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Supporting female performance in sport and fitness
Supporting female performance in sport and fitness

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7 How can tracking cycles help?

The image shows an app on a smart phone used to track menstrual cycles.

Tracking the menstrual cycle and becoming aware of what your own cycle feels like is an important element of self-care for women (Hill, 2019). This can be done by using a calendar, diary, or a period tracking app. There are apps that an athlete can share with their coach if they have given permission to share data. Cycle tracking has many advantages as Emma Ross pointed out in Activity 4 as if the athlete knows how she may be likely feel in the coming days preparations can be made for this.

Activity 7 Why monitor your menstrual cycle?

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Listen to another extract from the Female Athlete Podcast where the presenter, Georgie Bruinvels, outlines the benefits of tracking the menstrual cycle. Then answer the following question:

  • What benefits may this form of self-awareness bring?

Mapping your menstrual cycle [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] : listen from 17:51 (‘I step back and look at my younger self …’) to 21:17 (‘… using an app to work out better where you are at’).

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Dr Bruinvels is a very strong advocate of cycle tracking as she sees understanding her body as being an important part of being prepared for training and competition. This proactiveness enables her to make plans and adjustments so she can train and perform on any day. She also explains the value of tracking to assess how factors like stress, nutrition and sleep may be causing variations within a cycle. Dr Bruinvels stresses that until it is proved otherwise she believes that there is no evidence to say you can’t perform at your best on any one day; however, being proactive and having an understanding of small changes in your body during your cycle you should not be held back.

Dr Bruinvels has also worked with Chelsea Football Club who have made significant attempts to understand their players’ menstrual cycles and make adjustments where possible to their nutrition, warm up routines, and recovery schedules. When coaching a team sport it becomes more problematic than when coaching an individual, as it is not feasible to tailor training or recovery to menstrual cycles as each player will be at a different stage of their cycle.

In squad environments, the best approach is to ensure that each player has an awareness of her own cycle, and what she might need to do to get the best out of herself on any given day. This requires that each player tracks her cycle, but then also is advised how to manage symptoms and capitalise on her changing physiology.