Menstrual Concerns - Sensitive Subjects for Walkers

Don't Skip Exercise During Your Period

Honolulu Marathon
A running skirt might be a good choice when menstruating. Marco Garcia/Getty Images Sport

Bloating, menstrual cramps, the inconvenience of needing tampons and pads, all of these can trip up women and keep them from walking during their menstrual flow periods.

It's time to start believing those ads - you really can go walking, riding, biking and swimming during your menstrual days.

The Myth of Performance Concerns for Exercise During Menstruation

Studies have shown there is no decrease in athletic performance for female athletes while they are menstruating.

Women have won marathons on a day they are menstruating. If your period falls on race day, just go for it.

But I Feel Crummy: It is harder to get out the door for your walking workout when you are having menstrual cramps, bloating and other effects. But a few minutes after warming up you likely will feel better and won't have interrupted your workout schedule. Studies show that continuing your workouts may result in a lessening of these symptoms.

Choosing Menstrual Products for Exercise

If you normally only use tampons, you may find that a pad works better for walking, or you might want to add double up and wear a pad as well as a tampon. You may have to use a more absorbent product than you usually do, especially if you will be walking for a longer time. Physical activity might cause shifting, etc. and you may have difficulty keeping it in place and absorbing the menstrual blood. You may have to replace your tampon or pad during a long workout, so you will have to bring a replacement along with you.

When training for the marathon, schedule at least one of your long distance training days for a day when you will be menstruating so you can find out before the day of the event if you have any preference in this during long duration events. Even if the calendar says race day won't be a menstrual day, the excitement and preparation for the race may result in getting off schedule.

Dealing Embarrassing Menstrual Moments During Exercise

Marathon runner Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon in 2015 without wearing a tampon or pad, her menstrual blood visible to dispel the stigma of menstruation and show support for women who have no access to products. Many other women competitors in races have had the same thing happen without choice as their periods started during the race or their products failed. One way to hide the blood is to wear dark color shorts or pants such as red, brown or black.

Wearing a running skirt may help hide any leakage. In case of unexpected leakage, you may want to tie a scarf around your hips as an impromptu skirt and go with it as a style choice.

During a marathon, your fellow racers of both genders may be having similar problems, including diarrhea from runner's trots, bladder control problems and simply not wanting to stop at the portable toilets. You won't be alone with a stain at your crotch. At least menstrual blood is odorless.

It is wise to bring a change of clothing along to a race in your gear drop bag.

Menstrual Irregularities

Female athletes may develop menstrual irregularities, especially if they have very low body fat, heavy training, stress, and poor nutrition. Discuss any irregularities openly with your medical care provider.

Sources

Kishali NF, Imamoglu O, Katkat D, Atan T, Akyol P. "Effects of menstrual cycle on sports performance." International Journal of Neuroscience. 2006 Dec;116(12):1549-63.

Frankovich RJ, Lebrun CM. "Menstrual cycle, contraception, and performance." Clinics in Sports Medicine. 2000 Apr;19(2):251-71.

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