Getting My Life into A Flow: What Happened When I Synced My Workouts With My Cycle
this blog post is part of a series, #oneblogpostaday.
the first part of this series is focused on wellness + longevity.
My barometer for a good workout always hinged on the question: How much did I sweat?
No matter if I spent the morning in a power Vinyasa class or ended my evening with Soulcycle – it seemed like I was constantly pushing myself to train like I was preparing for the 2022 Olympics. Day in and day out, I continued to pursue the intensity of sweaty workouts almost like an addict. If I didn’t get my fix – if I didn’t spend 60 minutes jumping and weight lifting and pushing through the pain – I felt depleted.
Though it seems quite ridiculous upon reflection, this fitness mindset isn’t something unique to my own experience. Intense workout classes are a major force in our culture today. Gyms are called everything from the new churches to weekday nightclubs.
And, there’s nothing wrong with that. There is something extremely cathartic about sweating through your limits with a group of like-minded people.
But, it wasn’t until I read the book, Womancode by Alisa Vitti that I learned our push-to-your-limits fitness culture can actually be detrimental to our hormonal health if we engage in it every day. And as women, we have to listen to our bodies – because not many others are.
I was especially interested in this idea of cycle syncing – using the four different aspects of my cycle to help my body instead of hinder it. I was intrigued by the idea that your hormones vary throughout the month, making you more open to certain types of workouts than others. This was something I knew intuitively before, but never truly paid attention to.
So, I made a vow to try it out and see what impact it would have on my lifestyle.
What is cycle syncing anyway?
Cycle syncing is a simple concept that has been around for centuries: make life choices about what you eat and how you move based on the flow of your cycle.
As a bit of a health class review, there are 4 distinct phases of your cycle each month: follicular phase, ovulatory phase, luteal phase, and menstrual phase. Each of these phases last for different lengths of time and have various combinations of hormones circulating through your body – therefore leading to different emotions, energy and needs.
For those of you who can’t imagine leading your life based on when you get your period – I totally get it. I was in the same boat until I tried it out. And, once I began moving in sync with my body, instead of against it I found that everything flowed much easier.
As it relates to fitness, interestingly enough there is a ton of science behind optimal training times for men. Given that their hormones fluctuate on a 24-hour period (instead of a 28-day period like women), there has been a lot of research done to determine the best times to eat, do cardio and rest in order to maximize muscle gain and decrease injury.
For us women, our cycles are different. Our hormones shift based on weeks, rather than hours. So, in order to optimize our best selves and get into our flow, we have to use our bodies based on our cycles.
What happened once I synced
Before reading Womancode, I had never thought twice about my cycle - let alone how it has an impact on the rest of my life. I was lucky enough that my period has always been regular since The Big Day when I turned thirteen.
In the decade since I entered womanhood, I had only noticed slight changes to my behavior throughout the month, though I never linked it to my hormones. Some days, I felt like I was on fire: I could run my fastest mile, do unlimited burpees, and have the energy to make dinner. While others, I could barely get myself out of bed, let alone go to Barry’s Bootcamp.
Once I began incorporating the Womancode Protocol into my everyday life and syncing my workouts to my cycle I couldn’t help but feel liberated. All of the personal and societal pressure I didn’t even realize were there disappeared. I no longer had to rearrange my schedule to get in a 60-minute HITT workout, even though I was on my third cup of coffee that morning.
My rest days felt validated by my own body. And, that freedom carried over into many other parts of my life.
Since I just started by syncing my cycle to my workouts, it was a helpful starting point. It really allowed me to practice listening to my body and tuning in to the natural wisdom that we have inside of us.
Going with the flow: How to work out based on your cycle
If you’re interested in trying to exercise based on your flow, here are some guidelines to follow.
This is the first phase of your cycle and it lasts about 7 to 10 days. Think of it as the perfect time to try new things. You’re social and your physical energy is high – bring a friend to that new Barre class you’ve been thinking about!
This part of your cycle typically lasts about 3 to 4 days and is all about intensity. Your brain is sharp and you’re all about getting your sweat on. Make time for a HITT workout or your work soccer league games – competition is on!
This is usually the longest phase of our cycle, lasting anywhere from 10 to 14 days. It’s when our body is preparing for egg implantation (or release), so it’s all about slowing down. In the beginning of this phase, you may still feel energetic truly listen to your body. Allow yourself to engage in less vigorous activities like yoga, hiking or going for a jog.
We all know this phase well: the arrival of our periods. You know your flow best, but typically this phase lasts anywhere from 3 – 7 days. Our bodies will naturally want to focus inwards during this time, so restorative yoga, solo outdoor walks (or forest bathing!) and even just cozying up on your couch with some tea and a good book are great options here.
Working out is just one aspect of cycle syncing. I would highly recommend picking up Alisa Vitti’s book, Womancode, and going through the rest of the protocol. Even if you don’t have any apparent hormonal issues like myself, it can only continue to boost your natural flow in all aspects of life.
And, if your period is irregular? There are tons of examples of women who have used the protocol and cycle syncing to get their periods back and improve health issues that they never thought they’d be able to rid.
So, dip your toe into the water this month. Maybe start with a cycle syncing journal or going to a restorative yoga class when that’s what your body is telling you it needs. Listen – and you’ll hear the wisdom that comes from inside.