Period management has always been a concern for most female athletes. Pads and tampons can be uncomfortable or even impractical for some sports, and questions of hygiene and the need to have enough feminine products on hand can make endurance sports a pain. (Have you ever tried to fit a tampon into a tiny running shorts pocket?) Menstrual cups have gained tremendous popularity recently, but they may leave some women with understandable questions. Is it a good idea to wear menstrual cups and exercise if you work out hard?
With women competing in everything from marathons to CrossFit, they need period management products that can keep up. The old tampon advertisements featuring ladies traipsing through a field in a white dress are all well and good, but can those products really hold up on race day? Whether you’re gearing up for a roller derby jam or a cycling crit, the menstrual cup just might be the answer to your period day prayers. Thanks to their long use time, flexible fit, and lack of strings, a menstrual cup could become your favorite piece of workout equipment. Here’s a rundown of the reasons exercising with a menstrual cup is a good idea for most athletes, as well as some tips for making your workout with a cup as comfortable as possible.
Many menstrual cups can adapt to your body movement and withstand some pretty extreme sports. According to the DivaCup's website, you don't have to wonder if menstrual cups can handle the various angles of your body movement during a yoga pose or when dancing, swimming, hiking, skydiving, camping, etc. Not to mention, it's a great choice for swimmers as yo don't have to worry about a string showing. Even if you work out vigorously, the cup will probably stay in place and keep doing its thing while your mind is on that next rep.
If you love exercising outdoors, chances are you don't always have easy access to a bathroom and sink. In these cases, the cups are a great choice. "It's great for endurance athletes, or people who like to be out all day hiking or biking, where there might not be easy access to a bathroom ... you can use it, remove it, rinse it in a sink or with bottled water, and then reinsert it," Maria Sophocles, MD, a board-certified gynecologist told Fitness Magazine. Because no one wants to fool with a tampon from the confines of a porta-potty.
When you're trying to get a new personal record, you don't want to waste precious seconds switching out a new pad. Thankfully, menstrual cups can be put in place and basically forgotten for the better part of a day. As Runner's World noted, "you can leave them in for eight to 12 hours—enough time to board a bus or ferry to a big-city marathon like New York or Boston, run a four- to six-hour race, and even meet up with your cheering squad for a beer afterward." No annoying pit stops involved.
Once you get the hang of inserting and adjusting your cup, chances are you'll forget it's even there. As Women's Health explained, "cups can actually be more comfortable during exercise than tampons and are less likely to leak." And if you're in a sport that can cause chafing in that area, such as cycling, then cups are also highly recommended. "Even if you’re cycling on a light period, as cups collect rather than absorb fluid, it won’t cause you dryness or irritation, both things that can cause untold discomfort when you’re in the saddle for hours," editor Kirsty Ho Fat noted in Total Women's Cycling.
You may need to experiment with various brands and sizes before finding a cup that fits your body best. It's also helpful to know how to insert a menstrual cup to ensure the best fit to prevent leakage. Furthermore, it might be more comfortable to trim the stem or "remove the stem completely," as the Mooncup site suggests. Overall though, once you get the hang of using a cup, it can provide hours of comfortable coverage during your period, no matter how hard you're working out.