March 24, 2022
Let’s Talk about Sex for the Female Triathlete
Bike saddles & sex? Low libido? Too tired from training for sex? Feisty Triathlon Head Coach & Educator Miranda Bush dispels myths and shares ways you can invite more sex into your life as an athlete.
The sport of triathlon has a lot of potential to add value to your life. This doesn’t necessarily mean training and racing is always comfortable, or fun (according to the standard dictionary definition). But the hope is that it doesn’t take away from other potentially enjoyable things in your life– like sex.
[Disclaimer: the message of this article is not to persuade you to have any amount of sex with yourself or other(s). Like all other matters, what you do with your time and the impact of your life experiences are your own to manage. This is for all of the women in triathlon who enjoy, or want to enjoy, sex as a part of their lives.]
So, for all of those who are still with me– let’s talk about sex.
Potential Barriers to Sex for Women in Triathlon
Bike Saddle and Sexual Dysfunction
In a 2006 report outlining a Yale study that was performed on 48 women exercising on stationary bikes, generalized that female cyclists “probably are at similar risk for sexual problems as men.” (Referring to the raised risk of erectile dysfunction, that was documented in studies of male police officers on bike patrol.) According to the report, the findings, published online in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, “help shed further light on the problems faced by female riders but more study is needed.”
And in 2018 when “more study” was done, it resulted in good news for women cyclists and triathletes. The Journal of Sexual Medicine included the largest ever study into the relationship between cycling and female sexual health (3,118 women from major cycling, swimming, and running organizations from around the world). New research found that higher intensity riders have better sex lives, as well as concluding that there’s no relationship between intensity and sexual or urinary function.
Most agree that the results of saddle discomfort, like chafing, ingrown hairs, infections, and saddle sores, may inhibit sexual activity.
More Stress and a Lack of Time and Energy
Stress has a big impact on libido. And according to research, women are twice as likely to suffer from stress and anxiety related disorders than men. Many argue that the stress is often caused by the burdens of women taking on more unpaid domestic work and emotional “labor” at home. It is hard enough to find the time to work, take care of a house and/or family, nurture friendships and other relationships, and train and race. Dedicating leftover personal time and energy to training may leave you too exhausted or out of time for sex. And the stress of trying to “do it all” can inhibit arousal.
Training Isn’t Fun
Triathletes spend a lot of beloved time away from the hustle of life with training. It is important that you keep assessing whether or not it is your desire to keep using your extra time toward triathlon related goals. Allow the ability to pivot if training feels more like a “job,” or obligation, rather than an outlet for stress relief or a way to find joy.
For most women with a lower libido, hormones are to blame. Our hormones fluctuate, especially as we age. And since hormones are constantly changing, your libido changes as well.
Low Self Image
It is no secret that our culture is not kind to women regarding body image. We are constantly bombarded with messages that our physical bodies are not “good enough,” and that our physical appearance can and should be improved. As a result, low self esteem can lead to stress, anxiety, and low libido.
Any Combination of All of the Above
If you are not having as much sex as you’d like, it is most likely due to a combination of obstacles or barriers. But, low libido doesn’t have to be permanent. And truly, the answer to increasing libido is ironically to have more sex. Read below on some ways that women in triathlon can find more time and energy to have more (and better) sex.
How Invite More Sex into your Life as an Athlete
- Use lube. Invest and try different lubricants to enhance sexual comfort and pleasure. We suggest Apres Delight, one of our amazing Women’s Performance sponsors. And speaking of pleasure, don’t be afraid to find toys, etc to add to your experiences.
- Protect your labia and entire vulva area in training. Biking and running can cause chafing and/or saddle sores that can potentially make sex uncomfortable. Wear bike shorts, use chamois cream, and get a bike fit to help make your ride more comfortable and stay sex ready. Check out this article on loving your labia for women in triathlon for more tips!
- Schedule time for intentional sex, either alone or with a partner. Studies show that women are inclined to be aroused for 15-30 minutes after only 20 minutes of exercise. I suggest carving out some time for sexual activity after your shorter workouts– and longer ones as well if you find that they help you feel “in the mood.” Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research on exactly how much exercise is too much to positively impact libido. Women also can become aroused during workouts. Check out this blog post from our Feisty Leader, Sara Gross, on having an orgasm at the gym.
- Know your WHY for your triathlon goal. If you are regular readers you have heard this message before– and yes, all roads lead back to understanding the reason for setting your goal and how it fits into your life purpose. Allow yourself scheduled “check-ins” to ensure that your training is still adding value to your life. Take note of your priorities and if sex is one make a plan to fit it in (and it just might mean scheduling less sessions per week!).
- Talk to your doctor about ways to manage your hormones. Ask about Hormone Replacement Therapy if you are peri or postmenopusal. Research how adaptogens can help decrease stress and anxiety (among other benefits).
- Learn about and understand how sex is good for your physical, emotional, and mental health. Practice self care and love in the form of acceptance and compassion for your physical appearance and your truest desires.
If you want to have more sex, find ways to prioritize it. Consider the ways it will enhance your mental and physical health, which will ultimately positively impact how you perceive your overall training and racing. More sex can help you be more content and therefore a stronger athlete.
Miranda Bush is the Head Coach and Educator at Feisty Triathlon. She is USA Triathlon and Training Peaks certified, as well as a certified Health Coach. She is also a graduate of Dr. Stacy Sim’s Women Are Not Small Men and Menopause for Athletes courses. As a longtime coach specializing in training women, her passion lies in using lessons from training and racing to teach athletes to evolve physically, mentally, and emotionally through sport. Miranda is also a longtime athlete and multiple Ironman and 70.3 distance podium finisher, maintaining a consistent racing career while working and raising her kids. She resides in Wisconsin with her three teenagers and husband who all love to race triathlon.