I remember my first few periods after quitting birth control a few years ago. They were ROUGH and I felt like I was a helpless prisoner to my period. I had awful cramps and low energy and a mounting to-do list- until I learned about cycle syncing.
I thought I could just plow through each day the same and would get frustrated when my body didn’t have energy for the things I wanted to do. I would schedule stuff on my calendar only to later want to cancel. Anyone relate?
Cycle syncing is the process of tuning into your hormonal fluctuations throughout the month and scheduling your life around those fluctuations. With cycle syncing, you can adapt your fitness, nutrition, social calendar and even work tasks around the different phases of your monthly cycle.
Why you should pay attention to your cycle.
Tracking your cycle isn’t just for fertility or trying to get pregnant. Women are hormonal beings with fluctuations that vary throughout the month. Your energy, mental clarity, focus and physiological needs are not the same from one day to the next.
When you start to pay attention to this, you will see that there are ways to best harness your energy and honor the way that your body was designed.
The 4 phases
Let’s do a quick breakdown of what the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle are. I promise I won’t be too science-y here, and will link references and resources at the end of the blog post if you want to dig in more!
Menstrual (flow) phase: Winter
I like to refer to this phase as winter. This phase lasts anywhere from 3-7 days and is the process in which the uterus sheds it’s lining. This is the lovely time of the month when you experience a period.
Hormone levels (estrogen & progesterone) drop and many will experience low energy, various symptoms such as cramping, tender breasts, mood swings/irritability.
Follicular Phase: Spring
Technically speaking, the follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate. It will last anywhere from 12-15 days. You should start to feel an increase in energy as your period tapers off.
During this time you’ll experience a surge in estrogen as well as LH and FSH that starts to thicken the uterus and prepare the body for ovulation. This “helps to create to create a nutrient-rich environment in the uterus for an embryo to grow.” (1).
The follicular phase is sometimes referred to as a “spring” phase because it’s a time for planting seeds & planning. This is a great time to set your intentions for the weeks ahead, brainstorm and start to put that increased energy to use!
Ovulation Phase: Summer
Ovulation typically occurs 2 weeks prior to your period. For some women it can be around day 10 (if you have a shorter cycle) or day 20 (if you have longer cycles). The increasing hormone levels of estrogen, LH, and FSH are at their highest during ovulation, this prompts your body to release an egg. If you don’t know how to tell if you are ovulating or when you ovulate, read this blog post for helpful tips!
You should be feeling good energy during this time, this is a great time to be social, and enjoy extroverted-related activities.
Luteal Phase: Fall
The luteal phase lasts anywhere from 12-14 days and takes place after your body ovulates until you start your period. Once your body ovulates, progesterone is released (and some estrogen) to help continue to build and thicken the uterine lining for potential pregnancy.
The first few days of the luteal phase after ovulation you should still have high energy but then you’ll notice declining energy shifts as you near closer to your period. You may start to feel more tired, experience certain cravings (sweets), and PMS.
How to track your cycle.
If you are not on hormonal birth control and you are experiencing a monthly period, I highly recommend using a period tracker app (there’s lots of free ones!). I’ve used fertility friend for years!
The first day of your period is your “Day 1” of your cycle. I like to then write down my cycle on my paper calendar/planner so it can help me plan for the weeks ahead. From there I notate roughly when I should be ovulating. Click here for helpful blog post on the signs of ovulation.
What if I’m on birth control or don’t get a regular period?
Hormonal birth control is designed to alter your hormones. Many suppress ovulation and even prevent you from experiencing a monthly bleed. Because of this, you won’t experience the same energy shifts or hormonal shifts as someone who is not on birth control.
If you are not experiencing a monthly period, this is symptom of a hormonal imbalance. There are many reasons why this can happen including a nutrition deficiency, the body may be in a stressed state or experiencing emotional trauma, excess weight gain or weight loss, the list goes on. I highly recommend getting your hands on Woman Code by Alisa Vitti if you need more troubleshooting with your menstrual cycle.
Keep in mind that cycle syncing is not 100% fool proof. We can try to plan ahead and be mindful of our cycle but often we have responsibilities we have to take care of that might not fall “in flow” with your energy. However it is a system that can help us be more intentional in how we plan our time and channel our energy and focus.
Want to learn more about syncing your cycle for optimal fitness? Click here for my full blog post!
Resources & Links:
Woman Code by Alisa Vitti.