Over the last few weeks I've been super busy delivering online workshops and this weeks hot topic has been Puberty, Periods and Performance.
Growing up, hitting puberty, developing spotty skin, getting hairy legs and starting your period is hard enough to come to terms with as a girl. Throw in the fact the sport we love to do requires us to be half-naked, the process can be very daunting.
Both of my parents were very supportive and spoke about the topic often enough that it didn’t become a taboo subject. When I started my period it was no big deal! I was ready for the challenge and knew I had to manage them pretty quickly if I wanted to be a competitive swimmer. Periods last on average 40 years, and as a girl we need them happen, so it’s not a bad thing when they start! They kick start our maturity into becoming a woman and bring along physical changes which help us to chase faster times!
When speaking to young swimmers a lot of the same questions pop up...
"How do you manage with a hairy bikini line? Mine gets sore when I shave and my costume rubs."
"What do I do with my tampon string because i’m worried it will ang out of my costume?"
“Do you have any tips for dealing with period pains? Sometimes I have to miss training."
"How do I tell my mum I’ve started my period?"
All of these questions seem totally normal to me, but for some reason people find it awkward to talk about periods.
My top tip for managing with a hairy bikini line is to shave less and exfoliate often. A few hairs are less obvious and a lot less painful than a shaving rash, so don’t over do it! As you get older you could try waxing, as this pulls the hair out rather than shaving the top off.
Your tampon string may hang out your swimming costume if you don't tuck it in! It needs to hang out in order to remove it, but you can hide the string at the base of your vagina and this way it shouldn’t fall out.
Period pains are different for everyone, so find a strategy that works for you. A couple of paracetamol and a hot water bottle before bed do the trick for me.
Lots of girls have the same concern when it comes to telling their mum, when in fact, they can become your biggest resource and closest friend. Your mum had to start her periods in order to give birth to you, so she’ll be well equipped when it comes to answering any questions you may have. If not your mum, an older sister or aunt can also help!
It’s so important growing up as a swimmer to understand what is happing to our bodies during puberty. The more we can normalise the conversation, the more chance we have keeping girls in the pool, and girls in sport!