Are HIIT workouts hurting your results?
Should women do HIIT workouts all month long? That is the million dollar question. I have been debating this question in my own training and with clients for the last few years now. Through the years most fitness & diets have been tested on males. Men respond to exercise and diets differently than women do. You can see this when a heterosexual couple starts to train together and typically the male loses weight faster, and responds to a program differently than their partner. We are not built the same the female body is a bit more complex.
In the past few years researchers have finally started studying a female's body response to exercise and certain diets. Do we get the same response? Should we be doing bootcamp style, high intensity workouts all month long? The answer no for women with regular menstrual cycles. Postmenopausal women it is said can do them all month long. But I put a huge * here as I've worked with many postmenopausal women and doing high intensity workouts all month long tends to leave them feeling depleted, defeated, and not wanting to workout.
Let's dive a little deeper. I have been a personal trainer now for 13 years and celebrating 8 years of running my own women's focused personal training & Ayurvedic wellness business. I have worked with over a hundreds of women through my years.
Why is it that some women can kill it at the gym week after week, month after month doing the hardest workouts and never see results?
Some say diet but I've worked with enough women who have honestly tracked their food. They were eating healthy, not under eating, and not reaching their wellness goals, something doesn't add up. Our hormones.
Women's hormones fluctuate every 28.5 days, while men's do every 24 hours. Men have a surge in the morning and their energy slowly dips throughout the day. Women go through 4 phases each month- menstrual, follicular, luteal, & ovulation. Those phases make us need more calories (237 more during the luteal & menstrual phases), make us more outgoing, make us more creative, or make us get stuff done.
I started questioning the way I was training myself and my female clients while in Katie Silcox Ayurveda school, which is focused on the feminine form of Ayurveda. I'm a big fan of slowing down and listening to your body but after being reminded that as a female, our menstrual cycle is our 5th vital sign.
I really looked at the way I was training and pushing my body. 47% of women in the United States have hormone imbalances! I realized I might be one of them after really tracking my cycle and noticing intense PMS symptoms I never used to get, really short cycles, and a huge dip in energy certain afternoons each month.
How is one to train with their cycle you might be asking what is the best thing to do each phase?
Not only is our cycle 28.5 days so is the lunar cycle. We as women sync up with the moon, it's fascinating and also scientific.
**If you are on birth control (birth control gives you a false bleed each month and you don't actually go through the ovulation phase on birth control) or postmenopausal, syncing up your workouts with the lunar cycle vs the cycle phases.
Day 1- is the first day of your cycle, days are approximate I use MyFlo app to track my cycle but I can also tell where I am each month now based on how I'm feeling. This does become more intuitive once you really focus on your cycle each month.
Days 1-5- Menstrual Phase
Days 5-10 - Follicular Phase
Days 11-15 - Ovulation Phase
Days 16-28 - Luteal Phase
Won't this take forever to learn or do?
I can tell you from personal experience it will take a few months to get a hang of the new schedule and to adjust your current training protocols. I can also say I feel so much better energy wise, health wise adjusting my workouts according to my cycle. When I do my more intense workouts they actually feel better in my body, I can push myself harder those few days. If you are looking for more support around working out with your cycle I have created a Hustle, Muscle & Flow that I created to help get women started with this process. It can be overwhelming at first and getting your first plan etched out can be a game changer if you feel called to learn the steps for your body.
If you have any questions or aha's you want to share with me let me know in the comments below, I always love hearing from you!