Have you decided to start travelling along the Via Francigena, but don’t know how to deal with your upcoming menstruation? Unfortunately, this subject is very little dealt with and is often kept behind bathroom doors. Yet, it is obviously quite relevant for those who want to tackle a long-distance walk, or simply go on a hike at the ‘wrong’ time of the month. Don’t worry, every woman sometimes gets a stain in her clothes, suffers from pain and finds herself without pads when needed – the important thing is to talk about it without discomfort or shame. Hiking during your period is usually possible with the right preparation and investigations.
Many of our followers ask for advice through our channels, having doubts about travelling with their period. This is precisely why we decided to ask four experienced woman walkers to tell us about their first-hand experience on how to cope with the period while walking or travelling, collecting (practical) advice on how to depart on the journey in a more light-hearted way.
Tips by Irene Colzi @ireneccloset
Talking about menstruation is still, inexplicably, a widespread taboo. And it seems that going on a hike when your period occurs is almost an impossible task: many times I have been asked “Do you plan your walks according to your menstrual cycle?” or “One month on Santiago… How did you handle your menstruation?”.
It is actually much simpler than you think. Whether in nature or in a bathroom in one of the towns you cross during your walk, you can change your tampon with the help of biodegradable intimate wipes. If you need to change tampons in the wild, I recommend that you take along biodegradable hygienic bags (or the biodegradable bags usually used for dogs are fine) and put the used materials inside. Knot them up and then throw them in the waste at the first opportunity (not in nature, no, not even biodegradable wipes!). If you have the chance, you could look into the menstrual cup!
👉🏻 Irene’s social media channels
Visit Irene’s blog: ireneccloset.com
Marika Ciaccia’s experience @my_life_in_trek
In my experience, basically every time I have to leave for a long walk my period arrives, and as we all know, it’s a terrible time. Then, of course, each of us and each of our bodies responds differently.
In my case, I have experienced some pretty difficult moments, even while being a hiking guide.
Some time ago, for example, I had to lead a large hiking group in Umbria and it was very hot. My period practically arrived just before I set foot out of the door and so I found myself soaked in red… I didn’t know what to do, as it had never happened to me before. I had to publicly confess my situation to everyone (including men), and they helped me each time I had to leave to hide into a corner.
I had another similar experience during a hike when I woke up one morning in a pool of blood and had stained everything I touched because my period had come early. It was an exceptional event. But even then, there was nothing else I could do but go on. I think women prove to be very tenacious and resilient through these experiences.
As for nutrition, I advise against eating junk food. If you want to eat pasta, avoid rich sauces and as side dishes choose seasonal vegetables (raw or cooked), which must always be included in abundance. Fruit is not my passion, but I try to eat enough of it. Before and after the hike, on the other hand, it is good to eat foods high in protein because they help relieve fatigue, give a sense of fullness, and support the muscles. Drinking a lot, especially during your period, is essential. Such a diet is good to follow at all times, resisting as much as possible to the temptations of local specialties.
Another thing: it’s best to avoid the cold, so do not swim in rivers or streams, cover your belly, wash with warm water and drink hot herbal teas… for me it really makes a difference!
Personally, I prefer the ‘natural’ management of menstruations, so I don’t use any product to relieve pain, even while walking. The most important thing is to listen to my body and try to respond to its needs: if along the way I find an opportunity to get a massage or sleep on a comfortable bed… I jump at it!
Always hoping my body will cooperate until the end of the journey.
👉🏻 Marika’s social media channels
Mary Jane’s advice @whatashamemaryjane
In my case, as for many other women, my menstrual cycle has a huge influence on my mood or psychological state – as well as on my energy and physical abilities.
To me, experiencing a journey is different according to which moment of my cycle I am experiencing. In the second week of my cycle (i.e. before ovulation), I usually feel full of energy and in a good mood, eager to be with others and make friends. As I go on, however, the situation changes, and I tend to become quieter and more introspective, so much so that I want to walk alone and my energy is waning. However, I found that being outdoors and exercising, such as with a hike, helps a lot. At those times, along the route, I prefer to be in the company of only a few people.
A completely different situation is having my actual period: in that case, walking, as is probably true for most of us, becomes really hard – not so much because of the need to change frequently, but rather on a physical and psychological level. In fact, in the first two days of my period I am quite low on energy, so walking kilometers for several hours or just the very fact of walking with cramps is difficult. But the biggest challenge for me is on a psychological level. My mood deteriorates to the point where I feel very sad and unmotivated. In this case, I think that pushing my body to go 20 km a day is really a challenge. My congrats to all the women who are able to do it!
During my period, I am aware that I have the strength to only do one third of what I could normally do (I usually feel tired and sleep many hours), so I try to plan accordingly and if I am walking and feel the need, I stop several times without straining my body more than necessary. If I am in a group I always inform my fellow travelers of my state. Simply sharing: “you know, I got my period this morning so today it will be hard for me to find the energies and get through the day”, with a smile, is not only useful information in the moment, but is a way of raising awareness among men about the female hormone cycle – talking about it should no longer be taboo.
👉🏻 Mary Jane’s social media channels
Visit Mary Jane’s blog: whatashamemaryjane.com
What Marie from @inspiringexplorers would do
As a young woman who spends ample time in nature, hiking and exploring the outdoors, I understand the importance of managing menstrual cycles while on the road. Here are some tips to help you navigate this aspect while embracing the wonders of the outdoors and travelling. Firstly, planning ahead and tracking your cycle can be really helpful, allowing you to anticipate and prepare for your period. We’ll never say that enough, it’s so important to listen to your body and prioritize self-care during your cycle. Staying hydrated, eating nutritious meals and getting enough rest to support your overall well-being. Personally, I am used to backpacking, sleeping with minimal comfort etc., but during my period it’s really important for me to have access to a comfortable room with a private bathroom. It’s one thing I learned I needed to feel comfortable.
Other things that I always carry are wet wipes and a hand sanitizer, you never know what kind of restrooms you’ll get when you travel and explore, so it’s better to be prepared. I noticed that it’s often the small details that makes the whole difference. You also need to find the menstrual hygiene products that suit your preferences. For me, it’s menstrual underwear (and you can even find menstrual swimwear now!): it’s the most sustainable and easy solution I can see. I don’t have to worry about running out, finding restrooms to change every few hours or feeling uncomfortable.
Finally, your menstrual cycle does not limit itself to your period. It’s important to realize that you’ll have different levels of energy and different sensations in your body depending on your cycle. Be kind to yourself, listen to your body and remember, your menstrual cycle doesn’t have to hinder your adventures; with a little planning and a lot of self-care, you can continue to embrace the joys of walking and traveling while honouring your body’s natural rhythms.
👉🏻 Marie’s social media channels
Visit the Inspiring Explorers blog: inspiringexplorers.ch