Does my bruise look big in this? The trouble with an outdoors lifestyle

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In planning a trip to the home of bungee, Kia laments the effects of an outdoors lifestyle

This year, I turn 36 and if it hadn’t been for the dismaying discovery that cellulite also creeps across stomachs, I may have continued my diet of sugary snacks and drinks forever. Instead, I’m becoming a little more mindful about the things I eat. There are still desserts and ice creams, but a little less all round.

The fact that staying in shape will now take more effort is not a huge surprise; after all, beauty magazines have been telling me so for about two decades now. What is surprising is having to think about how I treat my body in other ways.

I run an outdoor blog so, naturally, I do outdoorsy things – which doesn’t always end well for a girl raised in the city. There have been some extreme things like jumping out of an airplane at 13,000 feet, but it’s the more prosaic things that have left me hurt.

Kia readying to dive in Tonga
Atlas & Boots Readying to dive in Tonga

Peter and I joke that I’ve fallen off my bike in the most beautiful places in the world, Bora Bora, the Galápagos and the French countryside among them.

This stopped being funny in Cambodia when I smacked my head on concrete and my forehead grew to the size of a golf ball. I remember the shock of the fall and the sharp sting of iodine as it splashed against my wounds: a cut by my left eye, a cigar-shaped graze on my right hand, a plum-sized gash on my left arm.

Days later, as the fluid from my head drained down, I developed two black eyes and ended up looking like this on my long flight home.

Puffy forehead and black eyes after a cycling accident
Atlas & Boots Puffy forehead and black eyes after a cycling accident in Cambodia

Today, 18 months later, the point of impact still hurts if I rub it too hard when washing in the morning. The cuts by the eye, hand and arm have all left scars.

A graze covered with iodine. This one left a scar.
Atlas & Boots A graze covered with iodine. This one left a scar.

A year after the cycle accident, I was horse riding in Montenegro when my horse slipped and took me with him, pinning me partly beneath him. This was more shocking than painful, but the resulting bruises weren’t pretty.

What falling off a horse looks like

Soon after that, I was kicked by a horse that was remonstrating with another. (Note to self: Spend less time with horses.) He got me on my lower back just beneath my Venus dimples and hit the back of my leg as well. That had me flat on the ground. I shot up to avoid being trampled and as soon as I knew I was safe, I felt my legs crumble and my head feel faint. A kick like that could have left me paralysed.

The bruises (below) healed, but if I sit in a funny way today, I can still feel a pang where I was kicked in the back.

Bruises on the back of my leg
Atlas & Boots Bruises on the back of my thigh and leg after being kicked by a horse

And then there’s my right ear which I think is now okay, but was popping for months after a dive when I found it hard to equalise. Every time I swallowed, I could feel my ear crackling like low-level static.

I share this now ahead of a trip to New Zealand, the home of commercial bungee jumping. Of course I’m going to have to do one. I love the thrill of heights and the sensation of free falling. I love the way my stomach flips at the thought of leaping off that ledge. I love the prospect of doing something frightening.

So, yes, I will bungee in New Zealand if all goes to plan, but I’ll also be more mindful of how I treat my body. Scars and stories are more interesting than beauty, but I prefer to keep my limbs and faculties.

What does this mean in practice? I’ll still venture from my comfort zone and engage in risky travel, but I’ll ensure that I train and prepare more thoroughly, wear the recommended safety equipment and speak up if I feel uncomfortable. I’m healthy, fit and able, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Lead image: Dreamstime

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