Here's an upsetting stat that will definitely not be shocking at all for anyone who went through the trauma of having a period at school: one in four girls will drop out of sports during adolescence, citing 'period leakage' as a main reason.
Is it any wonder? People are made to feel serious shame about their periods when they start, from having to ask a teacher for bathroom time to stupid jibes made by boys (necessitating the old tampon-up-the-sleeve trick). That's before we even get to cultural stigmas and the worry for many young people about affording sanitary products in the first place. With all that going on, sports are just about the last place you feel like you want to be experimenting with how much tenacity there really is in a heavy flow tampon.
And yet the clothes we wear for sports make this an issue that people have to worry about. From tiny running shorts to tight-fitting leggings, activewear is the last type of clothing to hide the blushes of someone who's had a leak.
This is why adidas' latest product is particularly game-changing: Stay In Play period leggings. Unlike the now widely used period pants, these period 'tights' are designed for use with sanitary products, rather than instead of them. However, they are designed to give anyone wearing them peace of mind about leakage with a three layer security system involving a wicking layer, an absorption layer and a leak-proof layer. Which means people can actually focus on the thing they're there to do, like destroying their chosen sport, whether it's yoga or football, netball or kickboxing.
It's pretty outrageous that it's taken this long to tackle periods and sport together. In fact, speaking to 14,000 athletes around the UK, adidas found that 82.3% of them had never received any education about their menstrual cycle in the context of sports or exercise and, of those who have a coach, 81.5% of them hadn't spoken to them about their menstrual cycle!
Even Jessica Ennis-Hill, two-time Olympic medal winner and eight-time gold medal winner in women's athletics, only started connecting menstrual cycles and sports properly when she got pregnant. Her interest led to the launch just this year of her CycleMapping programme, which works with your cycle to make sure you're doing the optimum exercise at the optimum time. It turns out that those times when you feel sluggish and crap before you're about to come on and the last thing you feel like doing is a HIIT class is actually a bona fide physiological reaction from your body to hormones. Not, as you were guiltily feeling, proof that you just CBA.
So fingers crossed that adidas' innovation is just the latest in what proves to be a long line of research and development in the area of sports and periods. Here's to a future where people with periods will not only be able to work out and play sports without fear of leakage but will also be able to work out and play sports at their very best because they know their cycle and how to make it work for them.