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Riding comfortably on your period: Is it possible?

Ladies, let’s talk about periods. We all hate it; the inconvenience, the pain, and the discomfort. It leaves us feeling tired, moody, bloated and irritated. 

However, if you’re like me (where the thought of not being able to cycle on your bike for 5 days straight is met with a feeling of dread) – then follow these simple tips to make your ride a more comfortable one.

 

#1 Menstrual cup… What’s that? 

The menstrual cup is made up of medical-grade silicone, reusable and can be used for a few years. It is leak-free and an eco-friendly alternative to buying pads. It is not widely available or known in the Asian market yet. Liveloveluna, Chiobucup and Freedom Cups are some of the stores that you can get it from. 

 

 

I know, I know. It does look invasive, doesn’t it? But I guarantee you that you will not feel anything once you have inserted the cup properly. It has been my lifesaver and it basically feels like I am not having my period at all. 

Personally, I avoid using sanitary pads because they are bulky, uncomfortable and causes painful chafing. They don’t stick well on the bib padding too. 

Tampons are also a good alternative and are more widely available, just make sure you change them regularly to avoid toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a lethal bacterial infection. 

According to Sports Physician, Dr Lim Baoying, it’s better to use tampons over sanitary pads.

“Use a tampon instead of sanitary pads in view of the latter’s potential of chafing, as well as reducing the risk of local infection. Menstrual blood and perspiration would be a perfect concoction for bacterial breeding, hence not ideal if you intend to cycle in Singapore weather, however long the distance.”
 
 Point to note about tampon: Tuck the string away such that it is not on an area which there is a lot of movement on, otherwise string abrasion is also a possibility. Put on chamois cream or petroleum jelly around the area where you expect such issues to develop.

 

#2 Proper nutrition 

I cannot stress the importance of having quality nutrition, especially during your monthly period. 

No point cutting out on carbs as needs are increased, and restriction lowers level of the happy hormone serotonin which worsens mood and pain perception. It will leave you feeling even more lethargic and weak in the end.

 

 

There are many rich sources of iron besides the well-known beef steak. Plant sources rich in iron include beans, lentils, spinach, broccoli, dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds. 

For relieving some of the discomforts from your bloated tummy, take some ginger because it is a great anti-inflammatory. Sipping ginger honey tea has worked wonders for me, why not try it for yourself too?

 

#3 Painkillers 

 

Usually, I prefer natural remedies than taking pills. However, if the pain becomes unbearable and you still want to go out for a ride, take a few painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. Panadol pills for menstrual cramps work well for some people too. 

“If you have menstrual cramps or headache associated with menses, take some painkillers before cycling. Appropriate options could be Mefenamic Acid (Ponstan) or Panadol Menstrual. The former could also help to reduce menstrual flow to certain extent,” says Dr. Lim

 

READ more:  Shirley Teo's long distance training tips for women

#4 Take It Easy!

According to Dr. Lim, saddle selection is paramount as well. During menstrual flow, there is increase fluid retention in the body and ladies would be more sensitive down under.

A gentle 1-2 hours ride with some good company can do wonders for relieving mild PMS symptoms and alleviating some of the discomforts you feel.

This is not an appropriate time to go out on a hilly, intensive or interval training session unless really needed. So no excuses, just keep pedalling girls! 

 

Bonus tips from Dr Lim: What are some pacing strategies that can help ladies cycle better?

Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle affect the ladies’ emotion as well as body’s physiological behaviour and performance. Track your menstrual cycle by manually recording or using app tracker the start of your menstrual flow and how you feel on the bike.
This would be very useful to aid the ladies in remembering to stock up on their sanitary products, being more mindful of their hydration and nutrition during menstrual flow and planning their cycling training. Some examples of these apps are Clue, iPeriod Tracker, and Life.
 
Physiological difference across the menstrual cycle
Day 1: menstrual flow starts
Days 3-7: menstrual flow completes. Endometrial lining starts to build up again in preparation for ovulation.
Day 14-15: ovulation
Day 1 until ovulation is called the follicular phase, and during this time the ovarian follicles mature.
Day 15-28 is called the luteal phase till the day before menstrual flow and the endometrial lining thickens in preparation for possible pregnancy.
 
The peak physiological performance for power and high intensity workouts is actually during days 7-10 of the menstrual cycle as ladies could access carbohydrates, achieve higher muscular power and experience less central fatigue than during any other phases as this is the “low hormone (estrogen) phase”.
 
But during this period, it is also when there is more adverse symptoms like menstrual cramps, headache and the obvious discomfort of the flow, so it might takes more psyching up for the ladies to get out for a bike ride. 
 
Upsurging of estrogen during ovulation would switch the body into utilizing fatty acids for energy instead of glycogen/ carbohydrates in the muscles and liver. The implication is that endurance workouts would be more suitable instead of high intensity workouts.
 
During the mid to later luteal phase, due to the interaction of progesterone and estrogen, ladies would have raised core temperature, reducing their heat tolerance; onset of perspiration is delayed, utilization of carbohydrates is also affected and there is also an increase in central fatigue – commonly experienced as a conglomerate of symptoms we referred to as PMS, pre-menstrual syndrome.
Endurance workouts and lower power resistance training would be more suitable during this phase of the menstrual cycle.

 

As an active cyclist, what are some of the hacks you have to manage your period? Share with us on our Facebook page!

Esther Koh

Author: Esther Koh

Cycling is her drug and therapy.
She is a certified Nutritionist (BSc Nutrition, University of Leeds) and loves both road cycling and mountain biking. She hopes that more females in Singapore will discover the joy and simple pleasure of riding a bike.

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