As an outdoorsy woman who has periods and who runs Wild Women Events, I figured this might be a really useful topic to cover here on the Every Treasure blog. To be fair, periods are at times a bit of a nuisance (understatement of the century), but, they do exist and they can sometimes stop us in our tracks and prevent us from doing the things we love to do so it’s helpful to know how to manage them well so that they don’t keep us from living our best lives. I promise there will be no mention of cropped, white shorts or rollerblading down a hillside in this feature but I will offer some practical tips which have helped me to continue getting outdoors and active even when I’m on my period.
FIRST THIINGS FIRST…
The dreaded monthly cramps. You know those ones that make you want to dive under your duvet with a hot water bottle, a big bar of your favourite chocolate (which you are not sharing for love nor money, ok?) and a good ol’ binge-worthy boxset? Well, sometimes that is indeed just what the mood requires and I am all for that from time to time, however, gentle walking and aerobic activity is actually proven to help ease period pain. It doesn’t need to be a full-on mountain hike…a lovely wander along a beach, a stroll through a moody forest or a dander around the local park can contribute to feeling better physically and will also lift your mood.
THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF THINGS…
I have been caught out before now as I am sure we all have by a period arriving earlier than expected and not having the necessary period care supplies with me…cue total flippin’ nightmare! I once took the ferry to Rathlin Island only to have to catch the next available return ferry because my period came on so unexpectedly and heavily that I was soaked through and I had no change of clothes or anything with me – not a pleasant experience but a lesson to always have a few supplies with me for emergencies such as that. Because my periods are really heavy and unpredictable I now always carry with me a little waterproof washbag with a change of underwear, some wipes, tissues, a plastic bag, tampons and a pad. It gives me peace of mind that I can still go about my adventures and have all that I might need in case my period decides to surprise me, cause she’s sweet like that, you know.
While out and about in the mountains and wild spaces that I like to explore there are obviously limited or no toilet facilities so that’s when things get a little bit trickier, but not impossible altogether. It is still totally possible to go adventuring when you have your period and feel clean and hygienic at the same time. There’s no problem going for a pee behind a tree or a boulder whatsoever while bleeding, in fact squatting like humans were designed to do is a really good for your bodily functions – you can easily clean-up with tissues and wipes and bag it all up discretely – if you’re worried that the contents of the bag will smell (it won’t by the way if it’s tied up) you can buy little scented bags from the supermarket. Wet wipes and hand sanitiser are totally fine for cleansing your hands thoroughly. Another thing I often do is bring a soapy washcloth in a sealed bag to give my hands a good rub as that somehow feels nice and clean and refreshing too.
Can I tell you what has been an absolute game-changer for me over the past year or so?! Period Pants…yep, you heard me. There is definitely a lot more awareness around options for women when they’re menstruating but I still feel like these are the world’s best kept secret. I have tried the whole range of choices; from disposable pads and tampons, to menstrual cups and reusable pads, but over the past year or so I have been using period pants very successfully. I wanted to use them for a while before I really shared my opinion on them and I have to be honest with you…they’ve changed my outdoorsy experiences so much. I no longer worry about starting to bleed or if I am on my period they give me absolute peace of mind that I will have no embarrassing leaks. I don’t need to change pads or tampons – the pants do all the hard work and come in a variety of absorbancy levels. The brand I have been using is called Modi Bodi and they are actually really beautiful pants – the fabric is just gorgeous, they’re not bulky in the slightest and just feel like regular knickers, I don’t feel wet while wearing them like I might with a disposable pad, they are better for the environment, they do not smell at all and mostly they’re extremely comfy and do the job really well!
A FEW EXTRA THOUGHTS…
Hydration: Let’s face it, periods take a lot out of us physically so be sure to drink plenty of water pre-adventure, sip while you wander and rehydrate on return. I love to leave a flask of really nice herbal tea in the car for my drive home as it is additional hydration but also just really comforting.
Nutrition: As well as plenty of water be sure to eat lots of delicious snacks and food which will give you the energy you need for your hike – I love mixed nuts, boiled eggs, bananas and for tea I will make sure to get lots of leafy greens, some good protein and oils – think salmon fillet, baby boiled potatoes and curly kale and you’re onto a winner…a little glass of red wine is a real treat too.
Sore boobs: Another glorious side-effect of periods is achy, heavy breasts. A good supportive sports’ bra goes a long way in easing this discomfort and a snug base-layer is really nice too as it keeps everything in place. Keep warm while out and treat yourself to a nice long shower or bubble bath when you get home…ring someone when you get off the mountain and remind them to pop the water heater on so it’s ready for your return! Tell them to light a nice scented candle too…
Headaches: Those dull, heavy period headaches really suck don’t they? Hydration can help a lot with this and it’s probably worth carrying a few paracetamol in your rucksack in case you end up with a blinding headache that leaves you feeling miserable. I’ve noticed over the years that cold mountain air can bring on a headache for me so I always either carry or wear a snug beanie in an attempt to keep that at bay.
Sleep: Ah, how elusive good quality sleep is these days with all that’s going on in the world and I’m even more restless when I have my period! Decent rest is really important before and after outdoor adventures and there’s nothing wrong with a little power nap if you need one in the days after a big expedition – just don’t let your boss catch you! But seriously, the body needs rest and recovery after hikes and so on at the best of times but you will definitely need a little extra rest if you’ve gone adventuring while on your period…be kind to yourself and listen to what your body is telling you it needs. There’s nothing quite like snuggling up beside a roaring fire with lots of blankets and a nice cuppa in that post-hike bliss phase – you’ve earned it, so enjoy it!
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