“ That means these athletes could tolerate harder and less variable in their follicular phase (days 1-14) than at any other stages of their cycle. ”

Written by Georgina Watson

Fizzy Lemon Physiotherapy Owner


hat about hormones?

This blog refers to the menstrual cycle in months where conception does not take place and aren’t on any synthetic hormones (e.g. birth control pills) – if you are peri- or post-menopausal, transgender, pregnant, or post-partum these hormonal fluctuations are going to look a bit different. You are still welcome to read on, as these trends can be helpful for understanding how your hormone levels can impact your performance!

Big fluctuations in your performance?

Are you training and seeing minimal results? Or seeing big changes in your strength during classes? Having adequate rest days and eating well but this still isn’t helping?

Have you been tracking your menstrual cycle?

Yep, your menstrual cycle might be behind the changes you experience. Before we dive into the specifics of your cycle, let’s take a look at the general trends…

What happens during your menstrual cycle?

Menstrual cycles are usually between 26 and 35 days, starting on the first day of your period, and can be divided into three phases with their own distinct hormonal signatures¹ (see the graph of a 28-day cycle!). Each phase has their own impacts on your training, but let’s look at the general trends first…

Your cycle is a carefully crafted hormonal ballet - isn’t it amazing how much happens at each point?

Graph from Healthline 2022

Progesterone is the dominant hormone in this phase, and can make you feel like retreating inwards and slowing down. Estrogen increases in the middle of this phase too, but doesn’t reach the dizzying heights seen at ovulation.

As the corpus luteum reaches the end of its lifespan (12-16 days), your progesterone and estrogen levels drop, which brings on any PMS symptoms you experience and, viola, summons your period!

And now you are back in the follicular phase of your next cycle!

Note: If you are on hormonal birth control and bleed during a ‘break’, you are not having a true period (which is triggered by events following successful ovulation), but instead having a withdrawal bleed. You can still pay attention to your body, but it might look a little different than it would without additional hormones!


ow does this translate to your pole training?

Well, first we need to talk about training monotony and training strain:

Training strain measures the overall stress you are exposed to in your training week. It’s a measure of how hard you have worked.

Training monotony is “a metric that evaluates fluctuations rather than exercise repetition”. Did that help? Yeap, me neither. Simply put, it’s a way of measuring similarity between daily training sessions, the higher the number the more similar your sessions are.

We already know athletes like us can’t train hard every day. Strength and conditioning coaches will schedule a few hard days each week, with plenty of lighter workouts and rest days to allow your body to recover (that’s the basis of our conditioning programmes too!).

High training monotony is a key factor in developing overtraining syndrome… but how does that overlap with your menstrual cycle?

It depends.

Research into women’s bodies in the sporting world is still lagging behind our understanding of male bodies, and the situation is even worse for transgender athletes where research is thinner on the ground still. After chatting to Neo about the research out there, she offered a succinct summary of the current state of affairs – “the research is a mess and it depends on the individual. Track your cycle and figure out what’s best for you”. I couldn’t agree more, but for interest, let’s peak at the research…

In one study², they tracked female athletes’ training throughout their cycle and found that:

  • Training strain was higher in the follicular phase.
  • Training monotony was higher in the follicular phase.

That means these athletes could tolerate harder and less variable training in their follicular phase (days 1-14), than at other stages in their cycle. Conveniently, research has found this is also when we are best able to respond to our training³, with both strength and muscle diameter increasing more when our training is synced with our follicular phase!

Sounds great right? But these studies have a combined sample size of just 32 women. That’s not really enough to draw concrete conclusions on ~50% of the human population!

So… what do we know?

Your cycle will influence your performance in ways unique to you, but over the years we have heard clients mention changes in…

  • Strength
  • Cardiovascular ability
  • Skill acquisition
  • Memory
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Frustration tolerance
  • Pain tolerance (Pinchy skin prior to menstruation in particular!)

…And plenty more!

Elite athletes commonly reduce their training load to cope with menstrual-cycle-related discomfort, fatigue, or cramps. If you find you need to take it steady, take it from the elites and do what you’ve got to do!

What About Your Cycle?

To get to know how your menstrual cycle impacts your training, you’re going to need to get to know your cycle. How do you measure this, I hear you cry!?

Well … there are new fancy gadgets on the market that can easily help such as Whoop. It examines your activity by monitoring heart rate variability, oxygen levels, sleep patterns, and more and creates a daily target for how much you should exert yourself to help avoid overtraining and undertraining. How cool is that?

You can also use an ovulation test, a simple calendar, or get really nerdy and learn to track your body in detail with books like Period Power!

So, how do your hormones impact your training?


  1. Sung E, Han A, Hinrichs T, Vorgerd M, Manchado C, Platen P. Effects of follicular versus luteal phase-based strength training in young women. Springerplus. 2014;3(1). doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-668
  2. Cristina-Souza G, Santos-Mariano A, Souza-Rodrigues C et al. Menstrual cycle alters training strain, monotony, and technical training length in young. J Sports Sci. 2019;37(16):1824-1830. doi:10.1080/02640414.2019.1597826
  3. Hill M. Period Power: Harness Your Hormones And Get Your Cycle Working For You. 1st ed.; 2019.

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