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12 Week Training Plan for the Camino Frances

I am often asked “how much training do I need for the Camino?” and the answer is it varies from person to person.  Some people who are walking the whole route over 5-6 weeks will not do any training at all as the Camino will be your training ground.  I personally think that this is a ri

diculous idea, especially as your first day on the trail is probably the most gruelling of the whole walk.  If you experience severe pain on that first day then it will put you in the wrong mindset from the outset.

In my opinion, if your intentions are to walk for a taster session over a long weekend, an 8-day hike or even the full trail then you still need to think about getting yourself fit enough to enjoy the experience.  You do not need to be super fit, but you will need to be able to walk at least 8 miles without collapsing in a heap at the end of the day.

Below is a 12-week training plan for someone who:-

  • Has not walked over 5 miles in the last 12 months
  • Has not walked with a rucksack or even a heavy day pack in the last 12 months
  • Is not accustomed to climbing hills

Preparation for your training:

  • Consider purchasing a Fitbit for motivation (or wearable technology that measures steps).  I currently use an Apple Watch.
  • Invest in some good walking footwear.  (click here for an article on boots or trail runners?)
  • Purchase your rucksack as soon as possible.  (I suggest visiting your local outdoor retailer and try lots of packs on before deciding on a pack for you)
  • Purchase some trekking poles, or attend a local Nordic Walking class.  (Nordic walking will teach you so much more about walking and I would highly recommend them).
  • Set up a spreadsheet/or Word document for yourself so you can record your daily mileage.  Alternatively, keep a record on your notes file on your iPhone.

You have got the gear, now what?

We will start off slowly and then build up to bigger times and distances.  By the end of week 12, you should be accustomed to walking at least 12 miles in one day.  Believe me, if you can walk 12 miles, then you can easily walk 15 on the Camino.

Note: after week 6, you will need to include some hill training into your plan.  If you live in a flat area then consider using a treadmill.

Week 1 – Goal = walk: 56,000 steps, 28 miles/45 km in total this week.

Hiking boots are on and it's time to set off for a quick walk.  Your goal this week is to average a min of 8k steps a day (4 miles).  A good percentage of these steps will be taken up by day to day activity (walking to your car, walking to the office, making coffee etc).  But make sure that you are walking a min of 8k steps a day, every single day without fail.  If this means that you need to walk laps of the kitchen to get those steps in then so be it (although I would rather encourage you to get outside and take a walk around your local park).

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Week 2 – Goal = walk: 60,000 steps, 30 miles/ 48 km in total this week

Walking at least 9k steps a day (4.5 miles a day).  At least 2 of these miles should be in one go, and ideally outside, every day, no matter the weather.  In Spain you will be walking in the rain, so please do not use this as an excuse to skip a walk.   Every time you see an escalator or an elevator/lift then ALWAYS take the stairs.  All the little steps are adding up and you will really notice the difference when you set foot on the Camino in just a few weeks time!

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Week 3 – Goal = walk: 78,000 steps, 39 miles / 62 km in total this week

We are now up to the national average walking steps of 10,000 steps a day to keep fit and healthy.  By now you should have developed a nice routine and a habit of venturing out for a 2-mile walk daily.  Continue with your daily mileage, but this week we need to increase two of those walks to 4 miles.  You can do this!  A four-mile walk should take you approximately no more than 1.5 hours.   Whilst I was in training, I would walk my local parkrun, which is 3.2 miles, and then I would park half a mile away from the start point.

Did you know that you can “walk” the parkrun? I encourage you to join each Saturday morning.

Week 4 – Goal = walk: 82,000 steps, 41 miles / 65 km in total this week.

Continue with your 10k steps a day.   This week your goal is to increase two of those walks to 5 miles.  Remember to take a bottle of water with you, and keep an eye on your feet for hot spots.  Again, an easy way to get your mileage up is to join your local parkrun (I have been “walking” parkrun for the last two years and there is no shame in walking.  If you decide that parkrun is for you, simply park a mile away from the start and then you will have easily conquered one of your 5-mile hikes for this week. Simples!

Week  5 – Goal = walk: 89,000 steps, 44.5 miles / 71 km in total this week

This week we are going to increase our daily average to 11,000 steps a day (5.5 miles a day).  The 2-mile walk that you are completing as part of your daily routine will now increase to 2.5 miles.  We also want to tackle a 6-mile walk at the weekend.  Drag along some friends and perhaps stop for a pub lunch.  Your trail legs are starting to develop and you are feeling great.

