The female cycle
By Master Annick Van Driessche,
checked and confirmed by the ITF
Medical & Anti-Doping Committee
There are 2 main phases in the menstrual cycle:
- The first part starts at the beginning of the bleeding, the start of the menstruation, and end with the ovulation (middle of the cycle).
- The second part, the premenstrual phase, finishes with the start of the menstruation.
The whole cycle takes about 28 days. This is an average however, for some women it’s 25 days, while with others it can take 35 days.
In the beginning of the cycle the level of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) is lower. The follicle phase occurs during the first half of the cycle. The Luteal phase is the second half of the cycle.
A womens hormones changes during these two stages. Such as during the follicle phase the hormonelevels are lower than in the luteal phase where there is higher hormone levels.
The body will build up muscles faster, there is a better recovery, especially after menstruation it’s easier to practise. In the second phase the body is preparing fort he menstruation. Especially the last 10 days before the menstruation starts, the body has less energy. Women can feel less energetic.
When practising, in the first part of the cycle emphasis can be put on cardio and high intensity. In the second phase it’s better to focus on recovery and take things somewhat easier.
Of course, every woman is different, every body is different, and every month can be different. We can not generalize.
Hormones fluctuate during the month, which explains why it is easier to practise Taekwon-Do and sports on some moments, and why it’s more difficult on others. In general the moments just before the start of the menstruation are the moments the body will have the biggest energy loss.
Acknowledge this, it’s normal!
Practising during menstruation?
The female cycle in general and menstruation in particular has a big influence on the well-being, the way we can practise and our performances.
Should we stay home during the menstruation? If you feel like staying home, you could do that of course, if it makes you feel better. Listen to your body, the signs it gives you. You are the only one who understands what your body is telling you.
But do you need to stay at home? No, on the contrary. You can take it a bit easier, focus on recovery. Your body needs more carbohydrates and calories to function properly. Furthermore, your body requires more water during the luteal phase - more hormones equals a higher risk of dehydration. It’s a good idea to keep on training however:
Training decreases the pain. As moving stimulates the blood circulation, which also occurs in the uterus, this may reduce cramps. The pain in the back will be decreased, and the general well-being will be bigger. Another advantage is that through practising Taekwon-Do the body will produce endorphines, the ‘feel-good hormones’, which will help increase the overall well-being. You will havemore energy, and sleep better.
During menstruation you can have abdominal bloating. This happens when the body retains fluid, the body weight can change for 2 up to 5 kg during this period. This will be a bit less when you keep training during menstruation, because you will be sweating.
So, there are some advantages when training during menstruation, but: what you do, when you do it and with which intensity…. let it be determined by how you feel. Be aware that sleep, nutrition and stress also play a role in how you feel during these days.
During menstruation it’s even more important to keep an eye on the personal hygiene than on other moments.