I’m often asked if training for the Camino is really that important – it’s just walking, right? Right?! Well, sure, it is just walking – but it is essentially walking (on average) a half marathon for 30+ days straight! Their next question is invariably, “So, Kendra – have you started to train?”

Um…well…

Okay, I admit it – I’m bad at training. I’ve always have been. If I was the exact opposite, I could have played soccer for my university and I could have had a track career. I’d have also done much better at the Spartan Race last summer (but hey – I did finish it!! HOO-RAH!) . But training for a Camino? Yeah… I blame it on the weather. Seriously, I do. We had a crappy winter this year with tons of snow and an unhealthy serving of ice with an extreme side of cold. The last thing I wanted was to break a leg before April! Don’t worry, though. I’m not totally delusional – I also blame it on my laziness.

I confess – my name is Kendra and I’m a lazybones.

If I could have this house (photo not mine – no idea who took it)…

Tiny House in the Drina River in Serbia

…and fill it with books, food (macaroni and cheese, spring rolls, Thai red curry chicken, pholouri, brownies), and loose-leaf tea, I’d never show my face in polite society again.

Anyway, now that spring has sprung (kind of), I’ve started my training. Yes, it is at least 2 months too late, but better late than never. So far I’ve done two 8km walks and one 10km walk. I have a 13km walk planned for this Friday, a 9km walk on Saturday, and 8km for Sunday. I’ve also been breaking in my new boots for the past two months (do you know how weird one looks in office clothes and hiking boots?). And I’ve been toting about an increasingly heavy and larger backpack – in February, I started with a day pack at about 8lbs. Then I graduated to a 24L pack at 12lbs in March. This weekend I’ll get to my actual Camino pack and 16lbs, which is about 3-5 lbs lighter than my actual Camino pack weight since it doesn’t include my camera, food and water. That means, this weekend I will also have to decide if I will take some stuff out of my pack because I would really rather not walk with a 20lbs bag (goal is to make it 16lbs WITH camera, food, water).

Training isn’t only about getting physically fit for an event. It is also about testing your gear. So the little that I’ve done has been invaluable to me already. I’ve figured out my shoe situation, I learned how to use hiking poles and realized I will probably only use them when on dirt and/or a hill, and I figured out that the chest strap on a backpack is actually very important to someone who very likely has a pinched nerve in her left shoulder… Between my left shoulder, my left knee, and my right foot, there will be some excruciating days ahead. But I know this already due to my training! Forewarned is forearmed! Yes? Right?

Some people, though, think that training a lot before the Camino is overkill and harmful. They say that you will open yourself to more wear and tear and possible injury before you even hit SJPDP. It’s a possibility. But I think one should only listen to that if they are already in reasonably good shape. But I still say, at the very least, do enough training to allow you to test your gear and to ensure that everything fits well and comfortably. In fact, I think this is important on ANY type of backpacking trip – do you really want to be traipsing through the backwoods of Guyana only to have your shoe strap break or the sole fall off? Trust me – not fun. Especially if you have to fix your shoe with grass…

Impromptu Fix-It

Anyway, while my minimal training isn’t ideal, I plan to balance that out with taking it easy for the first week on the Camino. For example, most people tackle the Pyrenees in one day which I think is nuts – many of them end up with blisters, tendonitis, etc precisely because they did too much too fast too soon. I will be going up the Pyrenees on day 1, spending the night at the mountaintop refuge, and then hiking down the other side into Roncevalles where I spend the second night.

Any thoughts on how one can ensure they stay injury free? For example, some say drink lots of water to keep joints supple. I have no idea if that is true or not. But I have a feeling it is a good thing I learned how to pee in the bush while I was in Guyana!