Tell Me Tuesday: Running + Racing During Your Period

aunt flo supplies
What's in your Aunt Flo tool kit?

A while ago, mother runner Michelle posed a question to the the mother runner tribe on Facebook: How do you deal with your period—especially if it's heavy—during a race? We've heard nearly all variations on this theme, and wanted to devote a post to some great advice and methods for dealing with Aunt Flo on the run.

For a racing and training time saver, Kerrie and Chandra suggested the Divacup. Said Kerrie, "It's going to seem gross at first, but it'll take you a heck of a lot longer between bathroom runs than a tampon will." The Divacup also worked well for Chandra on back-country backpacking trips.


Michelle recommended Bifera as an iron supplement for ladies with a heavy flow and low iron.

As far as painkillers, said Danielle, "Aleve helps to lighten the flow. It's a godsend."

Emily, Sarah, Angi, and Michaela, raved about the Mirena IUD. Said Sarah, "I have a Mirena (love it) and have virtually no periods, unless I put in a really long run. When I do spot though, the cramping is awful. I think mental toughness is definitely required to deal with these sorts of "extras" as a woman runner."

"Another Mirena lover here!" added Michaela, "My 8-10 day heavy periods are now 2-3 days of very light bleeding or spotting. LOVE IT!"

Maria, however, cautioned "If you have Mirena, make sure you check it monthly. Mine punctured through my uterus after 1.5 years and I had to get it removed laproscopically." If you decide to go for the Mirena for birth control or period control, remember to check its placement regularly.

Agreed, except if they come from another mother runner.

Penny had a warning for pad-using runners: "Be careful with pads. In a rainy race, I had an 'adhesive malfunction' and ended the race with it sticking out the back of my shorts."

Amber said her periods lessen as she increases the intensity or length of her runs: "When I am running harder and longer in prep for something, I end up not getting my periods at all." (A note of caution about losing your periods totally: exercise induced amenorrhea is a no-win situation: your bones sufffer and your fertility suffers, to name just two victims.)

Allison suggested natural (and caffeine -induced) remedies: "Herbally, I love B complex, Dandelion Tea, and Chaste Tree Berry. Oh -- and a skinny latte after a grueling workout always gives me a boost."

Leslie, also OR nurse, suggested Novasure, a quick, hormone-free procedure to lighten or stop periods, for runners who have a lot of Aunt Flo troubles.

Christine sought assistance from her OB, and was prescribed Loestrin FE.  She said "it's awesome. Barely any bleeding at all, and PMS is a thing of the past."

Just to confirm: You don't have to wear them solo.
Just to confirm: You don't have to wear them solo.

Oh, and we recently learned about the "I am strong" running bikini set from "Believe I am", technical undies which have thin, built-in, breathable lining that acts like a pad, providing backup on your heavy (or light) days or just with that lovely leak issue we mother runners might know a bit about.

For those who just need a breather when Aunt Flo comes to town, Susan recommends paying attention to what your body needs. "The days before AF I am totally unmotivated and give myself license to lay around. Within a couple of days, I'm ready to begin again."

Have you dealt with Aunt Flo on a run recently? What devices and methods work the best for you?


22 responses to “Tell Me Tuesday: Running + Racing During Your Period

  1. I use Alesse continuous which is a birth control
    Pill that you take continuously and as a result you never get a period. So I no longer
    Have to deal with Aunt Flo! Speak to
    Your doctor first to make sure this will work for you.

  2. Am I the only one who can’t run while using the Diva Cup? I love mine otherwise and have used it for years, but whenever I try to go for a run with it in, it starts to migrate down by the time I’m 1/4 mile in and feels like it’s going to fall out!.

  3. Went to Divacup about 6 months ago and haven’t looked back. I’ve gone at least 10 miles with it during heavy flow with no issues. My philosophy is to relax and let my body rest during my periods… for me that includes no pressure, pleasant runs if my period and longer training runs coincide on the calender.

  4. I had very heavy periods with outrageous clotting for 7 full days. I had Novasure done and it reduced my periods to three days of light flow. I am now using OCP to stop even those (convenience)because they tend to be irregular.

    Novasure was very worth it. Fast morning appt, no exercise or heavy lifting that day, then nothing 🙂

  5. I love the DivaCup but with perimenopause the first day of my period is so heavy I tend to avoid the cup. Too much leaking. I just keep my fingers crossed race day won’t be day 1 but things are looking bleak for my next marathon.

