Are you harnessing the power of your menstrual cycle?
We go from everything being on fire, feeling energised and ready
to take on the world to worn down and out with emotions that
change faster than the weather – but who tracks their menstrual cycle?
Although our menstrual cycle whirrs away within us, most women don’t give much thought to how their energy, motivation, mood or weight vary across each one.
Eating well and training hard are so easy one minute but the next
we want to climb into a duvet fort, eat loads of cake and stick 2 fingers up at the
What’s it all about?!
It happens every month and yet, every month it catches us by
We plot the expected date in our diary or on the calendar, so we
know when it’s coming & yet every month, we’re swept up in a tide
of emotions, fatigue and/or discomfort, feeling like everything
is going against us.
How you can harness your menstrual cycle to feel your best more of the time and get things really working for You?
Your menstrual cycle is perhaps the most known about, least
talked about aspect of your womanhood – but what if you could
tame that beast?
What if you could understand what your body is doing in a way
that helps you shape your calendar, food, mood and emotions just
a little bit???
Well the great news is – you can!!!
I liken this to knowing your seasons….bear with me on this one as
I take you through all 4, one season at a time.
Normally when we think of a first season we think of Spring, but
I’m going to start with winter:
Winter starts with the first day of your period, which is
actually the first day of your menstrual cycle.
Biologically at this point our sex hormones, estrogen and
progesterone, are relative low and even. Many women often feel
uncomfortable, tired and may experience abdominal cramps, back
pain and/or heaviness in their pelvis.
This is a time when many want to hibernate. To curl up
somewhere warm and cosy under a duvet, with a good film or book
and shut the world out. It’s your winter.
The pains you feel are often due to uterine contractions, which
do the job of expelling the uterine lining from your body.
Knowing that doesn’t make it feel any better though does it?
Beating the comfort eating urge
You may be drawn towards comfort food and drinks and won’t
necessarily feel like exercising at all. You just want to
So winter is a time to manage your social commitments and plan in
more rest or active recovery.
By active recovery I mean activities that feel good to you – perhaps a walk, some gentle
yoga or Pilates, or dropping the weights in the gym slightly.
You’re moving but in a way that supports your mood.
Satiate your desire for comfort food by planning hearty meals
that are based around a good protein source (such as meat, fish,
eggs) and plenty of veggies.
You’re more likely to want a pudding in winter so meet this urge
with a berry rich dessert – satisfying that sweet craving with a
boosting burst of antioxidants and colour. Make it easy by
simply mixing natural yoghurt with a tiny portion of nuts and a
mix of different berries.
Some people absolutely love winter – the thought of wrapping up
warm and going for a long walk out in the crisp air. Just as
different people like different seasons, some women start to feel
more energetic and ready for anything in the winter.
It’s important to recognise how You feel in the different
seasons of your menstrual cycle.
The winter of your menstrual cycle can be a good time to focus on R&R, on lighter activities (work wise & exercise wise).
Choose social occasions carefully in your winter week & listen to your body.
As your period draws to an end, so does winter.
Your energy levels and mood start to pick up and there’s a spring
in your step. You’re the life & soul of your own party!
This is the best season to make changes to your eating habits.
The levels of your sex hormones (progesterone staying fairly
level, estrogen gradually building, follicle stimulating hormone
has peaked and is tailing off) mean that changes in mood and
irritability are less likely. You’re likely to feel more
In terms of exercise, I often see this as a ‘peak week’ for
clients. I can see it on their face, in how they carry
themselves and even the shape of their body when they walk in.
That return of energy and rejuvenated mood means they feel strong
and upbeat. We may increase the repetitions of exercise or the
weight they’re moving – depending on their programme and goals.
Women are ready to be more active in “spring” and can get much more done as their focus seems to improve around this time.
This is a great time to work on projects – be they “spring” cleaning the house, or a work project, starting a new exercise programme or changing your eating arrangements.
This mood continues, but kind of slows a little, as you
ease into summer and want to enjoy the warmth and energy that
I think of summer as a great consolidation season – you can enjoy
your good mood and energy levels and continue with the practices
you’ve set up in spring.
In terms of your training, that may mean continuing at more or
less the same level as the previous week.
As far as your nutrition goes, summer is the best time to
reinforce the trends you’ve set up in spring.
