The vagina – a wonderland and a secret at the same time. Metaphors aside, you probably don’t think much about your vagina when you’re ready to start exercising. But vaginal care is more than just a few kegels every now and then and a little tidying up with a monthly wax, and all of the extra sweat, friction, and heat that comes down under can funcify your Va-Jay-Jay. Make your inner city less prone to infections, viruses, and other such problems with these expert tips for active women worldwide – and keep your lower parts pink.
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Constant and prolonged exposure to moisture can cause your vaginal flora to migrate into the area of yeast infection, which is basically an overgrowth of the candida fungus. “Your vagina is spirited and very sensitive to anything specifically going on down there,” says Sherry A. Ross, Ph.D., and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. (Republic of Savio, 2017). Your vagina has its own little ecosystem of good and bad microorganisms, and if the scale is tilted too much in one direction, your vagina is unhappy.
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When you exercise, you sweat – even down there – and that extra moisture irritates your sweat glands and hair follicles, and upsets the pH balance of your vagina. “The vagina is already a warm, humid place – the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to build up,” says Ross. A study from Rutgers University found that it can be paired with sweaty workout clothes that hold moisture and warmth next to your body and can amplify the effects.
- Command. While you might think that wearing spandex panties will help keep things dry, Ross says this is a no-no. “Sports brands pay attention to the type of fibers they use and these fabrics – especially in the extra panty liner in the crotch – absorb sweat and secretions better than your standard [underpants]”Says Ross.
- Wash up and change. Showering after your workout is the first way to stay infection-free, but sometimes driving, going home, or even stopping for brunch is on your immediate agenda. “It’s this excess sweat that, if not washed away immediately after your workout, feeds the yeast in your vagina,” says Ross. Immediately after your workout, take off your sweaty gear and put on clean, dry underwear and clothing to avoid the yeasty animals.
Yeast infection symptoms
- Itching, burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and vulva
- Thick, odorless, white discharge similar to cottage cheese
- Sometimes accompanied by pain during intercourse and / or urination
If there is too much of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina, it can upset the delicate balance between “good” and “bad” flora. “Bacterial vaginosis isn’t a true bacterial infection; it’s a bacterial imbalance that upsets the pH of your vagina,” says Ross. The vagina is usually acidic, with a pH between 3.8 and 4.5 – something like a tomato in case you were curious. “Anything in conflict with this pH can lead to vaginal distress, such as infection, dryness, itching, or burning,” explains Ross.
While experts disagree on the cause (some claim the disease was due to multiple sexual partners), Ross believes you develop bacterial vaginosis, much like you would get a yeast infection – by wearing sweaty clothes for too long.
- Ibid. Similar to a yeast infection: take a shower immediately after your workout and take off your wet, tight-fitting pants as quickly as possible.
- Spin cycle. Athletes who ride or spin bikes should wipe the seat thoroughly before training and remove training pants / shorts immediately after class or riding. “During these activities in particular, your vagina and vulvar area may be more exposed [foreign] Bacteria as you press against a seat and invite germs to invade your body, ”she says.
Vaginal body odor
Just like your armpits, your vagina can smell after a workout, which may or may not be normal. “If the odor persists after you shower, see your doctor,” says Shery A. Ross, as persistent odor can be the sign of infection. Wondering if the yogi can get a whiff on the next mat when you are in Down Dog? “If it’s an infection then yes, most likely, but if it’s just a small vaginal BO, you probably don’t have to worry,” says Ross.
Bacterial vaginosis symptoms
- An abnormal amount of thin, gray-white discharge
- A foul smelling fish odor
- In some cases, painful intercourse
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria sneak into your bladder through your urethra – the tube that leads out of your bladder. These bacteria multiply quickly, causing the lining of your urinary tract to swell and causing many uncomfortable, painful symptoms.
Empty your bladder before and immediately after your workout. “People who exercise tend to drink lots of water, but they also likely delay urination to keep their workouts going,” says Ross. But if you hold it, you hold all of these germs in you too.
Sexual activity can also bring bacteria into your urethra, leading to a urinary tract infection. Urinate as soon as possible after intercourse to reduce the chance of contraction.
