As you are ringing in the new year I'm sure you are thinking about setting goals or resolutions for 2019. It's always great to set goals each year and look back on the ones you did last year to see if you met them. Maybe you already have wrote out your goals or are going to this week. Maybe you have wrote down one of the most common goals. Exercise more. It's something most people want to improve on each year, or maybe they didn't get to stick to it like they did the year before. Either way, maybe this is what you wrote down. It's a great goal, nothing bad at all. However, for women it should look a little different for some. Over working and training could be making you less healthy instead of healthier. Each body handles things differently.
Let me tell you part of my story.
As a farm girl growing up I always had chores and responsibilities on the farm and really enjoyed living life that way. Lifting bales, 5 gallon water buckets, calves, feed bags, and more built my strength. Once in high school I played sports for 4 years and then soon found a job and quit playing sports. I was always an active girl from hiking in the woods & pastures, to riding my bike after school or playing softball. Once I got to college I didn't do those things because I was in a different spot in my life and did not have as much time to do those things. Plus my diet wasn't any better. Then I met the love of my life who is now my husband and he introduced me to a healthier way of life. Working out daily and eating healthier.
That probably sounds good right? That's what we did and for me it was different but I wanted to commit to it and live healthier. My husband is cross fit level 1 & 2 certified as well as trained in many other areas, so it was a perfect fit. I had my own coach! I soon began to develop more muscle and get stronger. I did cardio as well but focused on strength training. It seemed good, like it's what you are suppose to do when you want to be a healthy person and have longevity.
For me, as I learned the last few years it wasn't the best way to train for me personally. I would do cross fit workouts, burst-fit, or other workouts each week but I grew tired every time. It was a struggle for me to get up in the morning, to have the energy to do anything. I would drag myself out of bed and go to workout. After the workout I was so exhausted I needed caffeine. I felt like going right back to sleep. If you feel like this, you are not alone! I was doing this weekly and very, very slowly was building muscle but it wasn't true muscle and it would go back down if I stopped for a week. I also wasn't sweating nearly as much as everyone else-was I not working as hard? I thought I was. This wasn't the scenario I was imagining. I was thinking I would gain lots of muscle and be as "fit" as I could be. Little did I know what was actually going on in my body.
What Was Really Going On?
I was stressing my body out and didn't even know it. I was completely depleting my hormones. How did I find that out? Well first I'm going to explain what causes the stress on your body and how that affects exercise. In the end of this article, ill explain how to get your hormones tested.
Let's look at Cortisol (hormone produced in the adrenal glands). It is what builds you up or can be the reason when you coming crashing down. When you experience stress ( can be physical, mental, actual, or emotional) your hormones change. When your stress gets higher, your cortisol, DHEA, and testosterone change. So your cortisol is released in response to any stress. Things that can cause this stress are: overtraining or exercising (which looks different for each person), not getting enough sleep, fasting, infections, or emotional situations. Now focusing on exercise, yes it causes your body stress. It simply does and always will. The different amounts though are what can be either good or bad for you. If you exert too much, it increases stress and can deplete your body of energy needed for hormones.
On the flip side, when your stress lowers then changes happen in your thyroid hormones, estrogens, progesterone, and melatonin. Usually for the better unless it's too low.
Your exercising will produce a certain amount of cortisol and it will be different each time depending on how hard it is, your current state of health, and rest intervals. Cortisol is needed and it's what enables you to push through your training sessions and achieve what you are aiming for. It all depends on how much your body is releasing or not releasing. When it is produced in excess, that's where you will have a problem. Your body will then start finding other sources (hormones) to help keep up with the demands.
It can happen where your endocrine system goes through a process called 'pregnenalone steal' so that it can produce enough cortisol. This stunts the production of your very important hormone progesterone.
I became one of those women who didn't have a balanced cortisol level. So my hormones suffered from it. When someone has a depleted amount of cortisol or cortisol resistance they can experience feelings of anxiety, poor moods, pre-menstral syndrome, irregular periods, decreased fertility, poor sleep, less adaptation, and muscular development. I suffered with many of these and I'm on my way to healing for my body now.
This doesn't happen to everyone and maybe this is not for you and that's okay. Maybe you know someone who maybe does deal with some of this and it can be a great resource for them.
Switch Your Program
To help heal and prevent hormone imbalance and cortisol burnout, it's a good idea to switch your workouts. When your hormones are depleted like mine were, you have to let your body heal and support it instead of over working it.
