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Women Are Not Small Men - Understanding the Female Cycle

Coach Caron speaks on her exposure and thoughts on training specific to females.


Women Are Not Small Men.

About a year or so ago I discovered Dr. Stacy Sims and dove headfirst into female-specific training, nutrition and education.  Most of the current information and research about fitness and performance is done on young men. Women are left out of research data because hormonal fluctuations are believed to ‘skew’ the results.  So, most research is conducted on men and then generalized to women.

Except the problem is that women are not just small men.  Men and women don’t have the same physiology and what works for men doesn’t always work for women.

Considering at least half of our Madlab community is female, I want to take a moment to share some of what I have learned from Dr. Stacy Sims book ‘Roar’ (a must-read for coaches and female athletes!) as well as the Women’s Health Master Class program I took from the Nutritional Coaching Institute. 

Later I will discuss and explore how a female's cycle affect how they could train, eat and recover.

Week 1 Understanding Female Cycles

Let’s review the basics.

  • The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long (which doesn’t always run like clockwork).
  • A females cycle is broken into 2 x 14-day phases.
  • Follicular phase: Days 1 – 14.
  • Luteal phase: Days 15 – 28.
  • Ovulation occurs right about the middle of the 2 phases.
  • Everything is triggered by the rise and fall of our hormones.

Follicular Phase:

Day 1 to about day 5: you have your period (aka Menstrual phase).

Day 5: Ovaries start ramping up the production of Estrogen.  Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) rises and stimulates your ovaries to produce around 5 to 20 follicles, each containing an immature egg.  The healthiest egg will eventually mature, and the rest will be reabsorbed into your body.

Day 12: Estrogen levels surge along with Luteinizing hormone (LH), triggering ovulation, the most mature follicle ruptures and an egg is released from your fallopian tubes to your uterus.  Estrogen levels then dip briefly. (aka Ovulation phase).

Luteal Phase:

Day 14: Ruptured follicle and cells form a structure called Corpus Luteum, which produces high levels of Progesterone which rise above Estrogen levels to prepare the uterus for egg implantation and inhibit the release of FSH and LH.  

Day 21: Estrogen and Progesterone levels both peak.  

Day 28: If a fertilized egg isn’t implanted, Corpus Luteum degenerates, PMS symptoms kick in, progesterone and estrogen levels drop, and you shed uterine lining and we are back to Day 1 of your cycle.


Next time I will discuss the issues in each phase and how they affect female performance at the gym, during sleep, and during recovery.