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By Diane Spicer
Let's not sugar coat this.
Hiking with hot flashes sucks.
Not the hiking, just the menopausal heat that distracts you from the trail.
Regardless of the name, you're not going to find the flushing and surging to be charming for very long.
The question: How do you cope while hiking with hot flashes?
Let's work on our burning question from the inside out.
You can only control so much during menopause, but you can definitely control these internal factors:
For general tips on menopausal nutrition for hikers, read this.
Now let's forge onward: what to eat or avoid eating while hiking with hot flashes.
Certain foods trigger vasodilation, bringing more of your hot core blood to the surface.
As a result, you feel warm. Or warmer than you already do, if you're in the middle of a flash.
Eliminate these foods from your hiking menu, and you're one step closer to having less intense hot flashes while hiking.
Here's a list for you to consider. Remember, I'm only the messenger :/
Caffeinated beverages or energy gels exacerbate hot flashes.
Your usual mug of coffee on the way to the trail head might work against you on a hike.
It wasn't until menopause that I
discovered green tea.
Green tea will deliver a modest dose of caffeine to get that first mile of trail out of the way, without leading to stomach upset.
White tea, even less caffeine.
Much as it pains me to say this, chocolate also contains caffeine. Some menopausal women are really sensitive to even small amounts.
Spicy foods using high voltage pepper or curry are not your friend right now.
Switch to crackers and snacks with strong but satisfying flavors that won't lead to vasodilation, such as:
Super salty foods create bloating and discomfort that will be magnified during a hot flash.
Eliminate these foods from your trail food:
Now that you know what's on the "no fly" list, what should you be eating during a hike?
My strategy was to replace dry (salty, spicy) sandwiches with these day hike foods:
To keep these foods from spoiling during warm weather, here are my tips for day hiking food safety.
I also carried a double walled metal container for refreshing iced beverages: a Hydro Flask.
Hiking while you're in the middle of a power surge makes a woman cranky.
You have my permission to embrace the crankiness.
Yes, embrace the power.
I had a little "embracing" mantra that I would recite to myself when I felt one of my hot flashes coming on.
I repeated it to myself for the duration of the flash, while doing slow deep breathing.
Maybe it will help you:
Heating up. Let it go.
Boiling over. Let it flow.
Hear me out.
This little poem really helped me while hiking with hot flashes, in two ways.
It reminded me that the heat and discomfort wouldn't last forever.
And it directed my attention back to the hiking, away from the hot flash.
Distraction, you might call it.
And just like with a toddler, it helped to adjust my attitude
Which is why I'm willing to look ridiculous by sharing it with you.
(Hey! Whatever it takes to get and keep you on a hiking trail, Hiking For Her is willing to try.)
What you think about, and focus on, dictates the satisfaction level of your hike.
This time of life is temporary, and will earn you deep wisdom if you hike through it.
There are several concrete steps you can take to prepare yourself to meet the hot flash challenge gracefully on the trail.
Some are obvious, but you might not have taken time to make these simple changes as you face The Fierce Flushes.
Let's take a look.
Shady, forested hiking trails and windy ridge tops help keep you as cool as possible in the middle of a hot flash.
Take out your hiking maps and apps, and find those types of trails. You're only saying goodbye to the hot open trails temporarily!
Here's another tip that worked for me.
I started my hikes really early in the day, enjoying the cool dewy summer mornings.
And I took a siesta when it got really warm, starting back to the trail head a bit later in the day than I normally would.
Caution: Be sure your head lamp has plenty of juice, just in case you over estimate how much day light you have left.
Hikers already know the clothing layering system, which is explained here.
But during the Reign of Hot Flashes, you want to modify the system just a bit.
Bring at least one clean, dry shirt in a plastic bag on every hike, year round.
Carry an extra sports bra if you're right in the thick of Hot Flash Territory.
If you've never invested in moisture wicking fabrics, now is the right time.
Your usual clothing may begin to annoy you, because suddenly it feels too constrictive.
Carry two small absorbent and lightweight towels, one to mop your face and neck while the other one dries draped over your backpack.
I carry these.
Consider wearing a Buff made of their CoolNet UV fabric. It's a towel that moves with you!
Freeze your water bottles the night before your day hike.
Carry frozen ice packs like these, deep inside your backpack during a hike.
Have you ever seen a cold pack that you activate on demand, like this one?
I used many of them during the summer months for instant cooling on my face and neck while backpacking.
A cooling scarf, activated with a brief soak in cold water, also saved the day plenty of times. You can activate it with tap water and carry it in a plastic bag until needed.
Take the plunge! (sorry, couldn't resist that one)
Make room in your hiking itinerary for some self care when hot flashes strike.
You know who deeply understands how challenging hiking with hot flashes can be?
Yeah, exactly. Any woman your age, or older.
Find a woman trail buddy who doesn't mind when you have to stop hiking to tend to your needs.
A supportive male who can modify hiking goals depending upon your hot flash status is also a good choice for trail companionship.
Also on the list: pre-menopausal women who are not horrified by your flushed face, sweaty neck, and soaked shirt.
Always look for the silver lining, that's what Hiking For Her says!
And there are a few benefits to note in this menopause hiking scenario.
Now that I'm on the far side of menopause, I have to admit that I counted on my hot flashes to keep me warm on cold weather hikes and snowshoe trips.
And while backpacking, one good hot flash can heat up a cold damp sleeping bag in a jiffy.
Full disclosure: It will also leave you damp and clammy after the flash. Stay tuned for reliable hot flash backpacking tips.
We live in a culture that worships youthfulness.
Hot flashes will force you to face the fact that you're passing into a new phase of life.
A powerful phase, in my humble opinion.
Older women know who they are and what they want.
They know where they're headed, both on and off the trail.
Here's a fun fact to fixate upon:
Every time you go through a hot flash, you are one step closer to having menopause behind you.
I'm here to tell you that leaving behind the ordeal of handling a monthly cycle as a hiker is fantastic!
Hurrah! More power is coming your way soon!
I've shared some ideas to help you survive and thrive while hiking with hot flashes, but your own experiences and questions are most welcome.
You can reach me here.
Need all of my flashy tips all in one place?
Hiking With Hot Flashes