How to Practice Cycle Syncing With Workouts

You may have already heard of cycle syncing. In the last few years, it’s been spreading on the news and talked about by health influencers on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Cycle syncing was introduced by integrative nutritionist Alisa Vitti in 2014, who wrote about it in her book “WomanCode.” In 2019, the strategy was adopted by U.S. women athletes training for the World Cup — which may be responsible for its rise in pop-culture discourse in the 2020s.

That “time of the month” can be a period (no pun intended) of physical pain, cravings and lethargy. And while experiences vary, it typically isn’t a time of high energy. That’s why some athletes have taken to planning lower-intensity workouts during their period and higher-intensity workouts at other parts of their cycle.

[Read: Binge Eating Before Your Period]

How to “Sync” Your Cycle

Known as cycle syncing, the strategy is based on the idea that planning workouts around the four stages of the menstrual cycle may help balance your hormones and optimize your athletic performance. That’s because the body needs to conserve more energy during your period — and conversely, has more energy to expend when ovulating. During the stages in between — the follicular and luteal phase — energy levels are either bouncing back or dropping in preparation for what’s to come.

Before someone can start syncing their cycle with their workouts, they should have a good understanding of their own cycle. This includes, on average, how long their cycle lasts, as well as how their body feels in different stages. The average length of a menstrual cycle is between 21 and 35 days, the sweet spot for most people being 28 days in length. But the exact length can vary from person to person, as can feelings and energy levels during their cycle. And like the cycle itself, people’s athletic goals and interests are not one-size-fits-all.

With that in mind, here’s how cycle syncing could influence athletic performance throughout the different stages and vice versa.

Cycle syncing workouts typically follow this pattern:

Menstruation: Gentle workouts or rest days are encouraged.

Follicular stage: Cardio, strength training or high-intensity workouts are recommended.

Ovulation: Cardio, strength training or high-intensity workouts are recommended.

Luteal stage: Gentle workouts or rest days are encouraged.

[READ: Understanding What Happens During Ovulation.]


Menstruation is the first stage of the cycle, where someone bleeds or has “a period.” This happens when hormonal changes — from high to low levels of estrogen and progesterone — cause the body to shed the uterus lining, if the person is not pregnant.

This occurs about once a month and lasts for about three to seven days. During this stage, your body may be feeling low-energy and sluggish. That’s because it is, according to Laura Fletcher, a certified doula and coach who works with clients on how to increase their fertility.

“We are exerting energy; we’re (excreting) iron. It’s a time when our body biologically wants us to slow down and rest,” says Fletcher. “We want to be more gentle with ourselves.”

Prioritizing rest in the form of sleep, off-days and gentle workouts, like low-intensity Pilates, yoga and walking, is optimal at this time, she adds.

[READ: Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period?]

Follicular stage

Next is the follicular stage, which lasts about a week. This stage prepares the body for ovulation by increasing hormone levels, eventually producing an egg. Both estrogen and the follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH, increase in this stage, so energy levels are (typically) also amping up.

This opens room for higher-intensity workouts like high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, or cardio — if it is in line with a person’s other health goals, interests and capabilities at this time, says Fletcher.

“We can do strength training, we can do hiking, we can potentially work in some HIIT, ” adds Fletcher. “If we’re trying to lower our body mass index or build strength, then this would be the time to do that.”


Ovulation tends to be the shortest stage of the menstrual cycle, lasting about one day and occurring at about day 14. At this time, the body releases the luteinizing hormone, or LH, which prompts the ovaries to release the egg.

Like the follicular stage, energy levels tend to be high during ovulation. This is a good time to get in another high-intensity workout.

Luteal stage

The luteal phase lasts from ovulation until the end of the cycle — which could either be marked by a period or a pregnancy. This is also a stage in which it can be important to conserve energy, particularly for people who are trying to get pregnant, Fletcher says.

She recommends doing exercises “similar to what we do during our menstrual cycle: gentle, soft, nurturing motion and movement,” as well as stress-reducing activities.

[See: 6 Exercises Women Should Do Every Day.]

Why Light Exercise May Be Better During a Heavy Period

Although society can glamorize pushing the limits, experts say that the best way to take care of your body is often to listen to its needs, even if that means it’s time to pull back. Active bleeding puts the body in a vulnerable state, which can be most effectively addressed by reducing exertion and increasing care, says Fletcher.

In addition to changes like blood loss, iron loss and energy depletion, the uterus also shifts in position during menstruation. Specifically, the cervix drops lower to the pelvic floor, explains Dr. Janelle Howell, a pelvic floor physical therapist and owner of V Rehab Services. Howell, also known as “Vagina Rehab Doctor” on Instagram and Tik Tok, says that this change puts the pelvic organs in a more injury-prone position, which low-impact exercises like stretching and yoga can best support.

Doing exercises that require strain, require more lifting or are high-impact can impact the pelvic floor, Howell says.

This doesn’t mean that people who menstruate cannot or should not perform high-intensity workouts during their period, however.

“We can do anything at any time of the month,” says Howell. “But in terms of when our body is most prepared to help us thrive in those activities, it will be when we’re ovulating.”