Perhaps you’ve cut the biscuits out (or is that just me?),
reduced your portions slightly or switched to include more
veggies in every meal. Continue that through summer and savour
the experience, mindfully eating and drinking and enjoying this
Summer isn’t all sunshine & good moods though
Towards the end of summer, the storm clouds may start to build.
Just like when we have a high pressure system in the summer with
a stream of cloudless, hot days the pressure gradually builds
generating a bank of clouds and an almighty storm.
In our menstrual cycle, the high pressure system building is your sex
hormones: leutinising hormone and estrogen. As the storm starts,
progesterone starts to rise too, taking your body temperature
with it. You feel warmer and may be more prone to night sweats
or hot flashes around this time.
What causes the storm?
Ovulation. The release of an egg from your ovary. Some women
can actually feel this release. Others notice a short period of
abdominal discomfort – but may put this down to ‘something they
And with that storm of ovulation, you move into autumn.
Autumn is the season of changing colour – it can be vibrant and
golden….but it’s also when the leaves start to fall and things
start to look a little bare and feel a little sluggish.
The same happens within your body. Progesterone has peaked and
is still relatively high. As a muscle relaxant, progesterone
promotes a sort of slowing down in your body as even the muscles
of your gut relax.
This pre-period week is often accompanied by feeling bloated,
you’re more likely to feel constipated, energy levels start to
wane and you may start to feel more fatigued….and irritable….and
With your body temperature being slightly higher as a result of
all those hormonal changes occurring within your body at this
stage of your menstrual cycle, your metabolism is slightly ‘faster’.
Is this the answer to PMT?!
The phrase I often use with clients is that this means if we were
to eat the same amount, our heightened metabolism means we should
lose a bit of weight at this point in our cycle – trouble is we’d
also want to physically harm someone in the process.
You can kill 2 birds with one stone here though. Upping your
calorie intake slightly in those 4-5 days before your period is
due to start, will decrease the hungry/hangry phase.
Plus if you make a substantive part of those increased calories
up from vegetables and some fruit, you’ll also help food move
through your system at a time when you might otherwise poo less.
Keeping hydrated is also especially important at this point in
your cycle for the same reason.
How activity can help that mood & PMT
As for your training – this can vary from person to person.
Those that love “autumn” will love training in this part of their
cycle and may enjoy activities that are quite energetic. For me,
personally this is a great time to hit a tyre with a sledgehammer
as part of my strength training – works a treat for that
Others may prefer to focus their activity on calmer ways of
moving such as walking, swimming, Pilates or yoga in this week.
As your focus may be harder to hold, getting smaller jobs ticked
off your list may better suit your frame of mind. Plus getting
those jobs done gives a sense of achievement to help counter a
potentially negative mood.
Some women can experience real surges of emotion in autumn. For this reason I believe it’s as important to mark it in your diary or on your calendar, as it is to forecast your expected period date.
That way, when those emotions overwhelm you, you’re able to apply some sane self-talk and self-care, explain to yourself and understand why everything feels so intense and that it’ll only last for a day or 2.
If this sounds like you, then your period starting and heralding
the start of Winter, is almost a relief as hormones start to
level out, starting the cycle all over again.
So what should you do?
Knowing what season you’re in at each part of your menstrual cycle can give
you an immense sense of power and confidence. Tracking what’s
going on with your body removes that element of surprise and
allows you to take steps to help yourself feel better.
There are various apps out there these days to track your
menstrual cycle with. They are great at predicting when your
next period will start and many even now offer you tips as
certain symptoms arise.
Personally, I think you can’t beat pen and paper as that allows
you to track your own symptoms and watch any patterns reveal
themselves over time.
If you’d like help on tracking your cycle or shaping your
nutrition and exercise to sync with your cycle then please get in
Watch the video below to hear this seasonal description of your menstrual cycle and how you can use it to make the most of your mood, energy and motivation.
All of my coaching is female-centric – based on the
unique phases of our life and cycle to put you in control and feeling good.
If you’re periods have become more irregular or changed in recent times and you’re wondering if perimenopause is at play – click here to read an update to this blog, covering this stage of womanhood.
Want to talk about You? Then please CLICK HERE to get in touch for a free 20 minute consultation to shape the way you feel right now.