Female Climber Series: Training around your cycle, is there a magic time?
Is there a magic phase in our menstrual cycle where athletic performance is at it’s best? In some ways it might be nice if there was because we would feel ready to try hard, but on the flipside this would mean that other parts of our cycle were suboptimal when it comes to maximal performances.
Despite all we say about “needing more research” I am pretty certain the answer to this is no. In our Facebook community alone I have seen a wide range of experiences with some climbers feeling great just before their period, to others feeling their best during their period. We are all different in how we experience our cycle, and on top of that there are so many other things that impact our climbing performance, trying to hit a magic day in our cycle for performance would be like trying to hit a moving target.
WHY ARE WE ALL SO DIFFERENT?
Although it is nice to look at the neat hormone profile that shows the fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle in reality our hormone profiles may look very different to this. We may ovulate on different days, have different ratios of estrogen and progesterone and have different receptor distribution. The list goes on for the ways in which variation may be caused between individuals menstrual cycle, but the key thing to remember is that we are not textbooks.
It is great to share experiences and learn from others but ultimately tracking and learning about your cycle is a n=1 experiment. We need to approach this with a curious mindset and be aware that what works for one person may not work for us. This is where building body literacy and looking out for the cues our bodies give us is number 1.
The menstrual cycle is not the big dictator: Although we may see patterns in symptoms associated with our cycle, these may not be the same all the time. Other things in our lives may compound symptoms, or relieve them. Being flexible is key and using tracking to be informed but not to predict how we may feel.