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‘I made my menstrual cycle work for me’ – Jessica Keniston on her fitness app for women

Jessica Keniston is a fitness trainer and owner of Fittsteps Training studio in Co Galway. She lives in Craughwell with her partner and her four children, ranging from 23 to 11 years of age


Jessica Keniston

Jessica Keniston

Jessica Keniston

I grew up in the States and did ballet from the age of four. It was probably my first love. My family moved to the UK when I was 14, and I drifted away from ballet. I got married young and had my children and my priorities changed. I just stopped exercising, stopped moving.

My then-husband and I ended up in Craughwell, Co Galway, more than 20 years ago. I live here now with my partner of 18 years and my four children, who are 23, 21, 16 and 11. I have no Irish connection. I just think it’s a great place to raise children.

In my 30s, I decided to retrain and qualified as a nutritional therapist, fitness instructor and personal trainer, with certification for both prenatal and postnatal training.

In 2016, I set up Fittsteps Training studio in Craughwell, predominantly for mammies. I wanted to create somewhere that was a little more soft and more convenient for women.

We have a really nice community now, but Covid-19 changed everything. We brought the whole community online, however, and it was great to see how some mothers loved the convenience of not having to travel to classes, and so many of the children joined in, too.

For me, it was a massive change. No more than a lot of people working for themselves, all that certainty and routine of work was taken away overnight. It was hard to find consistency and stability in my own life.

I was teaching all the online classes myself and I was getting tight and sore and finding it hard. I noticed a pattern that consistently fell in line with my menstrual cycle. I realised that I needed to work with the cycle of my menstrual phases, and my life got a lot easier.

We think of our menstrual cycle just as PMS and then a period, but there’s a roughly four-week cycle of four different phases, where your body is capable of different things and craves different things.

So, in terms of exercise, instead of having the same exercise focus week after week, I’d do intervals one week, mobility another, or recovery or cardio. I made my cycle work for me and soon my tightness and soreness and injuries subsided. I also tailored my food to suit the different nutritional needs each week.

There’s not enough education around what is going on with our bodies over the cycle, and not just physically, but emotionally and nutritionally. Hormones affect everything from our muscles to our brains to our digestive systems.

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Elite athletes have all this information, but why shouldn’t every woman have access to it? It’s about finding consistency in an ever-changing flow. It’s about working with your body rather than fighting it.

In 2016, I set up the Fittsteps Training app as a way of bringing all of this together into one place where a woman could understand her cycle as part of her life. Conventional calendars and plans are always in straight lines, but women work in a circle. We try to function as a round peg in a square hole but it’s counterintuitive. We end up feeling bad for not being able for the training or to keep to the diet.

We’re not bad or broken on the weeks we can’t do heavy weights or we want to eat certain stuff, it’s just that we’re not tuned in to what our bodies are telling us.

If you get our app, you get workout plans based on moon phases and your menstrual cycle. There’s a personalised nutrition plan and you can even choose to get meal plans and shopping lists sent to you at a press of a button, so that takes all the stress out of organising a healthy meal for all the family.

I hear women saying so often that they don’t have the time to take care of themselves and I want to change all that.

I want women to look at themselves as the whole individual. Too often, we separate ourselves into the family, our work, ourselves. Hopefully the app will allow women to put all the pieces together and find that flow.

The Flow app can be downloaded from fittstepstraining.com. Various plans are available, to suit how much you want or need support with fitness, nutrition or even stress-management, with meditations, meal plans, 10-minute daily workouts and full-moon related activities.

In conversation with Sarah Caden

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