- Pee on the reg. Take regular toilet breaks, even if you only have to walk a little, and while visits to the bathroom can be awful, emptying your bladder will help flush out any crouching bacteria.
- See your doc – like now. Over-the-counter drugs can mask the pain, but they won’t displace the bacteria, which will likely require a course of antibiotics to be driven away. “If you wait too long to start antibiotics, the infection can progress from a simple cystitis to a complex kidney infection,” warns Ross.
- A common urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Pelvic pain
- Inability to urinate or to pass small amounts of urine frequently
- Urine that appears cloudy or reddish-pink (a sign of blood in the urine)
- Strong smelling urine
Sport Vagina – also known as Sport V.
While this is not an official disease, experts agree that Sport V is a real thing. “The outer tissues of the vagina can create a lot of friction over the inner vaginal areas,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and associate professor of exercise science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. Just as your feet can slide around in your shoes without protection from socks, similarly, your vagina can be rubbed and rubbed raw with no padding, she adds.
If you don’t wear enough layers when doing high-friction movements like spinning, cycling, walking, or running, you’re at risk for Sport V: In one study, 60 percent of cyclists said they experienced some level of genital discomfort while riding. “The way the vagina is positioned on a bicycle seat [creates] Pressure on the sensitive soft tissues of the labia and minora, ”explains Ross. On a long bike ride, the pressure on the tailbone, lower back, and groin also restricts blood flow and increases skin irritation, leading to genital pain and / or vaginal numbness – especially around the clitoris.
- Be step conscious. Ross recommends wearing cycling shorts or shorts with a chamois – a padded crotch lining – to reduce the risk of Sport V. In addition, applying a thin layer of emollient such as petroleum jelly or A&D ointment to your women’s parts before training serves as protection against friction and chafing.
- Exit a runway. In other words, not over them. “A nice cut of your pubic hair is fine, but don’t shave it completely,” recommends Ross. “The rest of the hair serves as a pillow.”
Sports vagina symptoms
- Burning, redness and itching
- Skin infections
An ounce of prevention
Avoid getting a pound of cure with these three tips to reduce the chance of encountering a problem below.
Skip the thong
Avoid wearing straps that slide around a lot while exercising. “Bacteria from the anus and colon are introduced into the bladder through the urethra when you wear a thong,” adds Sherry A. Ross. And because the urethra is much shorter in women than in men, women tend to get more bladder infections and urinary tract infections. If you have to wear panties, make sure they are made from breathable natural fibers like cotton or bamboo that wick moisture away from your vagina.
Don’t be a shower
Your vagina is a perfectly balanced ecosystem and doesn’t need a shower to smell better. In fact, showering changes the balance of your vaginal pH and increases the likelihood of infection, according to Ross. She does, however, recommend feminine wipes for a little tapping after exercise to remove excess sweat and moisture and to maintain a healthy pH level. Alternatively, you can add some coconut oil to a hot bath to help moisturize the skin of the vulva and prevent dryness and itching. Bonus: Coconut oil can also loosen ingrown hairs and bumps.
Go on your period
While it may be the last thing you want to do when Aunt Flow calls, exercising can actually relieve menstrual cramps such as uterine cramps, vomiting, nausea, and back pain. “When you exercise, your body increases blood flow to the uterus and increases the production of endorphins,” says Michele Olson. These feel-good hormones can counteract cramps and fight your cravings after exercise. In addition, the effectiveness of your training – whether time period or not – remains the same, according to a study in the International Journal of Neuroscience, which was carried out on female athletes. Yes, it may be more difficult to motivate and work at its usual intensity, but your body is still capable of hard work no matter what date on the calendar. So don’t let the sweat of your uterus speak to you.
The skinny on “sports” tampons
While it may seem like a marketing gimmick, tampons designed for sports are actually useful for female athletes as they flare up after ingesting fluid instead of staying in a tubular shape. Sporty variety or not, experts recommend wearing a tampon that’s wrong on the smaller side. “If a tampon gets too bloody, it can swell out of the vagina and rub the edges raw and cause severe inflammation,” says Michele Olson.