Technically I have been training for the Camino for over a year. Once I decided I wanted to walk the Camino over a year ago, I started walking between 5 and 10 kilometers (10 kilometers is 6.2 miles) a day, very early each morning. Last Fall as the sun rose later by the day, I put on my headlamp and walked in the dark starting at 5am. It was beautiful, peaceful and something I looked forward to every day.
Then it was winter and walking was a challenge. With heavy ice, deep cold and probably a little laziness, my training came to a halt for several months. Turns out, that was BAD! Any gains I had made in the Fall were lost. Even though I was on the elliptical every day, it simply isn’t the same.
So, come Spring, I was starting all over again. I walked 5 to 10 kilometers each day/five to six days a week. It was a challenge at first, but it became easier with each walk and over several months I was able to work out kinks, test out different gear and address pains, particularly with my knees and feet.
I always knew I would need to walk a lot in order to be ready for the Camino, but I didn’t think how long (as in hours each day) that training would take.
I walk at about a 4 kilometer/hour pace which is considered average. That means it takes me about 2.5 hours to walk 10 kilometers. While I was an eager beaver at 5am last Fall, this past Summer has been different. Perhaps it is because of the heat and humidity we had this year, but I rarely started walking until 6 am and often later which means my training really cut into my work day! Lucky for me, I am married to the boss :-). Nevertheless, walks longer than 10k had to happen on the weekends.
Packing on the Weight
I was feeling pretty good by late July. I had settled on a pair of shoes I liked, had my pains under control and was learning to deal with the heat and humidity (which I really hate).
At the advice of several more experienced hikers than I, I started wearing my pack about 7 weeks before my departure date. I started with 8 pounds and have gradually worked up to 20 pounds including water. What could people be thinking as they pass me hobbling down East Warren Road as the sun rises each morning? I don’t know, but the strange looks have turned into enthusiastic waves and people stopping just to give me at “attagirl” or ask when I head for Spain.
Going the Distance
Once I was comfortable with the pack, I started increasing my distance. The heat and humidity was still miserable, but unavoidable, so i sucked it up and dealt with it. I did buy a “cooling cloth” that you wet and wear around your neck. When you need to cool it off, remove it from your neck, snap it and put it back in place.
My distance goal was to work my way up to three 20k days in a row. For several weekends I walked close to 20k each day while walking shorter distances during the week. A podcast that I listened to about preparing for the Camino suggested that three long consecutive days about a month before heading to Spain was a good test of how everything was working and as luck would have it that time frame happened to be Labor Day Weekend for me! So, for those three days, I was able to leave from our home and walk a challenging, hilly route that I hope simulated a typical Camino day. My route even included stops for coffee and a snack!
This is a view from one of the walks. About 10k earlier I was on the road you see in the distance.
Letting the Camino Train You??
Many people suggest if you don’t train for the Camino, that is OK because you will get your training on the Camino. Knowing the time commitment it takes to train, I understand why some people need to start their training when they get to Spain.
However, I am grateful I was able to get this training under my belt. It gave me a chance to work out so many kinks. I rotated between three pairs of shoes and settled on the pair I believe is perfect for the Camino. I got to try out a variety of clothes, hats, rain gear and socks. I am comfortable using trekking poles and I know what I need to do to keep myself going when I don’t think I can go any more (play the music from Mama Mia!).
Equally important, I worked through a variety of physical problems, mostly aches and pains. I was able to create a prewalk stretching protocol that helps me feel better when I walk. I know what to do if I start having pain during walking. But, most important, I am much stronger and the pains have for the most part, faded away. I believe that my muscles have become strong enough to support and protect my joints. Had I not trained the way I did, I would be dealing with all of this for the first time on the Camino.