For 16 days, many of us were captivated by the Rio Olympics, an event that showcased the best of the best with elite athletes competing against each other for medals and international status. Not to mention that the US women cleaned up! The Rio Olympics also was a stage on which gender issues and inequalities were highlighted. One taboo topic that became a buzz around the internet was menstruation and sports, due to a candid interview with Chinese backstroke swimmer Fu Yuanhui. Upon finishing a race, Fu Yuanhui openly stated that she had her period and was feeling “pretty weak and really tired.” What was so poignant is that she did not use her period as an excuse for not performing up to her standards of excellence. She simply reminded us that a woman’s period can be a time of discomfort and lower energy levels and addressed these shifts in energy openly and matter-of-factly rather than buying into the cultural stigma attached to menstruation. Women are still fighting for equality in pay, respect, and recognition in the workforce and in sports, so it’s not uncommon for us to put on a brave face and push through the pain of our periods in order to avoid judgement or ridicule that suggests we are “weak” or making “excuses.”
In a previous post, I spoke about how women go through life phases of introspection, creative action, and mastery and how a shift in perception can allow a woman to fully embrace each stage. Similarly, there can be another approach to women’s menstrual cycle - a way in which women can connect to their cycles (rather than power through their cycles) while managing demands and expectations in their lives based on the ebbs and flows of their energy levels. Let’s acknowledge that some commitments and requirements cannot be avoided or rescheduled; we live in busy times and are required to show up 100% for work, family, and if applicable, athletic events. But perhaps we can view scheduling more like a morning person or a night owl plans her daily activities, to best fit her most productive hours during the day. Like the early riser who gets a better work-out in the morning or the night owl who brainstorms solutions best in the middle of the night, women could connect to their bodies and flow with the natural changes in energy and focus throughout the course of a month and experience that feeling of being productive and grounded.
Scheduling work, family and social activities according to our monthly cycles might look something like this:
Menstruation: A woman may feel lower energy levels and a bit more reflective, introspective, and in need of down time. This probably would not be the best time to book loads of meetings or give a huge presentation. It would, however, be an optimal time for progress reviews, strategic planning, research, and rest days or lower impact cross training for athletes.
Follicular Phase - Ovulation (around day 5 – 15): A woman’s energy levels increase as does her desire to be more social. This may be a good time for starting new projects, giving presentations, holding brainstorming sessions, participating in networking events, and engaging in high intensity workouts.
Luteal Phase (around day 16 – 28): A woman’s energy may start to gradually lower and physical activity may feel more strenuous. During this time women may benefit from balanced rest and engagement, incorporating a self-care practice, and focusing on endurance type workouts.
This perspective is by no means stating that women cannot function at high levels of productivity and efficiency throughout their entire cycle, after all, we’ve been doing it for years! However, it is a suggestion that we, as women, may be able to function at an even higher level of success and vibrancy if we listen to our bodies and utilize our energy ebbs and flows to our benefit when engaging with our work, our family and friends, and our athletic training schedules. Can you just imagine the possibilities!?
Over to you – Have you found that your energy and focus changes throughout your menstrual cycle? If so, how do you thrive in each phase? Share your thoughts and experiences below.
To ebbs and flows,