Whether you’re spinning in the studio, cranking on your Peloton, or speeding down the open road, you may notice your cycling workouts lead to pain and discomfort for your pelvic floor. This can happen with any activity involving a saddle (including horse riding and motorbikes) because of the type of pressure placed on nerves and muscles in your pelvic region.
Many women report experiencing:
- Sharp vaginal pain
- Tightness or tension
- Burning due to nerve response
- Difficulty emptying the bladder or bowels
- Discomfort during intercourse
If you experience these symptoms after cycling, we recommend consulting with a pelvic floor specialist to assess your pelvic health. These are physical therapists trained in pelvic floor health.
We've gathered some top tips to help support your pelvic floor and vaginal wellness during cycling workouts.
Improve your posture
If you’re a road cyclist, we recommend fitting your bike. Bike shop experts understand the biomechanics of cycling and know the best posture for your body type. Ideally, your bottom should be slightly back in the seat to avoid causing pain and discomfort in your vagina.
It also helps to maintain a flat back while keeping your shoulders down. This positioning prevents back pain and decreases pressure on your pelvic floor. This is especially important if you’ve been diagnosed with diastasis recti or pelvic prolapse.
When it comes to proper leg positioning, keep your knees in line with your toes. Women with weak gluteal muscles or tight IT bands have knees that tend to move toward the midline of the bike. If this is the case, it may help to work with a specialist to help improve strength and flexibility in your hips.
Check your bike
How you position your bike can make or break your ride. One thing that helps is changing out your bike seat for a larger one. Most bikes are outfitted with a narrow saddle, but a wider one can provide more support and help relieve pressure on your pelvic floor. More cushion on your seat can also help relieve pressure. You may also opt for padded bike shorts to provide a cushion between your seat and your body.
Handlebar height can also affect your pelvic floor. If you’re forced to lean too far forward because your handlebars are too low, this will increase the pressure placed on your pelvic floor.
Pacing, breathing, and standing
Work on breath cadence and deep breathing. It’s common to hold your breath or take shallow breaths as you fatigue. However, shallow breathing can increase pressure on your pelvic floor and cause abdominal restriction. If you find yourself running out of breath, ease up on your workout until you increase your stamina.
If you’re working out with a group, you may feel compelled to keep up even if your body isn’t ready. Ride at a pace that challenges you but doesn’t exhaust you to the point of fatigue. The more tired you are during exercise, the more likely you will lose form, take shallow breaths, and put pressure on your pelvic floor.
It also helps to alternate between sitting and standing during your cycling workout. Standing relieves pressure on your pelvic floor and gives you a break. It also allows you to reset your posture when you return to a seated position.
Don’t forget to stretch
Stretch when you cool down after your workout. Stretching releases tension and can help decrease pain and pressure in your pelvic floor. Spend 5-10 minutes stretching your lower body, hips, and abdominals. Stretching also changes your nervous system response by letting your brain know the activity you’re performing is safe.
Joylux’s women’s health resource aims to help improve your intimate wellness. Strengthening and protecting your pelvic floor muscles is an important part of relieving discomfort, while maintaining an exercise routine. For more tips on exercising, learn more about how to choose the best activity for menopause & feel better throughout the journey.