Accepting that we are women and that we have periods is your first step to dealing with Aunt Flow during triathlon season. Speaking from experience, competing in triathlon (specifically a half ironman) with your period isn’t pleasant but it’s not impossible either. Thankfully there are plenty of options out there. Here is a quick guide to help you decide which will work for you.
The pill is a great and clear option if you take it. There are no mood swings (if you get your planning correct), no need for changing during your race and no 'leakage freakage'. However, many can’t or don’t take the pill. If this is you don’t despair or force yourself on it, there are other options such as progesterone tablets. These tablets can delay your period, much like the pill, however only contain one of the hormones found in the pill and is taken as a ‘once off’ approach. Like the pill, these tablets require consultation with your doctor and a prescription.
While the pad may seem like a great idea on the bike it just doesn’t work when in water or during a long sweaty session. Avoid the pad unless you are prepared to run with a nappy bottom!
For many the tampon is the obvious choice if not using the pill. It’s clean, simple and easy to carry and change if doing a long race. The common concern is if it will fill up with water during the swim. This all depends on the distance of the swim and density of your wetsuit fabric. As a general rule of thumb change it if it is uncomfortable, if you have a toilet stop or if you are going to race for a prolonged period of time to avoid any issues. For sprint or even olympic distances you should be able to complete the event without having to change or worry about leakage. If completing longer races a toilet stop is a must.
The Diva Cup (or menstrual cup)
Advertised as a clean and convenient way to manage your period and raved about on many triathlon forums, the Diva Cup is a popular solution to periods on race day. The Diva Cup is a reusable bell shaped cup which is inserted into the lower part of the vaginal canal. The cup collects menstrual flow rather than absorbing it like a pad or a tampon. It can be worn for 12 hours before removal.
*TriChicks advises consulting your doctor for personalised advice if experiencing issues with managing your period.
Practice and Prepare
During the off season experiment with the different options available until you find what works for you.
Black is best. Opt for a black or darker coloured bottom trisuit ...aka period pants.
Remember during race season DO NOT try something new. There are enough stressors out there while you are competing and the last thing you need is ‘leakage freakage’ so stick to what you know works.
Don’t be afraid to ask others what works for them - we all have the same problem really.
Keep up the nutrition. While our bodies may scream for chocolate fuelling the body properly will help fight the inflammation, boost your mood and keep your body in peak performance mode.
Take some painkillers in the morning of your race and pack some extra in your transition just in case those pesky cramps come on.
Keep a period diary. There are plenty of apps out there to help you do this to avoid a surprise come race day morning.
Stephanie Dunbar is a media professional with a love for triathlon. She recently completed her first Ironman at Port Macquarie and is a regular contributor and sub editor for the TriChicks Hub.