Usually when I’m working out, I try to actively avoid thinking about my menstrual cycle. But last week I found myself doing just that. In fact, I was actively focusing on the fact that I was on my period, down to visualizing the flow.
“We’re creating space through the body, just to lengthen and let everything go,” my trainer, Bianca, instructed me as I dutifully did standing oblique crunches.
The class I was taking was just phase one of a new program from Alo Moves called Syncd. I had begun trying out the program shortly after starting my period, or, as Alo calls it, my “menstruation phase.” The app instructed me that during this phase I should be focusing on slowing down, low-impact workouts like yoga and Pilates, meditations, and self-care.
“Be patient with yourself and give into that slowness—it’s time to prioritize rest,” the app instructs. “All this extra downtime gives you the perfect opportunity to reflect on where you are now and your future goals.”
@annatrims the cycle phases explained to help you with your #cyclesyncing journey🤓![CDATA]>📝 #womenshealth #hormonehealth #hormonebalance #cyclesyncingmethod #cyclesyncingexercise #cyclesyncingworkout #workoutplan #workoutroutine #womensupportingwomen ♬ Dream Away - Ramol
Welcome to the world of cycle syncing, the hottest new fitness and wellness trend. The concept is relatively simple. Cycle syncing states that women can reach the peak of their wellness, fitness, nutrition, and even mental health goals by syncing their workouts, diet, and lifestyle to the four phases of their menstrual cycle.
As the lifestyle has grown in popularity, it’s being embraced by companies like Alo, which launched Syncd, a cycle-synced workout plan, at the end of August. The brand’s vice president of brand innovation, Alyson Wilson, describes cycle syncing as the “concept of aligning how you move to the different parts of your menstrual cycle.”
“It’s a way to be more in tune with your body and tap into the natural power of each phase throughout the month,” she tells me. “Our moods, appetite, strength, and energy reach highs and lows throughout the month based on what phase of the cycle we’re in. By becoming more in sync with ourselves, we’re able to align with our body’s natural rhythms and control our overall well-being from the inside out.”
If you’ve tracked your menstrual cycle before, you know that there are four phases to it: the menstruation phrase, when you’re actively bleeding; the follicular phase, when you’re preparing to ovulate; the ovulation phase, when an egg is released; and the postovulation luteal phase. Cycle syncing holds that, since your body is going through different hormonal changes and challenges within a month, you should tailor your workouts and lifestyle to each phase. When you’re actively bleeding during phase one, for example, workouts should be “slow and gentle,” as Alo puts it in a press release. During the ovulation phase you can ramp things up with “high-intensity workouts for the body at its peak, when the mature egg is released and ready for fertilization.”
Benefits of following this plan, according to Wilson, include “hormonal balance, reducing PMS symptoms, alleviating period pain, more effective workouts, reducing risk of injury, providing fertility support, improved mood, sleep, energy, and productivity, and feeling more balanced overall.” And, according to Alo’s trainers, it works.
“Cycle syncing has changed my relationship with my body in so many ways,” Alo Moves trainer Anabella Landa tells me. “It has taught me that by understanding my body’s phases of the cycle, it has different needs that I can, in so many uncomplicated and accessible ways, give it what it wants.”
Cycle syncing is certainly having a moment. Wilson notes that cycle syncing isn’t a new concept but has taken off as part of a “huge self-care movement over the last year or so that finally has people prioritizing themselves.”
The main place this has been happening? TikTok, where the hashtag #cyclesyncing has more than 500 million views. The app is chock-full of viral videos from women singing the praises of cycle syncing for dictating not just how to work out but how to eat and how to best take care of your mental health.
“Cycle syncing has changed my life,” one devotee wrote on the app. “I was holding so much inflammation in my body and felt so stuck with my health until I began cycle syncing my workouts—although there isn’t enough research quite yet to prove this works, I know for me personally it has CHANGED THE GAME.”
One convert is Brittany Hugoboom, who tells me she has been cycle syncing for the past seven years. She saw so many results from the method that she became certified as a functional trainer and started an app called 28, a wellness platform devoted to the cycle-syncing lifestyle, complete with workouts, recipe ideas, and self-care instructions. She says it now has more than half a million users after some of its videos started taking off on TikTok.
