Have you ever wondered what tracking your cycle means? Or why someone might do it?
What is Tracking your cycle?
Tracking your cycle can range from a method such as FAM where you chart your temperature each morning and keep track of other given markers such as cervical fluid and position. This method gives an in-depth understanding of exactly where you are in your cycle and if you are or are not ovulating. This method is used as a form of birth control as well as a way to help increase fertility and conception. I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility for anyone interested in exploring this method of cycle charting.
For anyone who is using cycle tracking only as a basic method of understanding their body and to improve training, an app such as FLO will work fine. This gives you a basic outline of where you are in your cycle but will not be able to predict if or when you are ovulating.
Why Track Your Cycle?
Tracking your cycle can be used for so many different purposes in our day to day life. Some use it for birth control and conceiving while others use tracking as a way to gain insight and understanding into how our body is functioning at any given time - physically, emotionally and mentally. This understanding can help with planning out day to day life, scheduling important events such as public speaking or an interview or to help supplement a training or workout program. Training with our cycle gives us the extra leg up, we know when to push it hard and when to take a step back to avoid overtraining, hormone imbalance and decreased immunity.
Different Training In Different Phases
So what should this look like?
In order to optimize training, recovery and immunity we should train in alignment with our cycles. This means in the beginning stages of our cycle - The onset of menses until right before ovulation - Should consist of VO2 max efforts such as full intensity intervals. This might look like a 3 set interval of 30sec. full out followed by 15sec. recovery for 7-9 min. Ovulation should consist of strength training, your body is most primed for muscle adaptation and power at this time. In the words of Dr. Stacy Simms, this is the time to "Lift heavy shit." The high hormone phase limits your ability to tap into energy reserves and hit high intensities. This is the best time for long slow runs and aerobic endurance training. During this time it is especially important to listen to your body, mitigate stress and increase recovery strategies.
How Different Phases and Training Affect Your Immunity
In the first half of our cycle, our immunity is heightened. We are more resilient to stress and infection, which makes it a perfect time for hitting those higher intensities. However, the rise in estrogen at ovulation suppresses our bodies immunity. This, along with other changes to our bodies hormones and immunity, makes it vital that in the second half of our cycle we actively participate in stress mitigating strategies such as meditation and make sure not to over train or engage in too high intensity training. While we know that some amounts of moderate intensity exercise can boost our immunity, too much or too intense exercise actually does the opposite and suppresses our bodies ability to fight off infection and viruses.