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How to Prevent Butt Soreness and Vulvar Pain While Cycling

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When you go a few weeks or months without hitting up a particular class or type of workout, there are bound to be a few surprises your first time back. In yoga, for example, you might forget about the deep shoulder burn that accompanies the first few minutes of downward dog. Rock climbers may have to re-remember the forearm soreness that can crop up after a day on the wall.

On-and-off bikers, though, often experience a different type of soreness, and one that they're probably less likely to bring up at their post-workout brunch: butt and vulvar soreness. (Spin instructors' go-to tricks for powering through class.)

Though it's tempting to write off the pain as normal, just the feeling of little-used muscles getting used to an intense workout, you may want to pay closer attention. "Pain is never normal. It's your body telling you to stop doing something," says Lauren Streicher, M.D., an ob-gyn and women's sexual health expert.

Luckily, just tweaking your bike's setup may help, especially if you're sticking to rides or classes that are under two hours long, Streicher says. "If you're taking a Spin class, go up to the instructor and ask them to adjust your bike," she suggests. (Related: 9 Ways to Maximize Your Ride)

Key? Make sure your handlebars are positioned level with or slightly higher than the saddle of the bike. According to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, handlebars that are lower than the saddle increase the pressure put on your genital area, which can lead to numbness.

Streicher says you can try getting padded bike shorts or an extra-padded or wide bike seat. But making sure your bike is adjusted correctly is going to do more for your comfort than the gear you're using.

Endurance bikers may be more likely to experience numbness, tingling, or pain, since the amount of time spent in the seat can increase the risk of nerve compression, Streicher says. Adjusting your seat and handlebars should help that too, but if not, and if investing in padded shorts and seats doesn't help either, and the pain or tingling is persistent, you may have to cut back on the length or frequency of your cycling excursions, she says. (Exchange your century races for a triathlon instead!)

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