When to test: considerations for the natural and birth control cycle
You’ve been following a progressive training program. Your lifts have gotten stronger, you FEEL stronger, you FEEL fitter. It’s testing week. You’re a bit nervous, but you know that you should be able to smash some PRs this week. But you tank. WTF?! ✔️Your sleep is in check. ✔️You’re fueling appropriately. ✔️You’re following your training plan consistently ✔️You’re managing your stress and your recovery is on point … Then why did it not rain PRs this week? The female body is incredibly nuanced. This isn't a bad thing, it’s just interesting. It also means we have to pay attention a bit more.
Q: Are you aware of where in your cycle you’re completing your testing? Your cycle is this epic aid that can work with you to maximise your training. If you’re not yet tracking, start now. Use an app like Clue or FitrWoman. Give yourself at least 3 months of collecting data and tuning into how your cycle is. Specifically when it comes to training, make note of: 1. How it affects you before, during and after your period—where are you stronger? Less strong? 2. The length of it (this determines your follicular phase—the phase we want to maximise for training). For testing, keep it consistent. You will have more power output in the follicular phase of your cycle as opposed to the luteal. Ensure you don’t test first in the follicular then retest in the luteal. Apples to oranges! If you’re consistently testing or retesting in the luteal you may not be testing at the best time. It can cause hella frustration because you can’t reach peak intensities as well. It might leave you thinking: is the program rubbish? Am I not working hard enough?
Considerations for the natural cycle
Training will look differently in the first phase of your cycle (the follicular phase). Your sex hormones are lower meaning you’re better able to hit high-end intensities in strength, power and aerobic work.
Test either on day 2-3 of your cycle or the middle of your cycle around ovulation.
If you're following a solid training program there should be tests and retests—this is how you can measure your progress over time! Ensure you make a note of where in your cycle when you complete the first set of testing so you can keep it consistent to properly compare.
Frustration can often come when comparing testing metrics to different phases of the cycle.
*Remember each woman’s body is incredibly different. You may feel strong in the high hormone phase, you may not. Just information for you to consider.
Considerations for the birth control cycle
Performance can be down regulated as birth control does reduce top end strength, power and VO2 potential and adaptations.
If using an IUD stay within same testing schedule as the natural cycle.
The OCP uses synthetic hormones, which down regulates natural hormones. The synthetic hormones are relatively elevated (each time take the pill they peak) so end up with 2-3 weeks of the high hormone phase. This can mean reduced adaptation to the high intensity work.
Doest’t mean can’t get gains! But look more at when you take your pill. If take it in the morning and train in morning you will have an elevation of estrogen and progesterone, which can affect your adaptations. Do testing in the morning if take pill at night time. Less of a peak in hormones and more of a trough to get max output.
Consider testing while taking sugar pill.
*This is just information for you to make the best descions for you. No right, wrong, good, bad. Just another way to enhance and empower your training. You’re not weak. Before you hop to another program you may want to take this into consideration next time you are doing tests. You know all those motivational quotes that are like ‘It’s me against me’? Yes, fo sho—agreed. But Just don’t get caught in me against me in a different phases of your cycle because that gets confusing AF. Is this something you consider with your training?
Head here to grab Your Body Baseline. Its’s a rad resource that teaches you how to adjust your workouts on any day so you’re still progressing even when the outside world is pushing and pulling you. It shows you how you can receive fitness in a way that honours your life.