BECAUSE WE ARE ALL WONDERING: PEEING AND PERIODS WHEN WALKING ST. JAMES’ WAY

How will I pee when being on the road and what do I do when I am having my period? These were two of the first questions I had once I decided to embark on my foot journey to Spain. (What am I going to eat? was the very first one – and probably my most frequently asked question in general – but we will not cover that one in today’s post). So let’s talk about peeing and menstruating when walking St. James’ Way, shall we?

I drink a lot, which means I use the bathroom a lot. Unfortunately, bathrooms are not always available when you want or really have to use one. That said, you can do several things:

  1. You can ignore the urge. This is probably not something you should make a habit out of, as the stuff really has to get out. Attempted this during my first practice walk and it messes too much with my brain; I’d rather pee and stay sane.
  2. You can squat. This generally works fine, unless you are in an open space and you are uncomfortable bearing your butt or, alternatively, there is lots of wind going on and you do not want to walk around with wet shoes or pants. I have tried this technique multiple times and I must say, whatever squatting position I employ, I never accomplish a situation in which I have an empty bladder and dry clothing.
  3. You can use a Female Urinary Device (F.U.D.) – otherwise known as a pee funnel – which enables you to pee whilst standing. Sick. Yeah, thought so too. I used the biodegradable cardboard ones for a while and they work fine. Do note that in public places an upright peeing female still seems to be considered as odd. Recently, I purchased a reusable one. It is dry in a sec, easy to use and… it’s purple ♥️ No more bare butts or wet pants, just do your thing whilst standing. Genius.

Periods are a next level problem though, especially when you flow is heavy and lasts longer than a few days. Not having constant access to a toilet, or a bin for that matter, makes using tampons (or pads) a pain since you have to change them every so many hours; taking your waste along in a bag and messing with toilet paper and disinfectant hand lotion just seems too much work. Yes, there is an easier way: menstrual cups. Insert it, be absolutely amazing for up to twelve hours without giving a single fuck about your period, remove it, empty it, clean it, and repeat. * Easy as.

Who would have thought? The pee funnel and the menstrual cup: two, at first sight perhaps slightly odd, creations that could solve your peeing and period problems in the blink of an eye. Buen Camino! ; )

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*Before use always read the detailed instructions in the user manual provided with your menstrual cup. It will take a bit of practice, but it is worth it!

FROM BRUISED RIBS TO BRAND NEW WORKOUT ROUTINE: TRAINING FOR THE CAMINO WITH AN INJURY

December has hit (including the first snow) and March is coming faster than I had ever expected. I was keeping pretty well to my workout schedule to get my body ready for walking 20 kilometres a day… and then I fell. Nope. I wasn’t cycling and it wasn’t freezing or slippery. I just tripped and fell (sounds familiar right?). When I got up I assumed from the scratches on my hands and knees that they broke most of the fall. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case: my ribs did.

I deem myself pretty lucky since it could have been way worst, however, when I could not lift my hands above my head and breathing deeply was painful, I completely freaked out. The most basic yoga poses all of a sudden became an impossibility and how was I going to RUN when breathing hurts! There was nothing I could do about the circumstances, so I accepted the fact that I am a little clumsy in general and gave myself a few days to see how things would develop. After a while I went to the doctor – just to be sure – and she told me to give my upper body a rest.

What was I going to do! I’m leaving so soon, I have to train! After the initial panic subsided, I asked myself: What will you be doing most on the Camino? Answer is simple: walking and carrying a pack. Based on that answer a new workout routine emerged:

  • On average, I will still be cycling two times 15 minutes a day, since transporting myself to work and other places is not achievable in another manner.
  • My strength training will now primarily focus on my lower body. In the upcoming days or weeks, I will have to tune in and see which exercise I can add to strengthen my upper body.
  • After not doing any for a while (super sad face), I will ease back into yoga, gradually increasing the intensity of my practice.
  • Due to the current circumstances, and due to the fact that March is around the corner, my running routine will now turn into a walking routine. As I will be walking six out of the seven days a week, I want to prepare for being on the road regularly. One or two days a week I will do a shorter walk (in my previous schedule I’d run these two days). Since I want to increase my training days and walk for longer periods of time, I will add two longer walks. Uphill training will be incorporated during these walking days (stairs, stairs, stairs). And then… it will look a little something like this:

