake should be spread evenly throughout the day at 4-hour intervals as meals (~0.3 g/kg/BW) and snacks. This protein should come from good-quality protein sources that provide the essential amino acids required for muscle mass (e.g., animal proteins such as meats, fish, dairy, and eggs and complete plant proteins such as tofu, Quorn, hemp, and quinoa).” (from this article: https://uphillathlete.com/nutrition-injury-recovery/ )

    The overall guideline is: Listen to your body and respect what it’s saying. This is a lifelong process, not a sprint.

    Participant
    Avni Bildhaiya on #67323

    Thank you so much for the detailed answer ?

    My UA coach is really nice and helps with making the training around the, but i sometimes think female perspective helps a lot.
    Specifically felling good in the second half is new to me.

    Thanks a lot for your help.

    Moderator
    Jane Mackay on #67324

    You’re welcome. I’m glad it’s helpful.
    I did find as I moved through my 30s into my 40s (I’m 51 now) that the pre-period week started to affect me more strongly with low energy, etc. What I really noticed probably from early 40s onwards was that during the 2-3 days around ovulation, I’d just be flattened. So that’s something to consider when you’re looking at the timing of this.
    – Jane

    Participant
    emilieskadi on #67567

    This is good stuff Jane and Avni! I think it’s important to remember that we are all SOOOO individual. I’ve had women scoff at me when I say my cycle effects my performance since it does nothing to them. Trying to gauge how YOU and your body will perform based on how other’s perform is tough. However, it’s GREAT to have open conversation about it to normalize the fact that it CAN effect us and in a lot of different ways!

    I have noticed certain muscle groups really check out for me. The day I start my period my abs are just checked out. This makes a REALLY long run hard. I have started my period in long races before and that SUCKS! I have pulled from a race thinking that I would hurt myself because I wasn’t able to engage my core and protect my back/hips/body like I should with abs just totally not doing their job!

    Over the last few years having a trainer and being super open about where I’m at in my cycle and what it’s doing to me has shed some light for sure. however, it’s STILL a bit all over the place. I’m in my mid 40s now and I just seemed to start noticing that I was checking out in the strength dept a bit during ovulation. That was new to me! (Interesting to hear that you noted that as well Jane). Additionally, I had one day where my trainer kept having to check her notes to review my weights since I was SOOOOOO flat. I’m usually a pretty solid performer in the weight room. Nothing fancy I would say but I’m consistent. Not these last few months! My cycle has been REALLY messing with me in the weight room. So we just back off, schedule more easy runs and just work around what my body is deciding to give me!

    Biggest lessons I’ve had:

    1. Having a trainer has allowed me to actually pay attention to my body. I was NOT a pay attention to my body person before. Creating the space where we talk about it 2x a week (if not more over text, etc) has REALLY helped both of us key into things we should be paying attention to. You mentioned you have a trainer and they’re really nice but you were looking for a female perspective (that must mean you have a male trainer). I would say, while it’s great to get in here and see what other women are dealing with; don’t discount what a male trainer can provide while tracking your performance and your cycle. Though they may not know what you’re going through precisely; neither does another woman since we’re all so different!! Just having someone you can speak openly and honestly to about how your body is feeling is great and you’re on a great track there! Also, know that if it’s a good trainer (which I’m sure a UA one will be!) they can handle you being fully transparent about ‘female things’ even if they’re a man! And they can’t do their job well unless you are. I hate the stigmas surrounding our cycles and the expectation that we just deal with them in silence. My performance in the mtns is always off and usually for multiple reasons even my mental is off. If I’m going after an objective I will share with the group if I’m in that range of my cycle where I’m just off! Like I would expect them to share with me if their dog just died or their wife left them!

    2. We’re all SOOOO different. and just when we think we have ourselves figured out, something changes! HA! Again, this is where a trainer can really help you track and be honest with yourself about all of this. Create work arounds, take advantage of strong times for bigger training gains, etc.

    Great topic, I think it’s overlooked or under acknowledged a little too often!

    Participant
    Avni Bildhaiya on #67617

    I think you are absolutely right about having a trainer here.
    My experience went from complete hell once a month to tolerable to trackable in the one year I have started proper training.
    I try to be completely open with my UA trainer and that works really great.
    Now I’m in the phase of figuring out what type of training + food combined with the phase of cycle works for me. It’s really learning about yourself as I understand from you guys. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to deal with it.

    I have to say, this is harder on people like me who are organisationally impaired 😉

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