As women, there are a lot of topics like “I’m hurting down there” or “Do you have any tips about riding while menstruating?” or “Why can’t I find cycling clothes that fit?” are relating to cycling comfort which are either not frequently talked about or just too embarrassing to ask a male salesperson at the local bike shop. You get the idea: personal, women-specific and potentially awkward to explain. We’ll do our best in addressing these topics here.
Cycling on Your Period
Periods are not the best time of months, but don’t let them obstruct you to do whatever you want. It is proven that exercise can to help ease some of the discomfort caused from them, but female bodies go through a lot, even without the added pressures of cycling. About how to best ride out your flow, there's no right answer, but here are a few suggestions which should make cycling on your period more comfortable.
Use tampons.Some women prefer not to, but in the world of cycling, this is definitely a good route to go down. Why? It won’t move position while riding and unlike sanitary towels, there is no extra material to rub against your skin, so it will reduce chafing.
If not, try a menstrual cup.
Take ibuprofen to ease pain and discomfort caused from riding on your period.
Drinking caffeine, in small doses can also help to kick start the pain relief from the ibuprofen.
Make sure to eat more. Our body’s need more from us when it's that time of the month, especially when we’re burning so much off in the saddle.
Listen to your body. A lot of women will often feel a lot more lethargic than usual while exercise does help to alleviate the discomfort. If you are struggling to keep your legs going to do push yourself further.
Try not to be controlled by the hormones!Most women suffer a rush of emotion leading up to or during their period. It’s likely that small things will set you off. It might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back whether it's not winning that race or simply logging a poorer than usual performance on riding. Take a deep breath and remind yourself you are only human, you are not crazy and the feeling of anxiety will pass.
Considering the sanitary products we would use on our period, I’d like to give a special recommended for the menstrual cup.
Some women find it difficult to adapt to using tampons, so pads are often their only option. They may offer less leakage protection and be difficult to conceal in tight lycra, but you can easily get round that by sporting some mountain biking baggies. If your sanitary products cause you discomfort or are lacking protection, take a look at the menstrual cup, a reusable device that collects rather than absorbs your flow.
The device, as the name suggests, is a reusable flexible cup and can be reused over and over again for up to a year, predominately made from medical grade silicone, worn inside the vagina during menstruation to collect your monthly flow. Manufacturers say it can collect up to a day’s worth of fluid, but the cup should be removed, rinsed and reinserted every eight hours. Unlike pads and tampons, the cup collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. So, why are menstrual cups great for cycling?
It's good for bike riding because, while on a long ride, you may not know when or where your next potty stop will be. With menstrual cups holding at least three times as much fluid as the most super-absorbent tampon, you can be assured you’ll be covered, even on your heavier days. As cups collect rather than absorb fluid, it won’t cause you dryness or irritation, even if you’re cycling on a light period, both things that can cause untold discomfort when you're in the saddle for hours.
Because the cup is reusable, you only need to ‘carry’ one on you. There's no need to faff trying to disguise a tampon or pad amongst your cycling spares. It also removes the need to worry about disposal of used products, something that can be tricky if you’re riding a sportive or at a downhill race with no female specific facilities. It really is just a case of clean and go. Your body has a self-cleaning system, and the silicone cups are made from is designed not to support the growth of bacteria so there is no need to sterilize it during your period. As long as you have potable water to clean the cup every eight hours, you're good to go. Long distance cycling is finally made a comfortable possibility with the cup. It is disappointed to hear that so many women stave off getting in the saddle because they just can't find a product that provides them with enough comfort. Probably with just a pad or tampon fills them with dread.
The disadvantages, however, (there’s always at least one) is that the initial outlay for an individual cup is more expensive than a pack of pads or tampons, however within about 6-12 months the cup has paid for itself. You may need to buy Miltons to disinfect the cup, but a bottle will last you a year.
Another area some women struggle with is inserting and removing the cup. It can be a bit messy and inserting it takes some getting used to. This can be helped by trying various sizes, different thicknesses of cup wall, using a water-based lubricant or even just changing the method you use to fold the cup.
But for cycling enthusiasts, not having to worry about their period when they’re spending four or five hours in the saddle is a such a relief, it outweighs the cons.