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 – when did you start to train?”
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 that one Spartan Race I did (but hey – I did finish it!! hoo-RAH!) . But training for a Camino? Yeah… I blame it on the weather. Seriously, I do. There was a crappy winter the year I did my Camino, 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.
Anyway, what I ended up doing was training for about two months (February, March, first half of April) before leaving for Spain. In an ideal world, I would have started at least in January, but that would have required a gym membership in order to avoid the snow where I live! Here are some of the things I did as my training:
1. Walks of various lengths, ranging between 8km to 13km, for a minimum of three times a a week.
2. The above walks with an increasingly heavy and larger backpack. I started with a day pack at about 8lbs. Then I graduated to a 24L pack at 12lbs in March. By April, I was up to 16lbs, which was about 3-5 lbs lighter than my actual Camino pack weight.
3. These walks also enabled me to break in my new boots (do you know how weird one looks in office clothes and hiking boots?). I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure your shoes/boots are broken in BEFORE you hit the Camino trail!!
4. Training isn’t only about getting physically fit for an event. It is also about testing your gear. 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…
the devil’s advocate weighs in
Some people 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 the trail. It’s a possibility. 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…