There are so many ways to prepare for the Camino. I will just start out by saying there is no ‘right’ way. Some people prepare months in advance, and some don’t prepare at all. In the end, most of them make it. I believe that the two most important things to keep in mind when preparing for the physicality of the walk is to know your own limits and to know how to listen to your body. We will get into this as we explore some really useful tips.
See your Health Care Provider It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor and to get their take on your level of health and ability to walk this long road.
Pay Attention to Old Injuries One of the most common ailments I saw on the Camino last time, was old injuries coming back to haunt the people that had them. Whether it was an ankle, a knee or a back, after a week or two of walking it would start to cause problems. If you have an old injury, take time to talk to a physical therapist to develop a good plan to get you prepared.
Start out Simple and Work Up I usually start to prepare about three months out. I start with weekly walks of 5-7 miles and work up to taking them twice a week. Then about a month into it I take a 12-15 mile walk and see how I feel a couple of days after. As I get closer to departure, I try to get 20-25 miles a week for the last month, and stop preparing about two weeks out for a long period of recovery.
Work on Flexibility, Strength, and Stamina Strength and flexibility are important pieces of the preparation. Consider joining a yoga or pilates class for increasing your flexibility. Consider going to the gym to do some weight training for strength. And don’t forget the stamina part. Walk where it is hilly, and consider aerobic training for stamina.
Walk Like You Are On The Camino On your longer training walks, pick a route through or around town that will allow you to walk 3-5 miles, take a coffee break, 3-5 miles, take a lunch break, and 3-5 miles and take another coffee break. You rarely walk longer than that on the Camino without a break, so don’t make your training walks into a force march. They are NO FUN!
Dress Like You Are On The Camino What I mean by this primarily, is to wear your shoes that you will be walking the Camino with. Don’t bother training without them. Also, wear those shoes daily for about a week or two, just to get used to having them on for long periods of time.
Learn to Listen to Your Feet What most people don’t realize, is that you can feel a hot spot on your foot way before the blister actually forms. It literally feels like a hot spot. Learn to be on constant watch of how your feet feel. Stop every two or three hours and take off your shoes and socks and let them air out and give those dogs a good ole fashion massage.
Learn How to Protect Your Feet So when you feel a hot spot forming, do like they say in a fire, stop, drop and roll. What I mean by that, is don’t wait for the fire to get big before you deal with the problem. Stop, even if that means you are on the side of the road. Drop your shoes off and inspect the problem, and then ‘roll’ either some tape or some moleskin on the are that is rubbing. I can’t overemphasize this enough. I literally have walked thousands of miles without blisters, only because I took care of the area prior to the blisters actually forming.
Hydration is Key Water intake make or break you. If you don’t keep hydrated it can do more that you think. Keep in mind your body uses the water you drank yesterday. Important to drink water not just for today. Drink today for tomorrow.
Take a Rest Day Rest and recovery is one of the most essential parts of making the long haul. Consider taking at least a day a week as a down day to rest and sight see, maybe more. Don’t worry about keeping up with the crowd, take it at your own pace.
Know When to Fold Them and take the Bus or a Taxi This is the biggest thing you can do by far. There will be many times during the trip when the question comes to your mind, can I push through this discomfort or is it time to hail a taxi? Please hail the taxi, there is no reason not to. There is no shame in taking good care of yourself, only love. And love, is the most spiritual message we share in this walk together.
They old saying goes that they journey begins with a single step, and I would add that it ends with one too, and don’t forget the million or so steps in between. Each step, each blister, each twinge of pain is a growing experience. This is one of the most amazing adventures you will ever take, so be mindful in your preparation and be loving to your own body and listen to your soul and you will be prepared for what comes.