You have decided to do the Camino de Santiago. Or maybe you are still deciding. And you're wondering: with all those kilometres, all those stages, will I be able to get it? Am I ready to do the Camino de Santiago?
The first thing to say is that this is a normal question. It is even appropriate. In fact, to obtain the Compostela — the document that certifies your pilgrimage — you have to walk at least 100 km. If you come by bicycle or on horseback it is 200 km. So it's a normal question to ask.
The quick answer is that thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Santiago every year. More than 300,000 every year. And not all of them are elite athletes, confirmed.
The Camino is done from children to 80 year olds. But let's not fool ourselves. Those 80-year-olds are not very fond of lying on the sofa all day doing nothing.
Read on to find out if you are fit to do the Camino and what you will need to complete it on foot (without dying in the attempt). Here are our five thoughts on the matter.
Getting started: How is your physical condition?
First cut-off test (honesty with yourself is key): Are you able to walk for three hours without too much trouble? Are you used to hiking routes with a changing uphill and downhill route?
If the answer is yes, good news! Chances are that you will manage to do the Camino de Santiago without great difficulty. However, not many people are used to walk for hours, even if they are athletes. So we recommend that you read on.
If the answer is no, we are going to give you some useful tips on preparation. You'll see how they work and we'll quickly see you walking around Galicia.
In any case, the planning that anyone should do before starting the Camino is twofold. On the one hand, there is the physical preparation. Getting the body used to walking, to the constant rhythms of activity and to the different gradients. On the other hand, the planning of the route. The aim is to ensure that the route does not exceed our physical and mental limits. We can give you a hand with the latter while you start your physical preparation.
Can I do this Camino?
Here's a truism: not all Caminos de Santiago are equally demanding. And not only because of the climbs and descents. The Primitive and Northern routes are the most demanding, but that is not the only thing that matters.
To do the Camino de Santiago you must also take into account the distance between hostels or other types of accommodation, the availability of services, the greater or lesser presence of other pilgrims, etc.. All this determines whether a route is more or less "difficult".
You may also be interested in: Eight routes of the Camino de Santiago: which one to choose and why?
Often, when we think about which Path to choose, we do so only because of what it offers us, and we do not take into account what it demands of us. The secret, in any case, lies in the middle ground.
Two good options for people who are new to the Camino de Santiago are the French and Portuguese routes. Why? Because they are not particularly hard in terms of the route itself and are not very demanding in terms of physical condition. And because they have a great range of services, including accommodation. In addition, they are the busiest routes, and pilgrims tend to help each other in case of need. Sometimes even without understanding each other's language. Isn't it wonderful?
At this link we talk a bit more about what the main routes require and offer. It's sure to help you choose one, if you haven't already.
What training do I need?
Now that we have an idea of the route, here is another truism. Each pilgrim is different and needs different preparation.
In this article you will not find pre-designed training charts. For what we want to do, they are of little use. However, our recommendation is as follows. If you are not in the habit of walking, set aside 60 to 90 days to get your body used to it before embarking on the Camino.
Start by going for a walk three or four days a week for about two hours. By the end of the first month, a 3-hour walk will be easy for you. On the Camino the stages are longer, but this is only the beginning of the preparation.
When you reach this point, increase the number of walking days and choose routes with ascents and descents. This will get your knees used to it, as they are one of the parts of your body that suffer the most, especially on the downhills! If you can also combine different surfaces (dirt, asphalt, gravel), it will be perfect.
In the last 30 days it is time to put on the shoes you are going to wear on the Camino. In this way, we mould them and avoid blisters and chafing characteristic of new footwear.
And the backpack. Put it on too and gradually increase its weight. You'll find that, when it's properly fastened, your body quickly gets used to the extra weight (up to about 10% of your weight).
Handbook of Pilgrims
Download the most complete guide to prepare the Camino de Santiago from scratch and step by step.
A quick tip. You can use a calendar to prepare your training. It helps to stick to it little by little and builds self-confidence by seeing that you meet your goals. On the Camino, mental toughness is also important.
Now, depending on your progress, you can increase the distance you walk. But always do it gradually. Bear in mind that the most common stages of the Camino are usually more than 20 km long. At a normal pace this is 4-5 hours walking. So there will be days when you need to walk more.
At the end of your training, you should be able to walk that distance, with a rucksack on your back, over different terrain.
Even so, when you start doing the Camino de Santiago, we recommend that you opt for short stages. At least the first couple of days. This way the adaptation is smoother and the results are better.
Care during preparation
During the weeks of preparation, and even more so during the pilgrimage, you have to take care of your body. Stretching helps to avoid injuries and contractures. Do them before you start and at the end of the pilgrimage.
The most affected areas are the back, neck and specific leg muscles. In particular the calf, quadriceps and hamstrings.
Foot massages to loosen muscles and improve circulation are also recommended. Both in training and during the Camino. Moreover, depending on the route you choose, in some towns you can find specific massage services for pilgrims. Keep this in mind.
Finally, also keep nutrition and hydration in mind. During the training phase too, because you are doing a significant amount of physical activity.
Drinking enough fluids is essential; we are not discovering anything new. Doing so prevents fatigue, dehydration and even injury. And the same goes for food. Avoiding heavy meals and increasing carbohydrates and legumes helps, because they provide a lot of energy.
Your way, your pace
Finally, engrave these words in your heart. Your path, your rhythm.
A few lines above we talked about the importance of mental strength. To be prepared to do the Camino de Santiago is also to know our limitations. Knowing how to see the signs that warn us that we can not continue, and being able to adapt to it, to pay attention to them.
Sometimes this is difficult to recognise. But it is part of the Way. When we speak of a path that favours introspection and frank and sincere dialogue with oneself, this is also what we mean. Moreover, it is not a competition. You are not running against anyone.
If you plan to do the route in a group or as a couple, you don't need to go at the same pace as them if it is not your own. In other words: if you force the machine, it will break down in the end. And nobody wants that.
So, are you ready to do the Camino de Santiago? Have you already started training? Tell us about it at our social networks profiles. We want to know how you are doing. And surely sharing your experience will help other people looking for information.