Training and the Menstrual Cycle: A Guide to the Phases and Their Impact.

Training and the Menstrual Cycle: A Guide to the Phases and Their Impact.

Understanding the different stages of a woman's menstrual cycle is crucial for female athletes and CrossFitters. This knowledge can help optimise workout performance and build a more comprehensive and personalised training plan. This article summarises the menstrual cycle, focusing on the follicular and luteal phases and how hormonal changes impact training during these phases.

The Follicular and Luteal Phases

The menstrual cycle usually lasts 28 days and can be divided into two major phases. These are called the follicular and luteal phases. Each stage can be divided into early, mid, and late sub-phases. We will discuss the hormonal changes in these sub-phases and how they can impact training.

Follicular Phase

Duration: Days 1-14 of the cycle

Hormones: Varying levels of estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

The follicular phase, also known as the preovulatory phase or proliferative phase is the time the body gets ready to release a mature egg, and estrogen levels rise. Women tend to experience increased energy, strength, and pain tolerance during this phase. This phase can be an opportune time to focus on more intense training, tackle high-intensity workouts, and increase lifting weights. The follicular phase can be divided into three sub-phases:

  1. Early Follicular Phase (Days 1-5): Low levels of estrogen and progesterone characterise the early follicular phase, which overlaps with the menstrual phase. Due to the hormone imbalance, energy may be reduced for some women during this phase. While moderate exercise may help alleviate menstrual discomfort2, listening to your body and avoiding pushing yourself too hard in your workouts may be wise.
  2. Mid-Follicular Phase (Days 6-9): Estrogen and FSH levels rise during the mid-follicular phase. This increase in hormones, along with the recovery from menstrual bleeding, can boost energy and performance3. Women may find it beneficial to increase workout intensity gradually during this sub-phase.
  3. Late Follicular Phase (Days 10-14): During the late follicular phase, estrogen levels peak and prepare the body for ovulation. This peak in estrogen can be associated with enhanced strength and endurance3. As such, this sub-phase may be an excellent time to focus on high-intensity workouts and push your limits.

Luteal Phase

Duration: Days 15-28 of the cycle

Hormones: Varying levels of progesterone and estrogen

The luteal phase features three sub-phases—early, mid, and late luteal—each with distinct hormonal profiles:

  1. Early Luteal Phase (Days 15-19): Progesterone levels rise during the early luteal phase, while estrogen levels slightly decrease. Some women may still experience high energy levels during this sub-phase 4, making it a suitable time for intense workouts.
  2. Mid-Luteal Phase (Days 20-24): Progesterone peaks, and estrogen levels continue to decline during the mid-luteal phase. These hormonal changes can lead to bloating, fatigue, and reduced pain tolerance[^5^]. Focusing more on mobility and flexibility exercises during this period may be beneficial.
  3. Late Luteal Phase (Days 25-28): Both progesterone and estrogen levels drop significantly during the late luteal phase, which can exacerbate premenstrual syndrome symptoms[^6^]. Consider reducing workout intensity and focusing on rest and recovery during this sub-phase.

Understanding the follicular and luteal phases, their hormonal shifts, and their impact on training can help female athletes and CrossFitters make informed workout decisions. Always listen to your body and adjust your training program accordingly.

Structuring Your Workouts in a 28-Day Cycle: Mastering the Micro-cycles

Incorporating seven micro-cycles of 3-day bursts with active recovery and rest in between is an excellent way to structure your workouts within a 28-day cycle. This approach allows you to align your training with the hormonal fluctuations experienced throughout your menstrual cycle. By aligning your workouts with your hormonal profile, you can tailor the training stimulus to your body's unique needs and focus on targeting specific areas within a manageable time frame.

How to Structure Workouts with 7 Micro-cycles

You can adjust each 3-day burst depending on the current phase of your menstrual cycle. Our recommendation and the cycle we use in our programming include moderate-intensity, low-intensity, and high-intensity workouts on days 1, 2, and 3, respectively, followed by an active recovery day. For example:

Micro-cycle 1 (Days 1-3): Early Follicular Phase

  • Day 1: Moderate-intensity, full-body workout
  • Day 2: Low-intensity cardio and flexibility training 
  • Day 3: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) or strength training

Micro-cycle 2 (Days 4-6): Mid Follicular Phase

  • Day 5: Moderate-intensity, full-body workout
  • Day 6: Low-intensity cardio or flexibility training
  • Day 7: High-intensity strength training

Micro-cycle 3 (Days 7-9): Late Follicular Phase

  • Day 9: Moderate-intensity, full-body workout
  • Day 10: Low-intensity cardio
  • Day 11: High-intensity cardio

Micro-cycle 4 (Days 10-12): Ovulation/Ovulatory Phase

  • Day 13: Moderate-intensity full-body workout
  • Day 14: Low-intensity cardio or flexibility training
  • Day 15: HIIT or strength training

Micro-cycle 5 (Days 13-15): Early Luteal Phase

  • Day 17: Moderate-intensity full-body workout
  • Day 18: Low-intensity cardio
  • Day 19: High-intensity strength training

Micro-cycle 6 (Days 16-18): Mid Luteal Phase

  • Day 21: Moderate-intensity full-body workout
  • Day 22: Low-intensity cardio or flexibility training
  • Day 23: High-intensity cardio

Micro-cycle 7 (Days 19-21): Late Luteal Phase

  • Day 25: Moderate-intensity, full-body workout
  • Day 26: Low-intensity cardio or flexibility training
  • Day 27: HIIT or strength training

Adding Active Recovery Days and Rest Days

In addition to these 3-day micro-cycles, you should incorporate an active recovery day after each burst and at least one full rest day per week, preferably after an active recovery day. These recovery days help give your body time to recover and allow you to perform optimally throughout the remaining workouts.

Implementing seven microcycles of 3-day bursts with active recovery and rest during a 28-day cycle allows you to adapt your training to the hormonal fluctuations experienced throughout your menstrual cycle. This approach enables you to align your training to your body's unique needs, optimise your performance, and maintain consistency in your training routine.


  1. Baker, F. C., & Lee, K. A. (2018). Menstrual cycle effects on sleep. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 13(3), 283-294. 
  2. Daley, A. (2009). The role of exercise in the treatment of menstrual disorders: the evidence. British Journal of General Practice, 59(562), 241-246. 
  3. Oosthuyse, T., & Bosch, A. N. (2010). The effect of the menstrual cycle on exercise metabolism. Sports Medicine, 40(3), 207-227.  ↩2
  4. Lebrun, C.M. (1995). The effect of the phase of the menstrual cycle and the birth control pill on athletic performance. Clinics in sports medicine, 


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