Week 6 – Goal = walk 100,000 steps, 50 miles / 80.46 km.

We are going to increase our daily steps to 12k, and this will not increase any further for the rest of the training.  At this stage, you will find that your legs are feeling good and you no longer ache after a 5-mile hike.  It is also important to start thinking about your core as you will also be carrying a rucksack.  The best form of exercise for developing your core muscles is either Pilates or a Yoga class once a week.  I appreciate that going to a class is not for everyone, so this is the stage to start venturing out with your rucksack on your pack.  Note: Do not fully load your pack at this stage, we need to build up to that over the next six weeks.   I would recommend purchasing a luggage weighing gadget (you can get them from the local pound shop), and make sure that your pack does not weigh more than 4 llbs / 1.81 kg during week 6.  Twice a week, challenge yourself to walk at least 6 miles, with your lightweight pack.

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Week 7 – Goal = walk 100,000 steps, 50 miles / 80.46 km

For week seven we are going to replicate week six, however this time we need to increase the weight of your pack to at least 5llbs.  Daily steps is 12k, with two walks a week increasing to 6 miles (with a slightly heavier pack).

Week 8 – Goal = walk 102,000 steps, 51 miles / 82 km

Continuing with 12k steps a day, however, we now need to start to increase the two walks a week to 7 miles and plan this for consecutive days.  On the Camino, you will be walking approximately 10-15 miles day after day.  If you are walking the whole route then most people plan a “zero” or “rest” day once a week.  Now is the time to put your body to the test and see how well you cope with walking 7 miles for two days on the trot.  Continue with the 5llbs in your rucksack.  By now you will know if you are suffering from issues with your pack.  Does it rub?  Is it comfortable?

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Week 9 – Goal = walk 104,000 steps, 52 miles / 83 km

Continuing with the 12k steps a day, with a 10-mile hike at the weekend, and a 6-mile hike during the week – you can do this!  With only three weeks to go until your first steps on the beautiful Camino trail we now need to test our stamina and work towards completing a 12-mile walk.  Remember, if you can walk 12 miles at home, then you can easily walk 15 miles on the Camino.  The atmosphere of your fellow pilgrims will get you through the toughest of times.   It is also time to add a little bit more weight to your pack.  Increase the weight to 7llbs for the longer walks.

Week 10 – Goal = walk 116,000 steps, 58 miles / 93 km

Again, we will continue with the daily walking of 12k steps a day.  Hopefully, you are giving your Fitbit friends a run for their money!  Additional miles this week two x 6 miles and one x ten miles.  If there is any chance that you can work it so that these happen on consecutive days then there will certainly be a benefit to doing this.  Try not to walk the same routes.  Check out applications such as Alltrails, ViewRanger or iFootpath to help you discover new walks.  Remember that the very first day on the Camino is a steep climb, so any hill training will be beneficial.  It is also time to pack your rucksack with the items that you will be taking.  Click here for a full Camino packing list.

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Week 11- Goal = Take it easy this week.  82,000 steps, 41 miles / 65 km in total this week.

It is important to take some time out and rest your body.  So this week we are going to drop back to 10k steps a day, with two of your daily walks to include 5 miles.  Walk with your full pack at every available opportunity, but make the most of this fairly easy week as next week we are going for a 12 mile and a 10-mile hike!  You got this!

Week 12 – Goal = walk 138,000 steps, 69 miles / 111 km

This is it!  Your time is up as you complete your final week.  Along with your regular 12k steps a day, we are now going for three consecutive walks.  8 miles, 10 miles and 12 miles.  It is going to be tough, but you have put in the hard work and you know you can do this.  Make sure that the walks you are completing all incorporate hills (walking around a lake may be pretty but it will not build those muscles or lung capacity that you need to walk the Camino).  Your ultimate goal for this training was to achieve a 12-mile walk, with a full rucksack and still be able to hold a good conversation with a fellow hiker during the process.  Remember to stop and smell the roses along the way.

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Summary

This 12-week programme is designed for beginners to get you to a point where the first few days on the Camino will be enjoyable and not painful.  I would suggest walking from St Jean to Refuge Orrison rather than beating yourself up trying to get to Roncesvalles on day one.  The Orrison has amazing food and the views are one of the best on the whole trail.

Nothing can really prepare you for walking about between 10-15 miles (16-24km) every day with a loaded pack.   That first week is going to be tough, but if you have followed the above programme that you will be whistling whilst you walk.