Training for the Camino
Getting in Shape
Though you won’t need to train hard for a Camino de Santiago hike, you still need to develop a bit of strength and some leg muscles so that you can hike anywhere from 20 to 30 kilometers a day. To prep takes months in advance so it is important that you make a plan and be dedicated to it.
There’s no set Camino training plan required in order to complete your journey. The Camino de Santiago is an all-inclusive experience that welcomes people of all levels of fitness. At the end of the day, the physical challenge of the Camino is about making it to Santiago de Compostela. Some people take longer than others and everyone gets there in their own time.
The training you might undertake is also dependent on the stage of the Camino that you are planning to walk. For example, you will need more practice to cross the Pyrenees than the Meseta (a relatively flat area in the middle of The French Way). Any preparation before your departure date will be a massive benefit to you during the journey and will also reduce the chances of injury. Adding in some strength and stability training will also help to keep you steady.
An important thing you’ll need to consider for walking the Camino is your footwear. You can either wear hiking shoes or boots depending on your personal preference. We recommend using lighter hiking shoes or even trainers on the Camino pilgrimage as they are light and durable. You can read more about how to choose the best shoe for you here.
The best way to begin your training is to start walking more and go from there. A good time to get your program started would be about 3 months before your walking holiday.
Walkers on the Camino de Santiago (peregrinos) need to prepare for three different conditions, each requiring its own training. These conditions include:
- If you are only walking for 5 or 7 days and you are walking with a tour company that moves your bags for you each day, then fitness is not a big worry.
- If you are walking the last section of the Camino, (112km from Sarria, as many do), then fitness is not a big issue.
- For the rest of us, we suggest the following training plan. It is much more enjoyable to walk the Camino Frances or any of the longer Caminos if you have some level of fitness before you set out, however, this is not an Iron Man competition and should not be approached as such.
Training, like life, is about steady effort – not trying to make big jumps in intensity every time you train. Bear in mind for a lot of us walking the Camino comes a long time after our teens and twenties when we were once fit.
You Will Need to Train for…
- Long distance walking day after day.
- Constant uphill and downhill on dirt paths and asphalt.
- Carrying a pack, traditionally with all of your gear.
Even if you are an experienced walker, you need this specific training to prepare your body for the conditions on the Camino de Santiago. You may be able to start with longer mileage, but you need to build up time with the gear you will use on the Camino.
Steadily building up time will reduce your risk of injury in training.
The hills, natural surface, and weather conditions require training. Don’t just go to Spain and “let the Camino train you.”
Typical days of walking on the Camino de Santiago are 17 to 30 kilometers, which is 11 to 19 miles. It is wise to train to walk back-to-back days of 21 kilometers (13.1 miles), which is the length of a half marathon.
- Switch backing: On very steep slopes or those with a loose surface, take a serpentine path by angling across the slope for a few steps left, then a few steps right. This switch backing is a common trail design to reduce steepness either uphill or downhill.
- Take Care on Loose Surfaces: Going downhill has a greater risk of slipping on loose gravel or loose dirt. Although you may want to speed through a downhill, you should take caution on natural surfaces to prevent shin splints.
- Use Trekking Poles: Research confirms that trekking poles can help take some of the impact off as you go downhill, plus give you a little extra stability. You may have to adjust the length when you start the descent to make your poles longer.
Most routes of the Camino have significant hills, both up and down, nearly every day. You need to include hills in your training not only to train your muscles, but also to know how your footwear will perform.
Your foot will rub in different places in your shoes/boots going uphill, downhill and on flat ground.
All areas of your foot need to be toughened by training time on hills. This hill training will help prevent blisters on the Camino.
If there are no hills for you to train on, search out any incline such as parking garages, overpass and underpass ramps, stairs, or treadmills with incline. With a treadmill, increase the incline steadily until you are spending an hour using the maximum incline.
If you can use a treadmill that also has decline, that is as important to train going downhill. Stairs will also train your muscles, but won’t have the same effects on your feet/shoes as inclines do. Stairs could be used if you have no other hill training option.
Your Saturday and Sunday training days should be done at an easy pace. You will not need speed to walk the Camino. Walking at a brisk pace on the Tuesday and Thursday training days will help build your aerobic conditioning.
Train in Your Gear
Do as much of your training as possible wearing the pack, clothing and shoes you will be wearing on the Camino.
Most Camino walkers use trekking poles. Use them on your training walks, especially for hills and on natural trails. Learn how to use them and carry them. You may not be able to take your poles with you on an airplane unless you check luggage. If you wish to avoid fees, it may be cheaper to buy poles when you arrive in Europe. You may train with different poles from the ones you buy.
Week 1 – walk three days for between 45min and 60 min, Tue Fri and Sun
Week 2 – walk 4 days, 45 to 60 min, Tue, Fri, Sat, Sun
Week 3 – walk 4 days 3 at 60 min Tue, Fri, Sat, and Sun walk for 2 hrs
Week 4 -Walk 3 days up and down hills 60 min, Tue, Fri, and Sun
Week 5 – 4 days walking. Tue 60 min fast 6km hr, Wed 45 easy, Fri 60 moderate, Sun 2.5 hrs in hills
Week 6 – try to add a Pilates or yoga class once a week, this will help your back and core. 4 days walking. Tue 60 min fast 6km hr, Wed easy 60 min, Fri fast 60 min 6km hr, Sun 3 hrs in hills with a light backpack, less than 4kg.
Week 7 – Same as week 6 with 60 or 120 min easy on Wed.
Week 8 – 4 days walking. Tue moderate 70 min, Thur fast 60 min 6km hr, Sat 2 hrs in hills, Sun 3 hrs in hills with light backpack, less than 4kg
Week 9 – 4 days walking. Tue and Thu easy 60 min, Sat 2 hrs in hills aim for 4km hr total of 8km, Sun 4 hrs in hills 16km with light backpack, less than 4kg
Week 10 – Tue easy 60 min, Thu fast 60 min 6 km, Sat 2.5 hrs in hills 10 km, Sunday 5 hrs in hills 20km with light backpack, less than 5kg
Week 11- Tue easy 45 min, Thu moderate 60 min, Sat easy 3 hrs with backpack aim for 10km, Sun 5hrs with your backpack of about 5/6 kg – aim for 20km.
Week 12 – Take it easy, Tue fast 60 min, Thu moderate 30 min, Sat 2hrs in hills, Sun 90 min easy in hills – both Sat and Sun with your backpack about 6 kg.
This program is designed for beginners to get to a point where the first few days on the Camino will not be a blur of pain. However, nothing can really prepare us for walking about 20+ km every day with a 6 to 8 kg backpack, (14 to 20 lbs). The first week is going to be tough, though it gets better very quickly – after about a week or so.
Once on the Camino de Santiago, there is one main point to remember DO NOT RUSH. Muscle strain is more likely when you are pushing your body by moving too fast, listen to your body, water it and feed it well, and take rests when required.
Please bear in mind that we am not doctors or a fitness advisers.
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