Women who aren't in menopause naturally get their cycle each month and there are good times to train and times when it's best not to and instead take it easy.
When you get your period or are going to get it take your first week of your cycle to rest your body. Your body is working hard and going through a lot and it's crucial for your hormones that they don't get depleted more during this time. Try doing something low impact during this week such as: yoga, walking, or light cardio. On the first days when its heavier or more painful, it's okay to not do it for as long. You have to listen to your body, this is time for rest and recovery. Make sure you also have good amounts of Iron and Vitamin E (can also help with flow). Towards the end of your cycle (ideally if its 6-7 days) you can workout a little more. Make sure you are also getting enough of the essential amino acids. These help your neurotransmitters in making your hormones.
On the second week of your cycle, after your period, now its a great time to do more intense workouts or workouts of higher volume.
As the 3rd week of your cycle, your body's hormones change again and quickly change approaching ovulation. This is also a lot on your body and you don't want to deplete your hormones. Take is easy again on this week. Half through this week you can go back into your regular workouts.
On the last week of your cycle (Ideally 28-30 days, different for each woman), You can do your regular , more volume workouts. Before you know it you will be back to week 1 again!
This information was given to me through a specialize hormone Doctor-Dr Patrick Flynn. He has over 20 years of experience in hormones and working with women in this area. His company also offer accurate tests and advice on this topic to change your health.
Tips on Your Workouts:
*Try to have good warmups and cool downs to reduce your heart rate gradually. This will help lessen your cortisol response.
*In your weight training make sure to have rest periods.
*Stay hydrated and make sure to get amino acids. This will also help recovery! I personally really like young living's amino acids. There are other good brands as well.
*Find a good yoga or stretching practice to do each week. It will help your flexibility and recovery, as well as stress.
* Try legs up the wall pose. It helps slow down your heart rate and helps cortisol move through the body.
Slowing down and calming down are not the same thing. You can calm your mind with yoga/stretching or if you have a faith, spending some time in prayer and devotions. These things will help your cortisol levels lower and give you a better ability to focus and work through pain.
You can also lower stress by managing your cortisol with a heart rate monitor. It can help you to avoid training not hard enough and not easy enough to build strength and endurance.
Do other things you enjoy or that relax you. It can be anything from going for a walk outside, a bath, journaling, reading a book, getting a massage, or meditating. Whatever it is, try and do something like that each week. Maybe you have a lot of emotional stress as well. Try and work through and maybe even talk to someone who can help you through it.
You can also research what you can take to help stress. Things such as adaptogen herbs, magnesium, probiotics, and more help to lower stress and help support your entire body as it's healing.
With all this info on exercise and hormones, 2019 is your year to take charge of your health and really reach your goals! It's a process and each woman is different. It's so individual and complex. Your hormones do so much in your body and you absolutely need them! They are crucial for longevity in sports, immunity, performance, fertility, and body functions, and overall health. Exercising the right way could make a huge difference for you.
If you are someone like me and have gotten your hormones tested and want to stay healthy, that's a great step! As I got my hormones tested, I found everyone of my hormones was shockingly low. So my natural doctor told me to only do low impact or yoga and no other exercises. Wow, you might say. Yes it's not what I expected but I know I have to let my body heal first before I can do more regular and higher volume exercising. I have to support my hormones instead of lower them. Each person is different and that's why testing can be so helpful! There are a lot of different kinds of testing, but you have to be careful who you do them through. Most of the time hospitals or even natural doctors will not test everything to get the full picture. You can't just test one hormone and not the others. Each one is affected in some way. The best test that I have found is Dutch Tests. It's the most advanced hormones testing that you can easily do right in your home! It is researched well and it's what some of the best doctors use from the Wellness Way Clinics. Click this link to find out more and how easy it really can be!
These tests look at all your hormones and adrenals. Working with a doctor who knows how to read your results is very helpful and they can help you with a health plan to get better if you are struggling! The Wellness Way Clinics have locations all over the U.S and there are two in MN. Check them out on their website to find out more. www.twwclincs.com
As I know where my body is at, I am supporting it and that's why getting stress down and looking at your workout routine is so helpful. Everyday I know and believe my body is getting healthier. I take steps of supporting my body in all areas, but I also have hope as well!
If you have other health challenges, hormone testing is also for you. Our bodies are so complex and are Intricately connected and hormones play a significant role in all areas.
I hope you find this information helpful or any part of it so that you can be a step closer to living healthy this year!
Feel free to leave comments or ask questions!