There’s no denying that regular sweat sessions are awesome for your health. But what about the health of your vagina? Whether it’s getting chafed during a long run or compressed after an hour of cycling, sometimes it feels like a workout does you more harm than good below the belt.
Still, you don’t have to use your vagina as an excuse to blow off the gym. With just a few small tweaks to your favorite fitness routine, you can dial back the likelihood of an injury or infection.
“For each exercise endeavor, there’s a way to make it better for your delicate lady flower,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, a Westchester, New York-based ob-gyn and coauthor of The Complete A-Z for Your V. Read on for the easy solutions to four gym-induced vagina issues.
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Burning and chafing while running
As most runners are painfully aware, logging miles leads to some serious rubbing down below. “Sweaty clothing and skin rubbing against skin can cause painful stinging or burning and a red rash,” she writes. This typically happens in and around the groin, inner thighs, and nipples, she says. (We’ll save the boob struggles for another story.)
So how do you keep your vagina and the surrounding area from becoming an irritated nightmare? Dr. Dweck recommends sticking to “tighter-fitting and moisture-wicking or cotton clothes,” which all help keep you dry. She also advises “applying A + D ointment, Vaseline, or cornstarch” on the vulva, groin, and inner thighs before you pound the pavement, so if you do start to sweat, the chafing won’t be so bad. (But, please, never put any of these things inside your vagina!)
“Saddle sores” during spin class
Biking workouts have become super trendy over the past couple of years. If you’re a fan, then you’re probably all too familiar with the way cycling and spinning sessions can trigger “saddle sores,” or pressure sores from sitting too long. They’re characterized by cracked and broken skin or blisters on the vulva (yikes!).
Saddle sores are as unsightly and painful as they sound, but you can prevent them. First, Dr. Dweck advises investing in padded chamois shorts, which make your time on the bike seat a lot more comfortable, so you’re less likely to break skin.
If you’re an outdoor cyclist (and you have the option to switch out your bike seat), upgrade to a gel seat cover for extra cushion. You can also try an “open seat with a V cut-out or groove or an ultra-wide cushiony cruiser seat,” says Dr. Dweck. And if you’re planning to go for an extra long ride, consider treating your lady parts to some biking glide. She recommends Chois Butt’r or Bodyglide to limit chafing from the pressure of your butt against the seat and thus reduce saddle sores in “high-friction” areas.
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A yeast infection after a swim
While you’re hanging around the locker room in a wet swimsuit talking to friends after your swim class, you’re allowing potentially harmful microbes time to set up shop in and around your vagina. “While you’re enjoying yourself, a vulvar and vaginal infection or irritation can be developing,” says Dr. Dweck.
One of the most common is a yeast infection, caused by an overgrowth of the naturally occurring yeast in your vagina. Yeast thrive in warm, moist places—such as the crotch area of your wet swimsuit. Her advice? Get out of that suit, take a shower (or at least towel yourself off between your legs thoroughly), and put on clean, dry clothes, so yeast have no place to multiply.
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Post-workout bacterial rashes
As much as you may love your yoga pants, running shorts, or that super-comfy sports bra, keeping them on after your workout or class has ended increases the chance of developing a yeast infection as well as a bacterial infection on the skin around your vagina, says Dr. Dweck. Bacteria are big fans of moist, dark areas—making your cute athleisure outfit the perfect place for breeding. So before you rock your cute yoga leggings to brunch, remember: after any workout, “change to dry clothing ASAP,” she adds.