I am now in the period of life known as menopause, change of life, or sunset years. Lucky me! In this post I’ll share how going through menopause has affected my daily walking commute.
Good walking conditions
Walking every day depends to some degree on favourable walking conditions, which may be influenced by external or internal matters, or both.
Good external walking conditions include:
- Clear sidewalks
- Appropriate clothing & footwear
- Fair weather
I live in a very walkable part of Toronto. Luckily, I’ve never found external conditions to limit my ability or energy to walk to work. In fact, some adverse conditions – such as heavy snowfall causing traffic snarls and TTC delays – often galvanize me into leaving extra early for a “winter wonderland” walk to work. My rationale is this: I value the experience of walking very highly; I also want to especially avoid using public transit when the weather is bad.
On the other hand, there are also personal internal conditions that can affect the desire and ability to walk.
Good internal walking conditions include:
- Good health (no serious pain or illness)
- Sense of well-being
- Moderate or better energy level
Adverse walking conditions
Illness and injury are probably the most common reasons for reduced walking. In my case, it’s been menopause. It’s not an illness or an injury and it is a natural process. However, in the past eight months, and for the first time in thirty years, I have often neglected my customary walking commute and opted for TTC.
Menopause and my walk to work
Menopause-related internal conditions have seriously affected my walking commute. Basically, I’ve felt unwell, although I am not, by medical definition, ill. Here are the main menopause-induced culprits that I hope will soon abate.
My top 3 complaints:
- Fatigue and/or headache caused by poor sleep
- Hot flashes affecting comfort while walking
- Joint pain
Poor sleep is the number one problem for me. Hot flashes wake me up, and make me a restless sleeper. After a bad night, when my morning alarm rings, I hit snooze. Fatigue blankets me in lethargy and low spirits. Not sleeping well also gives me a low-grade constant headache.
2. Hot flashes
When I feel well enough to walk, the journey is made unpleasant by hot flashes. I start out wearing the lightest layers I dare. Usually after 20-30 minutes a hot flash will interrupt my walk with intensity, my inside jacket sleeves becoming glued to my arms from sweat. Although I’d like to, I feel it’s just not a good idea to take off my jacket in subzero temperatures. Not wanting a chill on top of everything else, I walk the rest of the way in discomfort until I can get indoors and peel off my sleeves.
3. Joint pain
I’ve been lucky so far with no debilitating arthritis. But there are days now when I don’t trust my knees, and avoid stairs. Or sometimes one hip will feel really stiff and sore for no reason.
One day I walked for about 15 minutes before feeling wobbly and weak on one leg. It hurt and kind of buckled when I put weight on it, so I thought it was something really serious. Made it to a bus and luckily got a seat. By the time I got off ten minutes later, there was no trace of that mysterious pain.
Previously a “morning person,” I’m now in my best walking shape in the middle of the day. I can often take a good walk at lunch. It is, for me, a real lifesaver. It lifts my spirits even when unexpected “snow grains” start to fly.
Good days and bad
Anyone will tell you that menopause is not an on/off situation. I’ve had weeks where I’ve felt pretty good and travelled happily on foot. Other times, I’ve had to take unwanted breaks from my walking routine.
In the meantime, I’ll forgive myself for not walking as much as I used to.
I trust that eventually I’ll leave these menopause symptoms in the dust, as so many have before me.