Even more so than exercise, Howell emphasizes the importance of focusing on healthy nutrition while menstruating.

“The biggest thing — that is important — is nourishing the body because we’re losing blood and we’re losing nutrients,” she says.

While people shouldn’t neglect good nutrition at other times of their cycle, either, Howell recommends increasing focus on protein-rich foods and fruits while menstruating. She suggests magnesium-rich foods like spinach, almonds and dark chocolate to “help relax the uterus and expand the blood vessels” and fight discomfort.

[See: 9 Useful Gym Machines for Women.]

Now You Know How to Cycle Sync — Should You Do It?

While some people rave about cycle syncing, experts are hesitant to sing its praises just yet.

“There is no medical evidence that one cannot work out reasonably during the menses. It is all a personal preference,” says Dr. Janis D. Fee, an OB-GYN and department chair at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, California.

Fee adds that shorter and lighter workouts can help patients who feel nauseated, dizzy or are experiencing very heavy bleeding. However, “a medium-level aerobic workout may help with (premenstrual syndrome), normalize bodily blood flow and even help with cramps,” says Fee.

Fletcher doesn’t recommend cycle syncing for all of her clients, as it can at times lead to unnecessary or unhealthy obsessions with working out and the body.

“Whether we’re talking about nutrition, wellness or exercise, anything that becomes obsessive can be very dangerous for us,” says Fletcher. “We have to be careful not to overly focus on and overhype (cycle syncing) because it can lead to really obsessive behaviors.”

More often, she talks to clients about the importance of setting healthy exercise routines and avoiding over-exercising throughout their entire cycle, she adds.


Despite what our Instagram feeds may tell us, extra gym time isn’t always healthy.

“Overly exerting ourselves can burn out our ovaries; it can burn out our bodies in general,” says Fletcher.

Burnout isn’t good for anyone, but it can be especially detrimental for someone who is trying to get pregnant, says Fletcher.

Among other undesirable side effects, over-exercising can impact ovulation and “can formulate a scenario in which our hormones are not functioning properly because we essentially go into ‘survival mode,'” adds Fletcher. “We’re losing a lot of that vital energy required by our reproductive system to create healthy eggs, healthy embryos and therefore healthy pregnancies and babies.”

If the body feels overworked or unsafe due to something like over-exercising, it may shut down the reproductive cycle for some time, causing a person to menstruate irregularly or not get a period.

Fletcher adds that the good news is that this can be addressed, and she’s worked with several clients who have recovered their fertility after lowering the number of times they work out, or switching up the types of exercises they perform — for example, incorporating more gentle yoga and not only HIIT. With commitment, she notices it can take about two to three months for people’s hormones to adjust, she says — “which, in the grand scheme of things, is not long,” she adds.

“Their bodies start to feel safe again and their bodies start to store weight appropriately and menstruate appropriately, ovulate appropriately — it’s really incredible to witness actually,” says Fletcher.

Cycle Syncing Without Fertility Goals

Cycle syncing and — or addressing over-exercising — isn’t exclusively for people trying to get pregnant. The methods can also have benefits for people who are not able to, or do not want to, have children.

Hormonal balance is “important and imperative at any stage of life,” says Fletcher.

Some other things that balanced hormones can promote include:

Stress management and mental health.

— Hunger cues and appetite.

— A healthy metabolism.

— Energy levels.

If people notice that any of the above feels off, especially if they are getting light, irregular or no period, it could be a sign that hormones are out of balance. In these cases, it is most beneficial to seek help from a professional such as a doctor, dietitian or fertility expert.

For people who are menstruating regularly and are otherwise feeling OK, cycle syncing could be a way to give them an extra energy boost at certain times of the month.

Cycle Syncing Support

People who want to start cycle syncing their workouts can do so manually, or use a period tracking app for support.

Brittany Hugoboom, the founder of 28 Wellness, an app that helps users track their menstrual cycle to optimize their health, suggests a period-tracking app can help people better understand their bodies without having to do all the groundwork alone.

In the 28 app, and other tracking apps like it, users input data about their menstrual cycle, which the technology then uses to determine where the user is in their cycle, what’s happening to their body, “why it’s happening and what (they) can do about it to feel better,” Hugoboom says. Cycle-synced workout and nutrition suggestions are also included, she adds.

In addition to tracking, Hugoboom stresses the value of trying to “remove anything that is disrupting your natural cycle,” like stress, over-exercising or for some people, certain types of hormonal birth control, in improving hormonal health and well-being.

Still, tracking apps aren’t for everyone — nor is cycle syncing. Especially for people who feel prone to obsessive behaviors, Fletcher discourages downloading a tracker right away. She recommends feeling out the physical sensations of their body by asking questions like: “What is your body telling you? What do you feel intuitively that you need?” And listening for the answer.

More from U.S. News

Exercises for Men: Essential Workouts for Your Fitness Routine

Best Personal Training and Workout Plan Apps

Understanding Fertility: What Happens During Ovulation

How to Practice Cycle Syncing With Workouts originally appeared on

Update 06/28/24: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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