The Camino is a unique physical challenge. Someone who plays sport on a regular basis may struggle walking all day. Whereas a person who’s less physically fit may find the endurance test quite manageable – if they’ve prepared well. You don’t need to be the kind of person who can run a four-minute mile. However, you do need to have your body and your mind prepared for the kind of long walks of roughly 25 kilometres per day this is why we highly recommend training for the Camino.
How to Prepare
If you’re a novice to long-distance walking, you should start training for the Camino with some short road walks. Build up to five kilometres per day as soon as you feel comfortable. Add another kilometre per day or two each week. It’s obviously impractical to do 25 kilometres per day regularly. Taking necessary rest stops, you’d need to spend all day at it, and most of us have better things to do! However, try taking a weekend or two prior to going on your Camino experience, so you know what those tough first days will be like while walking the Camino.
Many people start out walking on flat, even ground. This is a nice way to ease yourself into things. However, if you can, it’s worth preparing for the uneven terrain. Start with a staircase of about 30 steps, going up and down for perhaps an hour a day. If you’re lucky enough to live near hilly terrain, incorporate some hill walking into your schedule. This is particularly important for the downhill part of the Camino de Santiago – while uphill walking takes more energy, your muscles will be stretched more by rough descents.
It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the equipment you’ll be taking. Wearing brand new boots on the Camino de Santiago, for example, is a horrible idea. You need to break in a good pair of (low) hiking boots well in advance as you do your training for the Camino. Also, get used to carrying your backpack fully laden, unless you plan on using our luggage transfer service. Even if you are, it’s good to attune yourself so that walking with the essential kit for the day doesn’t come as a shock.
Aside from preparing your muscles for the endurance test of the Camino de Santiago, doing this kind of training also lets you prepare practically too. Some hikers, for example, swear by covering their feet with Vaseline under their socks to prevent blisters. If you’re walking long distances regularly, you can work out whether this helps you, or whether you find it a bit uncomfortable. If you take a few full days of walking 25 kilometres, you’ll also be able to figure out how much water you need on a day-to-day basis, and what kind of rest you need. Becoming more familiar with your body, and what it’s capable of doing, will only aid you. Depending on the duration of your Camino, whether you are going for five walking days or 30+, the body will react differently over time. On the Camino, you may be surprised by the fact that the pain goes up! Indeed, the first thing to hurt will be feet (blisters) and after a week, the knees. After 2 weeks, you may experience pain in your hips and then back. Good equipment, packing, and rest is needed to manage this.
When it comes to walking the Camino itself, veteran walkers will tell you that the first five days are the hardest. It’s very true: the human body is remarkable and will adapt itself well to a demanding environment. Investing some time in training as you get ready for the Camino will help a great deal.
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