Ladies: there are times when your workout feels harder to you than it really should, and it’s not because the workout itself is challenging.
In 2009, I began strength training with my friend Caitlin and we had a personal trainer. Caitlin was stronger in her upper body, and I was stronger in my lower body. Well, one day our trainer Lynn asked us to do chest presses while lying on stability balls for 45 seconds, and we were supposed to count how many we could do. We had actually done this workout before, and I was so frustrated that physically I could only do half as many as I did the week before; not to mention Caitlin seemed to do 3 times what I did, and she was not feeling weak like I was. Actually during that entire workout, I felt significantly weaker than normal, even though after training together for months, I actually got much stronger.
I started crying a little because I was so frustrated at my seeming decline in strength. She explained that, because we are women with menstrual cycles and a variety of hormones that fluctuate, sometimes it is accurate to say we are not as strong in that moment.
Now, let’s talk about the moon. There’s actually a correlation between the moon and the menstrual cycle. If you think about it practically, it makes sense. It takes the moon about 28 days to revolve around the sun, and the average menstrual cycle is about 28 days. Some women who are really “in tune” with the moon cycles will actually go through certain stages, like ovulation, at the same time the moon is full every month.
The moon has two phases: waxing and waning. For the two weeks after a full moon, the moon is waning, and that’s when you can see less of it until it becomes the New Moon. Then for two weeks, you can see more of the moon every day in the sky.
Symbolically, the waxing (increasing) stage of the moon represents an increase in energy. The waning phase represents a decrease in energy. (I’m simplifying). Since I began thinking about the fluctuation in progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen; and the moon cycle, I began understanding why I felt like I needed more rest days at certain times of the month. I even give myself more rest time from work. Less effort overall during those days, I’d say.
Part of my coaching includes guiding people to understand, respect and honor their bodies more. A significant requirement to respecting your body is understanding what it wants. Last week, I gave myself three rest days in a row. Unusual, but I listened to my body and my intuition. I got back at it with two different workouts yesterday and today, and I KILLED them. Like, I felt so amazing because I had 72+ hours of rest. Now, it wasn’t complete rest. I danced a lot at home and did some stretching and yoga.
I’ve been on a 6-week training plan by a brilliant trainer named John Romaniello. His plan includes 5 different kinds of workouts a week over six weeks. There are three possible schedules you can follow. Sometimes I need extra rest days and it might take me 7-8 weeks to do a 6-week training plan. I do NOT call myself lazy or feel like I’m “not strong enough,” or otherwise feel bad about myself. I do not feel like I’m compromising results by taking rest days. I actually compliment myself for being super in tune with what my body really needs. The other part of this is that exercise is only a tiny part of the puzzle to have a body you feel good in. Nutrition, mindset, and feeling good emotionally are the other big components.
If you are on a mission to create a body you love, I think the two most important ingredients are to have fun and to listen to your body. Listen to your body closely in terms of both exercise and food. Now, I have some blogposts about cravings in the works, but I’ll share that cravings for sweets are not always to be honored. My super-strong belief is that cravings for anything that doesn’t provide nutrients is actually a craving to add more fun, playfulness, creativity and sweetness to your life.
Give yourself permission to know and respect your body more. As I like to say, “make your own rules and re-invent them regularly.”
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