Alongside saddlesores and chaffing, dealing with your period on race day is one of those unpleasant but inevitable situations you face as female triathlete. It seems to be a frequent topic of conversation in triathlon Facebook groups, with women regularly asking for advice on menstruation and competing.
Having avoided periods for almost nine years, it’s been quite a learning curve in coping with my cycle alongside my active lifestyle. Fortunately there are options to ensure your period doesn’t interfere with your race…
Track your cycle
Get to know your monthly cycle so that you can anticipate when your period is due and plan races around it. There are several free apps to track your period, as well symptoms, energy levels, appetite and mood. After coming off Depo Provera, it took a long time for my periods to settle into a regular pattern- they would be unpredictable and last for several weeks. Using Clue helped me to make some sense of my erratic cycle.
Delay your period
Delaying your period can be an option if you are concerned about it’s impact on your race. If you taking hormonal birth control, then simply start the next pack without taking the 7 day break. Progesterone pills such as Norethisterone can be prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist to manipulate your cycle so that you skip your period. These options are best used as a one-off, rather than regular practice.
Try using a menstrual cup
Resuable, silicone menstrual cups are designed to collect blood rather than absorbing it like a tampon or pad. The Mooncup holds three times more than an conventional tampon and doesn’t need changing as often, making it a perfect option for an endurance race. It definitely takes some practice to get used to inserting and removing a cup, but I’ve found them to be far more comfortable and less drying than tampons.
Trim your tampon string
If you prefer to use tampons, I’ve heard recommendations of trimming the string. Speaking from experience, chaffing on sensitive tissues whilst cycling is not pleasant! If you are racing a half or full Ironman, you will need to carry a spare tampon and plan in a toilet stop. However, for Olympic distance or shorter, you’ll be fine without needing to change tampons.
Pads are not an ideal choice during a triathlon. They will absorb water during the swim and won’t stick securely to a chamois pad.
Go with the flow
If your flow is light, consider going without any sanitary protection. The chamois pad in cycling shorts and trisuits is actually very absorbent, plus wearing darker bottoms will hide any leaks. During the swim, the water pressure will actually reduce the blood flow, meaning that nothing escapes. Again speaking from experience, having coming on my period during a swim session!
Remember to stash some painkillers in your transition bag to ease discomfort if cramps come on during the race.
Have you ever raced during your period? What are your tips for dealing with your period on race day?