“We've had so much success from different people,” Hugoboom says, adding that users have reported they have lost weight, gotten clearer skin, and even reduced their period pain by following the app’s guidelines.
Hugoboom thinks the cycle syncing is resonating with women today for a particular reason.
“I think a part of it is that the older millennial stage was very much like ‘girl boss hustle culture,’” she says. “Now women are worn out of it and they want to embrace their femininity more and take it slow. Cycle syncing is a way where they're like, ‘Oh, I don't have to kill myself every single week of the month, because this is how I'm feeling today and I should respect that and do self-care.’”
t’s true that many women on TikTok have embraced more “natural” ways of understanding their body. This trend can be great or it can be a slippery slope into misinformation about negative impacts of hormonal birth control, among other scientifically unsound advice. Although Hugoboom says she personally does not use hormonal birth control, she insists that 28 is not meant to be used as a means of contraception.
“It’s not an FDA-approved pregnancy app, so I wouldn't recommend it for that,” she says. “If you are on the pill, you can still use the app you would just use under the lunar cycle [the app’s default cycle setting], which is how I use it when I'm pregnant.”
She’s also quick to note that the app’s main goal is not weight loss but says it’s all about a whole body wellness experience.
“A lot of the girls that use the app will check it every morning…and they feel so much better,” she says. “And I think when people feel amazing, they're going to want to keep using it.”
So could cycle syncing really change me from a burnt-out millennial to a cycle-synced goddess? I decided to ask Kristyn Brandi, a New Jersey–based ob-gyn who specializes in contraception and abortion care, to weigh in. The headline? There is no scientific data behind the concept of cycle syncing.
“I think it is a little too prescriptive, and [there’s] not a lot of science to really back it up,” Dr. Brandi says.
However, she is glad that so many young women are interested in understanding their cycles better and says that it certainly can’t hurt to be more aware of how you may feel at different times of the month.
“I could definitely see that there'd be a lot of value in understanding how the menstrual cycle works, understanding where you are in the cycle, and using that in a way to help adjust your life in a way that makes it more comfortable for you,” she says. “There's many people that, when they're on their periods, they feel lousy and tired. So knowing that about yourself but knowing that maybe you still want to exercise, adjusting your plan to do certain types of exercises when you have more energy versus less energy, it makes sense.”
With the way that reproductive education is right now in the US, Dr. Brandi thinks that women’s doing their own research into their menstrual cycle could be great, as long as they don’t take it too far.
“I don't think it's harmful,” she says. “I think it's a good exercise for people to learn more. I just don't think it's something that should be religiously followed per se. There's a lot of variation and there's a lot of misinformation that could be not as helpful as people may be looking for it to be.”
Dr. Brandi worries that becoming too obsessed with your menstrual cycle could be a rabbit hole that leads to misinformation, which she agrees is rampant on social media.
“There's a lot of misinformation on TikTok, particularly around birth control right now, which can be really harmful, especially because a lot of young people get a lot of their information from there that they may not otherwise get from the health care provider or other people,” she says.
Her best advice? Cycle sync if you want, but do it in a healthy way. Like most things in life, overfixating on one thing usually isn’t healthy. She thinks that, if women start living their life based solely on their menstrual cycle, it could start to be a little much.
“In general, I think it's bad to pathologize something that happens naturally like your period,” she notes. “Women and people that have periods exist, and their lives shouldn't be controlled by their period.”
As for me, I’m not sure I’m 100% all in on cycle syncing. However, I did find that when I felt sluggish or weak during my period, it felt good to give myself a little grace of knowing that it was all part of the natural flow of my body. And that is a definite benefit.
Dr. Brandi says that cycle syncing could help people feel much better for a simple reason: It is teaching them how to focus on their body and well-being.
“I find that people that are looking for these solutions are also working toward exercising more or eating better,” she says. “And so I don't think it's just the ‘no hormones’ or following your menstrual cycle that is going to cause you to lose weight. I think it's just a lot of healthy behaviors that you may just pick up as you're also doing this.”
This article was originally published on Glamour US.