Dealing with your period on race day

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…


Dealing with your period on race day

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.

Dealing with your period on race day

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.

Avoid pads

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!

Pack painkillers

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?


  1. Great post Lucy. I used to book races that didn’t coincide with my period, but mine’s now become so irregular, I can’t do that anymore. Heard a lot of good things about the mooncup – but I still can’t bring myself to try it – I think I need to!

  2. Another vote for a Mooncup! Best ever sanitary protection, but I found I needed to trim the stem REALLY short to avoid chafing (like, to non-existant!) If you have ever experienced stress incontinence when running then a mooncup can help tremendously with that as well.

  3. Great post lucy! Not sure if I wrote about it but I started my period at the end of our first day riding to Paris! Wore a towel the second day and that was a mistake it literally was in shreds by the end of the day so as you mentioned on your post I just used a tampon and wore my dark shorts so I didn’t have to worry about it! …I also used to be on the pill and ALWAYS took three packs in a row to avoid my period and now like you’d use an app to keep an eye on when I’m probably gonna be on. What a palaver!

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