 

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Probably you all know where I am going with this. With or without injury, listen to your body and act accordingly. There is no use in forcing yourself. Just try to accept where you are at and adjust as far as it is possible. I must admit that the above visual of the twelve remaining is a bit daunting. Not long now before I will embark on my journey to Spain and so many things are yet to be done! I’d better get a move on ; )

Love,

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BOOTS, CHECK: FINDING THE RIGHT FOOTWEAR FOR YOUR CAMINO

Considering I was going to hike 2500 kilometres, I was well aware that I would probably need some specific gear. Though not entirely sure what “specific” would imply I figured that, as a pretty experienced camper, it couldn’t be that difficult to sort out what I would eventually take with me or not. Three nights and two mornings of online activity later, I discovered that the resources providing information regarding “hiking gear” in the broadest meaning of the word, seemed to just never end. Ranging from lightweight self-inflatable mats to sporks, 3-season tent reviews, the benefits of merino wool, non-gtx advocates, intriguing layering systems and walking pole discussions… I had about 55 tabs open and thought I was going mad. It was just too much information and I did not know where to start.

So I asked myself: After your first hike, what was the thing you wished for most? Besides more food, which does not really qualify as gear, the first thing that came to my mind where shoes. I required a good pair of shoes. Bingo. I asked Google:

“hiking shoes”

“hiking boots or shoes”

“hiking boots shoes or trail runners?”

“hiking two seasons boots”

“gore-tex wiki”

“hiking long distance gore-tex or not???”

My online search for shoes continued for about a week. I read up on what shoes would be most appropriate for my journey, I read about ankle support (“Is it necessary?”), the discussion around gore-tex (“Your feet will get wet anyway!”) and discovered all hiking shoes and boots were not going to make me look any better, so I decided not to worry about aesthetics. Reading the diverse and, often, contradicting opinions and arguments on a wide array of forums, I concluded that there was only one way to find the right footwear: to fit some.

That said. I headed to an outdoor shop here in Amsterdam, walked in and told my story to one of the employees. I explained her about my doubts concerning shoes with ankle support, my preference for shoes without gore-tex and also provided her with the information that I was going to walk 2500 kilometres and would be carrying about 10 kilograms on my back.

I was in there for two hours (!) before I made a decision.

During these two hours, I fitted a f*** ton of hiking shoes, boots and trail runners and this is what I figured out whilst actually wearing the footwear:

The (low) hiking shoes and trail runners did not do it for me. I do admit their weight is ideal, however, the absence of ankle support whilst standing and walking didn’t feel right. The slightly heavier boots with the ankle support on the other hand, immediately influenced my posture and made me feel more grounded, which I consider being a plus when carrying weight on your back.

I personally prefer leather shoes over waterproof shoes. Why? To be honest, I cannot really put my finger on it generally eating a plant-based diet. Anyways, the two main reasons are the durability of leather boots and their ability to naturally repel water.

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Every shoe or boot has a different fit and every foot is different. The front part of my feet are wide whereas my ankles are relatively small (yeah, picture that, how odd), This meant that I did not fit the boots of certain brands, some of which were highly promoted amongst hikers on the Internet. What I am trying to say is that, even though there is lots of useful advice online, try to find the right shoe for you.

Eventually, I went home with the Tatra Lady (leather) from the German brand Hanwag. The boots fitted my feet perfectly, they provided excellent support and I will be able to use them after walking the camino. To make sure that these were the right ones, I have tried them on at home a couple of times and I can tell you, these are absolutely it!

Love,

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LOVE YOUR BLISTERS, DATE YOUR BACKPACK: THE FIRST HIKING ATTEMPT

Distance: 10.0 km
Moving time: 1:57:07
Pace: 11:42/km

Since I promised to keep you updated on my training progress, I thought today would be a good day to tell you about my first hiking attempt. In case you are wondering, I followed the advice given in the previous post and took a backpack with me. Although I am not sure how heavy it was exactly, it contained enough shit for me to think it was at least 7 or 8 kilograms. Five minutes after I left, I already figured out how heavy that actually was when you have to carry it on your back.

