Women- Plan Running Around Your Cycle

Another running post in my series for Race 13.1.  The Richmond race will be here before you know it so sign up!


I listened to the most interesting podcast through Runner Academy the other day.  It was by Dr. Jason Karp and you can hear the entire conversation HERE.

A man’s hormonal environment is pretty stable, a woman’s hormonal environment, well I don’t have to tell you.  Here’s a summary of how our roller coaster of hormones can help/hurt us when training.

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1.  Your cycle can hurt or help you with intense workouts

When you have the most estrogen, you feel the best.  In other words, you can expect to perform better during times of the menstrual cycle when estrogen is the dominant hormone and perform the worst when progesterone is the dominant hormone.  Estrogen is the dominant hormone leading up to ovulation (the beginning of your cycle)  Progesterone takes over until your actual period (the end of your cycle).

Take away- Plan your intense training during your high estrogen moments.

2. Your body temperature fluctuates during your cycle. 

Women’s body temperatures peak during the luteal phase in response to the surge in progesterone- it must reach a higher temperature before her thermostat compensates and begins to cool itself.  This is NOT ideal when you’ve got a run scheduled on a hot, humid day.

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 However, estrogen has the opposite effect- decreasing body temperature.

Take away- If you’re in the luteal phase, run with ice packs.  If you can, plan hot, humid runs on high estrogen days (beginning of your cycle).

3.  Estrogen burns fat.

Women rely more on fat than men when running at the same pace, due to the hormone estrogen.  Even though carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for running, women can alternate between using fat and carbs, which makes them able to last longer.  This is one of the reasons women seem to podium more in ultramarathons (but who really wants to run that far just to beat a man?!).  Unfortunately, carbs give us quicker bursts of energy, which is why women have a harder time sprinting against men… ok only SOME women 😉

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Take away- Sign up for an ultra-marathon.  You’ll beat the men!

4.  Breathing is greater during the luteal phase (high progesterone)

So, a female runner may feel more winded during her luteal phase workouts.

Take away- Blame “that run” on your cycle, but don’t give up!

5.  Women need to check their health BEFORE starting a training plan.

Because of estrogen (which is the most important determinant of bone density), women need to be aware of conditions that can reduce the hormone.  Menstrual irregularities or absent menstrual cycles (amenorrhea) and after menopause are these conditions causing less estrogen.  They are a significant risk factor for osteoporosis in active wome

Take away-  Get yourself checked out if your cycle is irregular or absent.  Include adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, and strength training.


Tomorrow I run the Monument 10K with almost 40,000 other Richmonders!

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Sutton was technically underneath that bib last year!

Everyone running- GOOD LUCK!

Noticed any differences in your workouts throughout the month?

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4 thoughts on “Women- Plan Running Around Your Cycle

  1. Courtney says:

    I’m curious how birth control factors into this. I’m have a Mirena implant which means that I don’t even have a cycle to know where I may be. Also I’m not sure if the hormones in Mirena would lead to the same scenarios/timing. Is that mentioned in the podcast?

  2. vitatrain4life says:

    This is crazy because I JUST finished reading this same thing in a book by Dr. Jordan Metzl. I never really think about that much since I’m lucky I don’t have a ton of issues with my cycle, but it’s something to think about for sure!! Great info as usual…

  3. Change of Pace says:

    All very interesting! Women certainly do have it a lot tougher than men!
    By the way- I tried a couple recipes you had linked to the other weeks. My fave? The chickpea cauliflower tacos! Thanks for the inspiration to try some new recipes!

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