Just like the stay-at-home mum versus the corporate warrior, females fall into all sorts of stereotypes when it comes to training.
You know them.
There are the super muscular Olympic-lifting women with chiselled features and what seem like twelve-packs.
There are the aerobic cardio lovers who won’t lift more than 2kgs for the fear of bulking up and turning into example A.
There are also the genetically slim women who might not necessarily even train at all.
But, regardless of the latest #fitspo trend, and regardless of the million different ideas behind what constitutes as ‘typically’ fit – how should you really apply your training as a female?
Virgin Active PT and nutrition coach Vanessa Leone says ‘there are so many intricacies when it comes to training women that most people don’t take into account at all - the first one being our hormonal state’.
Vanessa tells us that many women don’t take enough notice of their monthly cycle and how it affects their performance, and some women who exercise too much and eat too little are at risk of not getting their period at all.
‘Physical exercise is a stress on your body - in a good way - but when you sit at a low percentage of body fat, your body system is major stress. The implications of being in that super-lean category include an increased risk of osteoporosis, hormonal changes, adrenal fatigue, and stress fractures. When you’re not getting your period, your body is ultimately in survival mode. It needs to keep you alive first before it can keep a foetus alive’.
Although it might seem like a drag, Vanessa insists that your menstrual cycle doesn’t need to hamper your fitness regime at all. In fact, planning around it gives you the perfect monthly training cycle, no matter what type of training you do.
Week 1 – 2
Your first week to week and a half of ovulation is when you’re badass. This is when you’re at your strongest; when you can really push your boundaries.
If working hard to you means focussing on your strength training, this is the time to lower the reps and use heavier weights. If cardio or group exercise is more your thing – this is your time to shine.
But this doesn’t mean training every single day. If you’re going to do something every day - other than breathing and drinking water – you’re going to extreme. Try to find a happy medium.
The week before or leading up to your period is when you need to be careful of certain movements. As your hormones begin to change, and everything starts to relax, your pelvis goes through a bit of instability.
As your pelvis is your centre-point of strength, you might feel better doing something a little more stationary this week. This is the time to lower your weights and instead focus on reps, or you might want to swap out jumping and plyometric movements for a Pilates class.
Vanessa Leone is a Personal Trainer at Virgin Active Moore Park. She specialises in rehabilitation, performance training, weight loss, functional training, and trigger point therapy. Vanessa’s philosophy: It’s not about the way you look, it’s about the way you live.
Even though it might seem like the last thing you want to do – training on your period can actually relieve the annoying symptoms in the first place.
High-intensity interval training is especially good if you experience painful periods, headaches or stiffness. It releases mood-boosting endorphins that help to assist with pain, blood flow, and help regulate your central nervous system.
However, certain styles of yoga or upside-down movements should be avoided during this time as they have been linked to vascular congestion.
All of this said – it’s ok to give yourself a break at any time during the month. It can be distinctly challenging to listen to your body if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but your body will give you clues on what’s right for you.
If you start leaving the gym feeling worse than before, then it’s probably time to tone it down. Focus on training just enough, rather than feeling the need to go every day.
Vanessa says ‘sometimes you do just need that rest, and when you finish your period, there’s badass week again, so you can go back and you can hit it!’