I embarked on a little trip to the Veluwe, an area in the Netherlands known for its beautiful forest and diverse landscapes. The windows of the train allowed me to witness the city buildings and suburbs being replaced by the meadows and, after a while, the forest. I took a bus to the centre of Hoenderloo (from which I would walk to Beekbergen) got out and stood at the side of the road for a few seconds soaking up the quiet so characteristic for villages, before I took off. The hike I set out to do was one I had found on the Internet, yet I decided to walk it in the opposite direction. Thinking I was perfectly prepared by saving the website on my phone, I quickly discovered that it was near to impossible to navigate on the map provided due to the fact that the website did not resize on my phone screen.

The first hundred meters I walked were into the wrong direction. Then, when I had finally found my way, it started raining…

I made it though: ten whole kilometres with a backpack (*cheering*). A couple of happenings and reflections resonated with me after I arrived at my destination, a little hotel where I booked the tiniest room. Here are some of my observations after my first practice hike:

there will not only be sunshine and you will have bad days too

On sunny days you might think: “This is a great day to go for a hike!” However, when it is raining like there is no tomorrow, you probably feel a little less enthusiastic about getting out there. Now here is the thing, when you are hiking a long distance and you have limited time, you don’t really have a choice, you just have to accept the weather conditions. Whilst contemplating on the weather I realised that not only the weather has bad days, I have them too. So when I am in a shitty mood and the weather is shit, it will be a tough day.

pee when you can and take an FUD

I had the feeling I had to pee… the entire walk! From the moment I got out of the bus and tightened the hip strap of my backpack, I had to go to the toilet. So advice to myself for the next time: pee when you can and take an FUD. (An FUD is short for Female Urinating Device. They sell them in all sorts, materials and sizes. We’ll talk more about this topic in another blog post.)

you might want to consider trekking poles

One part of my hike I was taken into a very dense part of the forest. The path was swirling and the vegetation prevented me from seeing what was coming up. It was quiet and, I have to admit, it was a little scary. First thing that popped into my mind was, “Why don’t you grab a stick? With a stick you would be able to defend yourself!” Sounds silly right? Subsequently, I thought of the usage of trekking poles when hiking (a topic intensively discussed on an array of hiking forums), as well as there possible other usages. Found this, made my day.

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I will have to think about what I am wearing

I do not mean this in an aesthetic way, but in a practical manner. Any pro would have been able to tell me this, but experiencing it yourself is always a good thing. Your body temperature changes all the time and you will have to be prepared for that. I clearly wasn’t and it got me all hot-flushed and angry at stages. Better read up on that and inform you guys in an upcoming post.

you can fall

I will now tell you about the moment I fell. The autumn leaves were covering the tree roots; I tripped and fell on the ground. Hands first, knees in the mud. Whilst in this slightly strange position my brain made the situation all the more awkward by allowing the expectation that someone was going to pick me up, resulting in me feeling even weirder. So I got up, looked around (reflex) and continued like a boss. This – let’s be honest – minor event did make me realise that I have to be a little more careful and that, perhaps, some basic first-aid knowledge might come in handy.

love you blisters

That basic first-aid knowledge I was talking about also applies here. What do you do when you feel a blister coming up? How do you take care of it? The skin on my foot is gone, what now? Figuring this out will be pretty essential, as treating blisters will most likely become a daily duty on your hike.

you will doubt yourself

During this first attempt my minds was chattering away: Perhaps this is just a silly idea? Do you think you will be physically ready in four months? Are you sure you want to do this? I think those thoughts will not go away. Doubt will always linger in the corner of your brain ready to bother you at the wrong moment. Just accept it is there, have a conversation with it or grab one of those trekking poles to fight it when it starts nagging you.

date your backpack

I usually do not befriend inanimate objects but I feel it will be wise to become more acquainted with my backpack. It was like we were two people on a serious date who in the past had shared a drunken moment together on a party; the start was somewhat stiff, but we got to know each other pretty well and it was actually fun. Note to self: Date your backpack more often.

I am nackered. Tomorrow I will head out again without backpack (sorry man) since the sole purpose of tomorrow is experiencing what it is like to walk 20 km in one go. Hopefully, I will be able to maintain my sanity, love the shit out of my blisters and remain standing at all times.

Love,

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