Although humans evolved for walking long distances, most of us today don’t utilize that potential – we live very sedentary lifestyles, which makes our walking musculature go a bit rusty. And might prove troublesome when you’re planning a trip that demands a relatively high level of physical fitness, such as Camino de Santiago.
The Camino has one important feature – it is usually pursued by walking. That demands a completely different training routine than what you might have imagined. Because very few of us train walking. Many do what is considered a “regular exercise” – activities such as running, fitness or sports, that won’t prepare you hundreds of miles of everyday walking. Walking over great distances can exert your body in a completely different way than any of our preferred modern recreational activities.
That’s why it’s important to base your training on walking.
It could sound like bad news, but it actually isn’t. As we will learn by the end of this article, walking is fantastic for your health. After all, it’s what you’re originally made for.
How to start with walking
The level of your training plan should be adjusted to your ambitions for The Camino. It’s not the same if you’re going to be walking around 100 kilometers from Sarria, or if you’re taking upon the entire Camino Frances and it’s impressive 790-kilometer path.
As you would do with running, you should start with your walking exercise gradually, for example, by taking light 5 kilometer walks (or less if you haven’t practiced in a really long while). You should start with what feels comfortable, and start on a flat terrain. If climate or other factors are not suitable for walking where you live, you can use a treadmill at the gym.
Over the days, you will proceed to cover more distances at a faster pace. As the day of the trip approaches, you will move on to find a more hilly terrain for the training. The best would be if you could travel outside of town and try to practice on natural slopes, and on a natural substrate (be sure to inform yourself on what kind of terrain expects you on your chosen Camino trail, because this may vary).
As you become more advanced in your training, include the gear you actually planning on using when walking the Camino, specifically your hiking shoes or boots, and your backpack (with the amount of stuff close to that you’re planning on carrying on the trip).
Walking The Camino in brand new shoes could have a devastating impact on your feet and spoil your trip. Shoes need time to bend and soften up according to your feet and your walking style.
Also, you should carry a full backpack with you. As your training progresses, you will notice which muscle groups get tired and sore more than others. Exercise those muscles by doing particular exercise routines for that muscle group. Doing exercises to strengthen your back, neck, and abs should be able to address the challenge of carrying a heavy load on your back for so many miles. Yoga might also be very beneficial.
Go for a check-up
Prior to starting your training, it is advised to visit your doctor. Walking any distance on the Camino needs you to be in good general health. People who suffer from chronic health issues should always advise with their doctor, but so should healthy people. A seemingly healthy person can have a covert health problem, and you don’t want to learn about for the first time while on the road. Heart conditions are the first and most important to watch out for.
Don’t forget to mention and pay attention to any significant old injuries, as they may resurface, even if they healed a long time ago. If the issue arises during training, you can plan for protective measures, such as braces or athletic taping, for the road.
Walking is worth it by itself
Some provenly positive consequences of walking are:
- General strengthening of your body and better coordination
- Weight loss
- Reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Lowering blood pressure
- Synthesizing Vitamin D in the sun
- Better sleep
- Peace of mind
You should try to find meaning and joy in the training itself. If you learn to love your training, you will have fond memories of it, as much as you will have from Camino de Santiago. Feeling that your body is steadily getting stronger and more able is a powerful experience even without the end result, which would be the conquering of Camino de Santiago.