Running Through Your Period in Comfort and Confidence

A woman runs in the sunlight.

This Women’s History Month, let’s take steps to normalize a topic that can feel taboo: menstruation.

Women make up half of the population, and 26% of the global population is of menstruation age at any given time. It’s a totally normal, biological function. Despite this, an enduring lack of education and open communication has contributed to persistent stigma about menstruation—AKA: periods.

*We understand that not everyone born female identifies as a woman. We think it’s important to include everyone that has their period in this discussion, and hope this resource is helpful for anyone of any gender identity that lives with periods.

Periods and Exercise

You may be wondering, is it safe to work out during your period? According to the US Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health, yes. Although, you might find that performance is affected by energy levels, any physical discomfort you’re experiencing or whether or not it’s a heavy-flow day. Research has shown that some women experience fewer or less-painful cramps during their period if they exercise regularly. However, this isn’t representative of all women.

What if your period lands on a day with a long run or hard workout? After all, it can be tricky to manage your period on a run if the products you use are uncomfortable or you’re on the road without easy access to a bathroom. Nobody’s going to blame you if you reduce mileage or intensity, push it to another day or skip it entirely.

Or, you can grit your teeth and run through it. Remember that story that went viral in 2015 of Kiran Gandhi free bleeding during her first marathon at the London Marathon? While there’s nothing wrong with this method, this doesn’t have to be you! If toughing it out isn’t your style, there are tons of ways to make it easier to manage your period when you’re running to make it a more comfortable, less anxiety-laden experience.

Pain Management

A woman sips her water bottle.

Period side effects can range in severity, and can affect performance physically and mentally. There are a few easy things you can do to reduce symptoms.

Increasing hydration helps flush out your system to fight bloating, gas and constipation. Like it or not, decreasing caffeine intake will also help by reducing cramps. On those days when the cramps are really bad but you still want to go for a run, try applying a sticky heating pad to your lower abdomen for on-the-go treatment.

There are many medicinal ways to manage period pain, including magnesium, acetaminophen, NSAIDs and birth control. If you’re into more natural options, some foods, herbs and supplements can also help manage period side effects. You may want to ask your best running friend what they do, but it’s important to have a chat with your doctor to discuss the best options based on your health history prior to starting something new.

Period Products

Good hygiene is a very important part of period management, and this isn’t always guaranteed when you’re out for a run. Nothing is worse than staring down a questionable gas station bathroom or lone porta potty for a regular bathroom break, let alone to manage your period. Fortunately, there are tons of products on the market that make it easier to run with your period.

Two woman laugh on a park bench.

Tampons and Pads

Many people are introduced to pads and tampons when they begin menstruating. These products are great because they’re widely available, making them relatively easy to access anywhere.

Pads are the easiest to use, with virtually zero learning curve. Tampons, on the other hand, do have a learning curve, and practicing good hygiene can be complicated when out for a run without access to water or hand sanitizer. Both pads and tampons can be uncomfortable, and both can leak. It’s common for these products to be manufactured with perfumes, which are not great for your body and negatively contribute to the persistent stigma that periods are dirty and unnatural. Plus, neither are easy to manage when out for a run because they take up valuable space in your pockets or hydration packs.

A woman runs with a headlamp on.

Cups and Discs

While menstrual cups have been around as long as tampons, they’ve gained popularity in the last decade. Menstrual cups and discs are made of flexible material designed to catch fluid instead of absorbing it. Cups are somewhat bell-shaped, whereas discs look like a shallow bowl. They function by creating a seal to keep fluid inside the device, preventing leaks.

Cups and discs hold more fluid than a tampon, so runners can go longer between bathroom breaks. Both can be emptied hands-free by bearing down, which makes it much easier to manage on-the-go when soap and water or hand sanitizer aren’t readily available. If you do need to remove in order to empty, just give it a quick rinse with water (in a pinch, water from your bottle will do) prior to reinserting.

These are an excellent, eco-friendly option for the environmentalist at heart. Cups are made of medical-grade silicone, which can be boiled to disinfect prior to storage and next use, eliminating waste that ends up in landfills. Some discs are also reusable silicone, whereas others are not. However, even disposable discs generate less waste than tampons or pads because you can go longer between changes.

Reusable menstrual discs and cups can be expensive initially, but that price gets spread out over time and ends up being much more affordable than restocking on other products. It can be difficult to learn how to insert, properly seat to create that protective seal and remove them, so it’s best to give them a try at home before venturing out in public.

A woman smiles on a yoga mat.


Period panties look and feel like normal underwear, but are designed to absorb fluid and prevent leaks thanks to absorbent materials and a moisture barrier. If you prefer going commando, there are even absorbent exercise shorts that work for running on your period.

Like discs and cups, period panties are designed to hold more fluid than a tampon. They are thinner than pads, making them more comfortable, and come in a variety of cuts—boy short, bikini, etcetera—to suit your personal preference. And, yes, they’re easy to clean.

These offer a last line of defense on high-flow days, and are an excellent option on light days. Plus, they help drastically reduce the amount of waste in landfills. They can be an expensive initial investment, but like cups and discs, that money spreads out over time. When all else fails and a leak happens, it might seem obvious, but dark bottoms go a long way in hiding period mishaps. We’ve made it easy to shop all black tights, capris, and shorts. Cold water is the key to removing stains—avoid heat at all costs.

Remember, periods are totally normal. Finding the right pain-management methods and products can take time, but the winners will offer comfort and confidence when you’re on the run during your period. Now that you’re armed with a list of products to check out, learn how to master your cycle during training. Happy running!

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