The Knowledge by Wahoo

Cycling during your cycle, Part 2: How to train when the moon is on your side.

Episode Summary

Female endurance athletes have a few more things to think about than their male counterparts when it comes to managing their training. In this second episode in a two-part series, Dr. Jinger Gottschall and coach Suzie Snyder continue their exploration of cycles: the 28-day kind.

Episode Notes

Female endurance athletes have a few more things to think about than their male counterparts when it comes to managing their training. In this second episode of a two-part series, Dr. Jinger Gottschall and coach Suzie Snyder continue their exploration of cycles: the 28-day kind. From how to adjust your training to nutrition strategies, Dr. J and coach Suzie reveal easy, practical techniques to help female endurance athletes maximize their performance.


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Episode Transcription

Suzie Snyder  0:00  

Hey and welcome back to another episode of the knowledge by Wahoo. I'm Susie Snyder, a multisport coaching specialist here at Wahoo.


Jinger Gottschall  0:08  

And I'm Dr. Ginger Gottschall, Director of applied sports research. Today we're continuing our discussion about how the menstrual cycle impacts training and performance. In other words, Susie, we're going to be talking about Aunt Flo. The Red Wedding,


Suzie Snyder  0:25  

Shark Week, or time of the month for us. Yes, we're


Jinger Gottschall  0:29  

about Code Red, red. I like Crimson Tide.


Suzie Snyder  0:33  

There's also just our period.


Jinger Gottschall  0:36  

I prefer girl flu.


Suzie Snyder  0:38  

Oh, what about on the rag? Or lady? Lady?


Jinger Gottschall  0:45  

Whatever you choose to call, actually, can we just call it period?


Suzie Snyder  0:48  

Your period? Yeah,


Jinger Gottschall  0:49  

I think so. Period.


Suzie Snyder  0:51  

Yeah. That's the most common that's, I guess that's what people don't like to say. But right. That's what it is. Right? That's the common term? Yes. Let's just say


Jinger Gottschall  1:00  

it. And I'll be honest, I don't love the word menstrual cycle.


Suzie Snyder  1:03  

No, it's just a mouthful. It's a mouthful.


Jinger Gottschall  1:06  

I always spell it wrong. But we'll just go with period.


Suzie Snyder  1:10  

Yeah. So if you caught the first episode, awesome. That was kind of our classroom session where we talked about the anatomy and physiology of the woman's body and how the menstrual cycle works, and give you a little bit of the fun, comical history in regard to women's sports and women not being allowed to participate in endurance sports, because they thought our uterus would fall out if we ran more than 200 meters. That would really


Jinger Gottschall  1:39  

hurt by the way. I can't


Suzie Snyder  1:41  

imagine. I think they needed a physiology lesson.


Jinger Gottschall  1:43  

Yes, impossible.


Suzie Snyder  1:45  

So this episode is actually going to focus more on the application component. How does this affect us, as women athletes, in our training, as coaches, for all you men out there, keep listening, because this is really valuable information for you to know. I mean, I can't imagine there are any men out there who don't coach any women. And if you don't understand how a woman's period affects her in training, then how can you really effectively coach her to the best of your ability, right


Jinger Gottschall  2:14  

and beginning that dialogue to just be open about it, because another point that we want to make sure is very clear, despite all that we know about a woman's cycle. And when she gets her period, and when she's supposed to be feeling great versus low energy, when high intensity is good. As we're going to give you some guidelines today, it's not always the same. And unfortunately, it can also vary from cycle to cycle. So all we can do is do our best to understand the classic scenarios, and then try to learn what each individual's regular cycle is, and then how to adapt to it. Right.


Suzie Snyder  2:55  

You know, like every woman whose cycle varies and changes, each phase of the cycle has its own impacts on the physical and really mental ability to train and race because they do go together. You know, obviously, it's important for us women to know what's happening and understand because we have to deal with it firsthand, we can't just pretend it doesn't affect us anymore.


Jinger Gottschall  3:16  

Exactly. And not talk about it. Right. Let's review just some of the very basics. And then Susie is going to take each phase basically and break it down for us with respect to what it means in response to training, how to adapt the plan, we're going to speak about a 28-day cycle. The first 14 is the follicular phase. And that begins with the actual woman having her period. It will then continue with ovulation at day 14 and then get into the luteal phase, which is either the preparation for pregnancy or the preparation to shed the uterus lining again and get your period. So when we talk about these, just make sure you're recognizing day one through seven or the beginning of the follicular phase is actually getting the period ovulation 14 And then luteal phase after that.


