What are the hostels like? Do I need to take a tent? Do I need a sleeping bag? What about going to the toilet? What if I don't understand Spanish? These are all questions that I am asked on a regular basis with regards to the Camino. But, the most often asked question is all about fitness. Will I be fit enough? How much training do I need to do?
No training at all!
I have read on forums that some people do not indulge in any training whatsoever for their Camino journey. They are of the opinion that if you are walking the whole 500 miles from St Jean Pied De Port to Santiago then you will “get your trail legs” by day ten. In my opinion, that is a very ignorant attitude to have. That first day is a strenuous hike over the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is a gruelling walk and probably the hardest day of the whole trail. If you are unprepared physically then you will be in for a shock and perhaps even injure yourself. Why would you want to risk ruining your whole trip through lack of training? Prevention is better than cure, right?
On the first Camino in 2016, we organised a 12-week training schedule. This included our 10k steps a day, and then building up to 12-mile hikes at weekends. If you can comfortably walk 12-15 miles then you really should have no issues whatsoever walking the whole Camino is just five weeks. Remember, you have a whole day to complete some good mileage.
The Terrain on the Camino Frances
One of the main attractions of this walk is the vast differences in scenery and landscape. From the heights of the Pyrenees to the Spanish tableland known as the Meseta (between Burgos and Astorga) which, at times, is as flat as a pancake. The Rioja area (full of vineyards) is beautiful but also has many ups and downs. You will be walking through woodland areas, rural paths and rocky terrains both uphill and downhill (the stones can be a real pain, so I would recommend runners gaiters otherwise you will be picking stones out of your shoes constantly!).
Is training on a treadmill ok?
In all honesty, no. The best type of training for the Camino is to get outside and hike. Organise a schedule and stick to it. Even if the weather is bad. Having experience of walking in the rain is certainly worthwhile as well and figuring out how you cope with the heat. During our training days, we ventured quite a distance to make sure that we had endured some hill climbing. Here is a link giving you an idea of the training that I did with only six weeks to go until the first Camino walk. (I forgot about the audio mini-podcasts, I may start that up again!).
The biggest mistake that people make (in my opinion)
On my solo Camino trek (which was my 3rd Camino), I witnessed a number of people who had not completed any training with their packs. A couple from Austrailia was carrying an almighty load (including 3kg of nuts!). By day two of the Camino, they realised how crazy this was and ended up paying for their bags to be shipped onto the next albergue every day (which must have cost them a fortune). Making sure that you can comfortably carry your pack without having issues with your shoulders or hips is essential. Once again, prevention is better than cure. You may feel a bit silly walking around with your pack on, I know I did to start with, but I certainly have no regrets in doing so.
Knowing what is like to walk with the weight of your pack on your back will stop you doing this…..
Ideas on how/where to complete your training?
There are a few apps/clubs that can help you find some walks that are nearby:-
Facebook Local – if you have not yet downloaded the Facebook local app then check it out here. Simply click on events and see if there are any local walks that have been organised. If you are local to me (Northamptonshire), then we arrange a 4-5 mile hike every Thursday evening (details are on the events page on the Adventure Geek Facebook Page) Click here to download the app.
Alltrails – if you prefer to go out on your own then take a look at the free app called Alltrails. This app has more US trails than UK ones, but there are still thousands to choose from. It's a great app and has a built-in GPS so that you can never get lost. I love this app. Most of the walks are loops which is handy for a training walk. (there is a desktop version here, or download the app here)
iFootpath – works in a similar way to Alltrails and is mainly for the UK. This is a fairly new app so I expect it will grow over time as the number of walks seems limited, but the details are excellent. In Northamptonshire there are at least 12 walks, so I expect there should be one near you if you are in the UK. Available for Android and IOS. Click here.
parkrun – Each Saturday morning I “walk” my local parkrun. I am not the only walker and there are usually around five people who are also walking the route. Parkrun is 3.2 miles and I guarantee that there will be one near you. The atmosphere is brilliant and the people that attend are very encouraging. I usually wear my backpack (Nellie) when I attend each Saturday and you find that people tend to ask you what you are training for.
Nordic Walking UK
Learning how to use Nordic Walking Poles correctly a few years ago was one of the best investments I made. Not only do I know how to get the most out of my poles on a long hike, but the Nordic Walking club also organises five hikes a week. I usually walk with my local club every Tuesday evening, which is approximately three miles. (6-7pm). If you would like to find out who your local Nordic Walking Instructor is, then click here.
Training for the Camino is just a great excuse to get in shape. If you are fit and healthy for your walk then you will certainly reap the rewards and have a more enjoyable experience. Joining local walking clubs or attending parkrun is also rewarding in itself. You will find like-minded people who will encourage you to continue your walking after your Camino trip has ended. Walking is now a way of life for me and I feel anxious if I have not been out in the countryside for a few days.