Woman stretching
Incorporating self-care habits into your workout program is important, especially during the luteal phase, says exercise physiologist Kirra Rankin.

Exercise physiologist Kirra Rankin shares her top tips for incorporating self-care habits into your running (or workout) program.

When was the last time you scheduled a recovery week? Do you have healthy self-care habits you program in every week? The habits don’t have to be life changing, they just need to be beneficial, realistic and repeatable.

My last column was about scheduling your running program around your hormonal cycle. This week’s column will focus on the luteal phase, or the ‘self-care phase’. During the luteal phase there is a rise in progesterone and a drop in oestrogen, around the 15-28 day mark (going off a regular 28 day female hormonal cycle).

In the luteal phase we focus on:

  • Reducing your running load by 10-20% (depending on how you feel)
  • Reducing your high impact circuits by 10-20% (depending on how you feel)
  • Decreasing the intensity of the workout
  • Changing resistance training to lighter weight with higher reps
  • Increasing body mobility training and de-loading joints, through things like Pilates, hydrolates (aquatic Pilates) and yoga
  • More recovery days; consider going for a walk/hike instead of run
  • Being kind to yourself – self-care habits are the key

The last point is the big take-home one from this column: self-care habits. We need to be consistent with the healthy habits we create – consistency builds discipline, and discipline builds habits.

The regular self-care habits you choose will define your recovery from your running (or workouts), and how you respond to a high-volume week. Choose your recovery habits wisely.

Over the years, I’ve tested many recovery mechanisms – some were a complete waste of time, and others I continue to do decades later. Having three little kids and living in the ‘Fantastic Mess’ means I need to choose my recovery habits wisely; time poor is an understatement!

Here are my five recovery habits for self-care:

  1. Two-minute cold/hot/cold/hot shower in the morning, always ending on heat
  2. 30-minute walk with the baby
  3. Meditation or breath work for five-to-15 minutes in the morning, depending on family demands!
  4. Yin stretches (long holds) in the evening, once the Fantastic Mess is asleep.
  5. Water – I always have a full water bottle in the car.

All of these simple habits are beneficial, realistic and repeatable.

Here is an easy-to-follow self-care circuit for all the runners out there. You can print the PDF here.

  1. Thigh, hip and spine opener 
  2. Hamstring stretch
  3. Kneeling hip adductor stretch
  4. Bridge hold single leg extension
  5. Hip flexor stretch, kneeling

The five simple exercises are beneficial, realistic and repeatable. See the pattern here?

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