Suzie Snyder  4:10  

Right. So I think as women athletes and for men coaches, you know, certain the dialogue about our periods when it's happening in our training cycles, you know, for us women, we should just enter that information into our calendar, you know, training peaks or whatever platform you're using with your coach. Women just go in there, right? Day one of cycle or period starts or whatever, whatever you need to do whatever you're comfortable with, you can take a little pressure off your coach and he doesn't have to feel so awkward. It kind of opens the door for him to say, Okay, how does this affect you? And you can then offer up that information. Now, it doesn't really affect me that much. But I think it's important for you to know, or you know what day one and two, I feel lousy, I can't do anything. I have cramps, I have back pain, whatever. As you know, he knows he can give you like days or days off, or whatever it is. But I think a lot of men think that just because you have your period, you don't feel good. And you're or you don't want to train hard, or you shouldn't train hard when in reality, that's kind of the opposite.


Jinger Gottschall  5:17  

And another thing is, if you have a female coach, then doing some note comparison, I think is helpful. But also making sure that you recognize there could be extreme differences between the two of you. And that, that's normal also, but if you are a woman coach coaching another woman, don't assume that you know it all, then and you're just going by how you feel, because your athlete may have completely different regular symptoms at any one time. So again, it is all about dialogue, tracking, and being honest with yourself and your coach about how you feel and when don't try to smooth it over. Be like, no, okay, I'm great. If you feel like not great, say it, and try to understand when that happens in your cycle,


Suzie Snyder  6:07  

right. And that's where tracking comes in and can be really helpful in you know, seeing patterns, because really, until this year, I didn't track it. It was just, I actually didn't have a lot of symptoms a lot of times or most times. So I just kind of went along with my training plan, as usual. And if I was a little bit more tired than usual, I would kind of just chalk it up to Oh, yesterday's training session was hard or whatever, but never actually thought about how my cycle could be affecting me. Yeah. So this year, I started tracking a little bit better and have actually seen, you know, been able to connect the dots and see how to like now that I know what's happening. And I feel really tired or sluggish, or my breathing rates higher. I'm like, Oh, wow. And then the luteal phase. Yeah, that makes sense. And I'm like, wow, knowing this kind of stinks. But it's also kind of cool. At the same time,


Jinger Gottschall  7:03  

knowledge is power, it really is, it is a psychological boost, to actually put some education behind how you're feeling, and then can be a motivating factor in terms of knowing when you may be able to push things a little bit more, and take some pressure off you as the athlete or the coach to then say, hey, totally fine, today's not the day, here's how we're going to modify and then we're going to be back at it. So it's really helpful to understand these small potential differences that you may feel. So let's go about it by phase. Let's talk about the follicular phase first, and what are some potential guidelines we could give coaches and our athletes about that how they could feel


Suzie Snyder  7:52  

like we said, this follicular phase is the first seven days or the menstrual phase. The first seven, follicular is the first 14. And this is when you actually your physiology is the most like a man's physiology. So think of this as like your baseline, because your hormones are low, they're not wreaking havoc on your body preparing it for other things. This is when it's a really good time to do high-intensity exercise. So maybe not in the first couple days of your period, if you have cramps or back pain, or if you have symptoms that just don't make you feel like training hard. For a lot of women, it seems like that only lasts a couple of days. And then, you know, that gives you almost two weeks of really, really great high-intensity training time. So if you can plan your training accordingly, for those two weeks to get some really key high-intensity sessions in, that's great. You know, the sessions where you're working at high heart rate FTP, and map-based threshold workouts where your heart rates are high, your strength is good, you can do repeated efforts with less rest time. Those are the kind of workouts that you want to do during this phase.


Jinger Gottschall  9:04  

If you're on then three weeks on build cycle and one week off, then that week two, and three, where you're really starting to hit it before your recovery week, that would be perfect for the follicular phase. Yeah, get it to get that high intensity. And for me, it's a real mental boost because I know my pain tolerance is a little bit higher. So for me, my plyo work is where it hurts the most. But I know I can actually go for it a little bit bigger, put a couple more inches on those blocks, and go for it. So


Suzie Snyder  9:41  

yeah, planning ahead helps. But the other case for planning some training session hard training sessions during both your period and the rest of your follicular phase. You know what if you have a race come up or an event or something where, you know, you can't plan this in advance. You can't play in your cycle to match up with your events. So what Have you gone to an event and you have your period? Or you get it during like, you've got to be mentally prepared for this and you can't be all psyched out like, oh, I have my period, I'm not going to perform well, no, you can't think that way,


Jinger Gottschall  10:12  

when in fact, if that's if you are getting your period around your event, that's actually a good thing.


