Being physically and mentally prepared for a long distance walk is an essential component of any Camino. Not only can it be the difference between not spending your walk patching yourself up physically, detracting from your purpose for walking, but it could be the difference between finisinshing it or not.
The good news is that unless you are a seasoned walker who can travel at the drop of a hat, chances are your planned Camino is a fair way in advance giving you plenty of time to prepare. We recommend starting at least 3 months before starting your Camino. Depending on your physical fitness and wellness levels, your first call might be to consult your doctor to see if they think you’re being realistic. At the same time, don’t let them discourage you as you’d be surprised what humans are capable of when put to the test.
MAKE A PLAN
Having a plan and sticking with it is the key to a thorough preparation. Creating a routine is the best way of doing this. Walk at the same time every day, rain hail or shine. Naturally, if you are coming from a low fitness base you don’t want to start your training doing 30km walks. This will just discourage you and probably cause you harm. Begin with what you’re comfortable with, giving yourself time in between to let your body recover. Over time you can build your distances and frequency as your body adjusts to your new regime.
It’s important that you start to string days together where you’re walking back to back days. This is often the most difficult part for novice walkers and can be the biggest shock to the system if you venture out on your Camino unprepared. This will also prepare you for the mental conditioning needed for continous days walking.
If you’re planning on walking the mountainous sections of the Camino, doing all your training on flat ground isn’t going to prepare you properly. If you’re just walking the last 100km from Sarria then this may suffice, although even this section has some small hills. Also try and vary where you train so you take in different terrain. The Camino has plenty of nice packed earth paths, but it also has it’s fair share of rocky, uneven paths. The more you take in varying terrain to train on the better prepared you will be when facing the real thing.
WEAR YOUR EQUIPMENT
There’s no point in training in sneakers and without carrying anything if you plan on buying new boots a week before you go and walking with a 10kg pack on for your Camino. This is a recipe for disaster. Shoulder and back pain from carrying a pack can be just as damaging as a foot full of blisters.
It is especially imperative that you buy your boots early and use them for your training regime. The last thing you want to do is try and wear in a pair of new boots on the Camino only to discover they are too small or big and leave your feet feeling like they’ve been put through a meat grinder once you’re out on the trail.
The same goes for your equipment, and not just your backpack. Even if you’re only planning on carrying a daypack, wear whatever you plan to take with you during your training. This extends to the clothes you wear too. Wearing the rain jacket and pants you plan to wear on your walk during your training can bring any inadequacies in your gear to your attention while you still have time to do something about it.
It’s easy for people to feel that they need to train as hard as possible right up until they leave, thinking this would best prepare their body. The reality is that it’s actually best to slow down your training regime for the last week or two so you don’t arrive with an exhausted body. Keep your hand in but maybe ease back on the length and frequency of your training walks as your departure day approaches.
Raw Travel are the experts in the field of long distance walking and have put together a more detailed training guide with specific training programs tailored to your fitness levels. Tis is highly recommended and a great way to set out your own training regime to suit you.