For Women: Running an Obstacle Race or Mud Run With Your Period

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The fear of every female obstacle racer and mud runner is a surprise visit from Aunt Flo prior to race day. Sometimes it can seem like she creeps up on the female obstacle racer or mud runner at the most inopportune time. Chances are if you are a female obstacle racer or mud runner between the ages of 18 - 51 you will encounter your period at some point in your obstacle racing and running career. However, getting your period or menstrual cycle around race day does not have to keep you from competing in that big race or event. 

Myth used to say that a woman could not exercise on her period, while during the menstrual cycle the body can more tired and call for the couch before a race exercising while on your period can actually help keep the body functioning well and alleviate minor cramps and discomfort. 

Don't let your menstrual cycle stop you from running your next Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, or one of the all-female obstacle races like Muderella. Check out these ideas to keep you on the course on race day. 

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Planning Ahead - Hormones

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The simplest way to avoid menstruating on race day is to have control over your period though hormones. For the female obstacle racer or mud runner, a quick look at the calendar can see if your racing and cycle end up in sync. If that happens you can either skip that race or that period. If you are already on hormone therapy or birth control consult with your doctor and see if you can skip the placebo pills or a week without the patch or ring at the end of your cycle and continue with the hormones. After the month return to your normal cycle. 

For women who race a lot, another option is to switch to hormone therapy like Seasonique, which is a birth control that brings only 4 periods a year to the female athlete instead of 12. 

This will force your body to skip a cycle and you can avoid menstruating altogether. However, this should not be done less consulted with a doctor. Talk to your doctor about this method if you are concerned with being on course with your period. 

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For those who do not want to interrupt their hormones or no do use hormone therapy to control their menstrual cycle, there are a couple options to run an obstacle race or mud run with your period. For most women, there are two options that are the most comfortable while racing with your period, the tampon or a menstrual cup. Both of which will trap the blood before it leaves your body and create a barrier from you and the elements. ​

For many women, the easiest and most comfortable form of protection is the tampon. Many companies like Tampax have started to make tampons specifically for the female athlete and runner. It is a fear for many to run an obstacle race or mud run with a tampon in, however, if you start with a new tampon at the beginning of your race then change it after the race is over you should not have any problems. Just be sure to change your tampon after the race. 

The other option which creates a barrier between your most private parts and the elements is a menstrual cup like the DivaCup. These cups are inserted and can be worn for up to 12-hours before having to be changed. The cups are reusable and are an alternative for those worried about the elements. This option is used by many female athletes especially those competing in longer events. 

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Ease the Flow

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For many women, cramps can also accompany their cycle. Midol and other female-specific NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help ease cramps and also if taken a day or two before a race can reduce the flow cycle in some women. ​

It is important to be sure you are drinking lots of water during your period and especially if you are taking NSAID's like Midol prior to running a race. It can help stem off fatigue as well as keep your body functioning at a high level. Consider wearing a hydration pack if you plan to run with your period and are worried about dehydration. 

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Closing Thoughts

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Overall, your period shouldn't stop you from competing in your next obstacle race or mud run. Be sure to pack extra clothing and tampons or other protection for after the race and stick to dark colors on race day in case of a leak. With a little bit of preparation, you will be out there competing with the best of them and not only conquering the courses but also conquering Aunt Flo!

If you are concerned about running with your period be sure to consult with your OBGYN or primary doctor and talk about options that are the best for you, your race day, and your goals. You don't have to sit on the sideline on race day.