These days, women talking openly about and sharing information around their menstrual cycles is the norm. This shift has not gone unnoticed by big brands, with the likes of Nike acknowledging the positive ways that being in tune with your cycle can impact your day-to-day life – especially when it comes to exercise.
Nike’s NikeSync tool is designed to help women recognise the different phases in their cycle, and how you best to train according to the phase of their menstrual cycle they’re in. Their NikeSync training programme, which sits on the Nike Training Club app, has been designed, along with the Menstrual Cycle Audio Guided Run on Nike Running Club, to get users started in working with their cycles.
Fluctuations in hormones can have a big impact on how you perform, but also the type of exercise you might feel inclined to do. Once you understand your cycle, you can train accordingly, boosting your performance and in turn, your immunity, as well as lowering stress levels.
NikeSync was created with the help of Dr Stacy Sims, PhD, Global Expert on Female Athlete Physiology. As part of the collaboration, Dr Sims identified four phases in the menstrual cycle, which happen with big hormone changes: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the early luteal and the late luteal phase.
Each cycle begins with day one of the menstrual phase – the bleeding stage. As this is unique to each woman, it’s especially important to listen to your own body when planning a workout. At this point, when your levels of oestrogen and progesterone are typically at their lowest, you may benefit from weight training or sprints. However if you’re experiencing pain, more gentle exercise like yoga can help ease symptoms while simultaneously boosting your endorphins – a natural form of pain relief.
The follicular phase falls roughly from day seven to 14. By now you could be ready to run faster and feel more energetic. It’s also around the time that your oestrogen levels will start to rise, which in turn will bring you more strength, endurance and focus, so you could benefit from athletic options like HIIT workouts.
During the early luteal phase – around day 14 to 21 – Nike suggests lighter weights and aerobic training, with a focus on endurance and resistance. Think: longer hill runs and moderate resistance training. As this phase draws to a close, shorten your workouts and concentrate on lower-intensity activity.
The late luteal phase is all about recovery and mobility training to accommodate a rise in progesterone levels, as your body prepares for your next period. Suggestions include meditation, yoga and Pilates, or simply a long walk.
Tech giant Apple also has plenty to offer women seeking to better understand their cycle. The new Apple Watch Series 8 has innovative new temperature technology. Dr Sumbal Desai, Apple’s Vice President of Health, explains that “women’s health is vastly under researched and under focused on”, and as a result, Apple wants to help women become more informed about their health, with the aid of in-depth cycle tracking.
The dual temperature sensors introduced for Series 8 can detect deviations in temperature overnight (if you wear your watch to bed), even one as small as 0.1 degrees celsius. After you have worn your watch for two cycles, this allows for “retrospective ovulation detection”. Meaning it can identify the temperature change that accompanies the biphasic shift after you ovulate, and therefore notify the user when they’ve ovulated – which can be a helpful tool for family planning.
This story originally appeared on British Vogue.