  6. One of my favorite perks of pregnancy is not having to deal with a period for awhile. I got spoiled, and when it came back it was so hard to adjust. I’ve had issues with tampons falling out (I think I need to do more kegals) and pads ending up bunched up in my underwear. Unfortunately, with a baby coming in about 5 weeks, and my past of bleeding for at least 6, I’m going to have to face this again very soon.

  7. I had Mirena for 5 years and didn’t have a single period the whole time. When it was time to come out I decided I wanted to be hormone-free before I started begging for hormones during menopause! I’m still trying to figure myself out and find myself in the feminine hygiene aisle with an overwhelmed blank stare! I still don’t know what I need…too many options!

  8. You never know how BC will affect each individual. LoestrenFE had me bleeding nearly every day for several months. With Mirena, life is much better. I don’t ever expect to be one of those chicks who completely lose it, but I’m willing to live with almost nothing.

  9. Got the Mirena 2 years ago hoping to lose my heavy period. Just got it out recently and am happy with LoestrenFE. I should have been more cautious about the Mirena – not for folks who tend toward ovarian cysts. Also gave me wicked pms and heavier periods.

  10. I use “Instead” products to run during my period. I can’t wear tampons, they don’t stay in place. And pads, well gross.

  11. Since I am in perimenopause,with no plans to conceive again (and my husband had a vasectomy) my doctor recommended ThermaChoice for uterine ablation. My periods had been debilitating, and were only getting worse in the last few years. I had the procedure done in May and now have ZERO bleeding. It has been a lifesaver for me. So happy I went through the procedure. It’s not 100% with everyone, but it worked for me.

  12. i’m another fan of the mirena. maybe a little spotting every third month or so. oddly, i notice ovuluation a lot more now, and that slows me down some days, but nothing compared to a full-on period.

  13. Love the Diva Cup! My problem is actually the week before my period! I feel like I’m running with a wagon being pulled behind me! My clothes don’t fit right, my mood is blah, and I just want chocolate. :-/

  14. Thank you for giving another options to the Diva Cup. I might have to try. The Diva cup is much too big as well and I end up scrapping something when I remove it and end up with a bladder infection each time I tried it and never have every had a bladder infection otherwise.

  15. I just ran my first marathon on a bad day of my period. 🙁

    I have a paraguard IUD, which I like because it’s not hormonal and I don’t have to remember to do anything, but I did have very heavy periods for several months before they got back to a more reasonable length and flow.

    Anyway, first marathon experience wasn’t fabulous, super hard, not sure if my period contributed to that, I’m sure it didn’t help. But I finished it and that was my goal. I used a combination of tampon & pad because I was nervous about having a really heavy flow. I also had pad sticking problems, due to sweat not rain. Also had to change a tampon at mile 9 in a porta potty–not the most fun.

  16. I use a menstrual cup, and I just wanted to note that there are several different brands if the Diva Cup doesn’t work for you. The Diva Cup was much too big for me, so I went with a Meluna Mini cup from Germany. It’s awesome…well, as awesome as a menstrual product can be. I almost forget I’m on my period when I use it.

  17. I just popped over to the web site for NovaSure, hadn’t heard about it before but it sounds AWESOME especially if it can stop your periods. (it almost sounds too good to be true) I’m on continuous bcp but going thru perimenopause and dealing w/utterly random spells of horrible cramping (and I can’t take NSAIDs) bloating and bleeding. Running/physical activity also seems to cause me to bleed where if I’m just sitting around I don’t (mystifies my doc, but I figure it’s the bouncing?). I wear liners ALL the time gak (even during runs, wear underwear under shorts w/ them & yes the adhesive can be a problem) and sometimes put in a tampon just in case – and we know how fun those can be if you’re not actually bleeding too much. I was considering an salpingo-oophorectomy, since I don’t want to worry about contraception anymore and I’m close enough to meno (47) that I think I would be willing to give up whatever estrogen benefits I’m getting to not have to worry about bleeding, hormone mood swings, etc. But even laparoscopically, that’s surgery, and I was wondering how long it would take me out of running. I guess NovaSure would get rid of the bleeding (hopefully – if it just minimizes, that’d be a pain) but would leave me with cramping, bloating and mood swings. But might allow me to go off bcp. If anyone knows more, please post/reply!

  18. I had the reverse results with Mirena. Horrible, gushing. There’s a small percentage of women who have experience this and I was one!

    My problem is that my breasts hurt so badly in the week prior to, and during. Actual tear inducing pain.

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