Is It OK to Have Sex the Night Before a Big Race?

It’s the night before the big race. Your race-day outfit is ready to go, your stomach is full of more simple carbs than you thought it would ever hold – and your significant other is giving you that look.

But is it OK to put that super-hot running body of yours to good use? Or should you push your partner into a cold shower and tell him or her to think about the footy?

“As runners, we are a superstitious group. We don’t want to do anything different – even if it’s something we love,” says Julie M. Levitt, a 14-time marathoner and ob-gyn. “But physiologically there is no reason why you can’t or shouldn’t have sex the night before a race.”

In fact, one cut-to-the-chase editorial in the Clinic Journal of Sports Medicine titled, “Does Sex the Night Before Competition Decrease Performance?” reviewed three studies on pre-race sex and found no reason that it would cause a decline in performance – granted it’s a “wham, bam, thank you, mam” sort of thing. The editorial notes that the average married couple only burns 105 to 209 kilojoules each during sex – the equivalent of walking up two flights of stairs.

Obviously, that’s not going to put a big dent in your precious glycogen reserves. However, if you go for a marathon romp – or let it cut into your all-important sleep time – it definitely can drain your energy levels. “Keep it short and sweet. Don’t participate in an endurance event before the endurance event,” Levitt says.

What’s more, making it a quickie can also prevent any next-day soreness or irritation, she says. As can keeping it gentle. Deep, rough, sex can cause the cervix to bleed, and if the lining of your uterus is thin, you may experience some irritation and bleeding. (Levitt notes that even long training runs can cause spotting in some women.) Water-based lubricants can also prevent friction-caused irritations.

And, sorry to take some of the excitement out of it, but this is also not the night to try anything – and we mean anything – new. “Don’t experiment with new positions or acrobatics in the bedroom; it would be a shame to strain or pull a muscle or get that all-so-common calf cramp the night before the big race,” says ob-gyn and runner Alyssa Dweck, co-author of V is for Vagina. “Finally, it’s prudent to avoid a new brand of condom, spermicide, or other novel product during sex the night before a race, just in case you are sensitive and have an unexpected reaction.”

If you know you’re prone to post-sex soreness and irritation, Levitt recommends hopping in the shower or bath afterward. It will help normalise your vagina’s pH, which can get thrown off from contact with his manpart. DESITIN nappy rash cream can also ease vulvar irritations, Levitt says. It only takes about six to eight hours to calm things down, making it ideal for the night before a race. (It’s dual purpose. Use it in the morning to prevent thigh and sports-bra chafing.)

Using a condom – even if you’re on the pill or trying to get pregnant – can also be beneficial. According to recent research published in the journal PLoS One, condoms can help prevent sex-caused swings in your vagina’s pH. Plus, as Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist, notes “from a purely too-much-information-and-detail standpoint, I’m not sure I’d want the morning-after outflow of ejaculate happening while I’m getting ready to run a race.” Condoms to the rescue!

But, all of that doesn’t mean anything if fitting sex into your pre-race routine stresses you out or breaks your concentration. “You should be relaxed and focused the 24 to 48 hours before a race, and if having sex helps you relax, that’s a good thing,” Hamilton says. However, “for others, sex is a chore, a distraction and may diminish the all-important feelings of pre-race anticipation,” Dweck says.

In fact, when Levitt took an informal (and what we can assume was a hilarious) poll of her patients who run, asking them, “Would you ever have sex the night before a race?” some women thought it was a great idea – while others shuddered at the thought.

Either way, it’s OK. Sex, like every aspect of your pre-race ritual, is all about listening to what fuels your body.


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