Suzie Snyder  10:19  

Absolutely. And you know what, another fun fact, Paula Radcliffe set the marathon world record in 2002. With menstrual cramps during the race, she felt terrible. And she's still set a world record. So maybe that's a little shameless plug for our mental training program. But I think, you know, just being mentally strong and prepared can make a huge difference.


Jinger Gottschall  10:44  

totally can. So what about after the follicular phase ends, you have your ovulation around day 14 is, is that a day where we should be changing or modifying or thinking that?


Suzie Snyder  10:58  

Well, on day 14, when your egg is released, you also get an increase in heart rate. So as endurance athletes, you know, we tend to do a lot of workouts where our heart rates are quite high, day 14 may not be a great day for a workout that has a sustained threshold or map effort or something like that rise in estrogen is anabolic. So that does make it a great time for strength work, or strength-building activities, things like big gear efforts on the bike, where you can ride in a really big gear or high resistance, but not at a high heart rate. So those work out really well hills, running hills if you can find a steep hill where you're not running really fast to get your heart rate up, but it's kind of the grinding grind. Yeah. And strength training also, but


Jinger Gottschall  11:49  

I do want to also comment, this is absolutely the day when I put on those bike shorts or a pair of exercise capris, and they feel tight and bloated. So it's also the day that I don't want to choose the hill repeats where I'm going for high heart rate because I literally feel like I'm gonna roll backward. It's I, I know, I feel 10 pounds heavier. So


Suzie Snyder  12:16  

yeah, and you know, it kind of works out because your immune system might be slightly impaired on this day as well. So you don't want to go do a really hard workout that's going to bring your immune system down and make you more susceptible to catching a cold or whatever. And it kind of works out pretty well.


Jinger Gottschall  12:33  

It does so ovulation. I know it's one day. So that's where the tracking comes in to try to figure out what that is. Yeah. All right, then how about the second half? What do we get here for the luteal phase?


Suzie Snyder  12:44  

Oh boy, this is the phase that we generally start to feel a little more tired. So as we know, our hormones, both progesterone, and estrogen are starting to steadily rise, because they're preparing our body to either be pregnant or shed that lining again. But really, progesterone is rising in preparation for a baby to grow. A lot of energy is going into that function. And we have a little bit less energy for training and I guess all other aspects of life. So maybe that's why we get a little grumpy, a little more hungry, tired because our body is just working overtime.


Jinger Gottschall  13:25  

This is the perfect time when you can do those workouts that you never dread. The ones when you see on your schedule and you're like oh cool, I got this. Whether that be something that is the typical strength you typically rock it out regardless give yourself a little break in terms of being hard on yourself and be mentally prepared that if this isn't the day that there's always tomorrow,


Suzie Snyder  13:51  

right? Yeah, it's is a great phase for doing neuromuscular workouts or efforts. So really high intensity but really really short torso Sprint's plyometrics long recoveries are the keys which you should have with this type of training anyway. And then just general endurance training, lower intensity aerobic tend to be the most widely recommended among the research during this phase. But you know, you can't do two weeks of low-intensity training always. So if you are going to do some higher intensity, you know, threshold work or vo to work you just need to fuel both before your session and during so during the session, take in more carbohydrates, a little more fluid beforehand hydration to just really get your body primed and give it what it needs in order to perform.


Jinger Gottschall  14:47  

So there you have some of the basics with respect to the phases and how you may feel but please take our bottom line which is the track for yourself. Be honest with your coach and those who are helping you with your training plan and really learn what's best for you in terms of how to maximize your time training as well as performance.


Suzie Snyder  15:14  

Absolutely. Well, that's a wrap on Episode Two. I hope you learned a whole bunch, or at least something


Jinger Gottschall  15:20  

and you never know we may be back to tell you even more about your period.


Suzie Snyder  15:25  

That's right. This discussion can just keep ongoing.


Jinger Gottschall  15:28  

Go lady business