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The Reasons to Train Prior to a Camino

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davebugg

A Pilgrimage is time I spend praying with my feet
Past OR future Camino
2019
There are two common methods used by Forum members to achieve physical conditioning for long distance walking on a Camino pilgrimage.
  1. Training before starting a Camino
  2. Training during a Camino
Training during a Camino involves deliberately moving at a reduced pace at the beginning of the pilgrimage and walking shorter stages during the first week or two. The thought is to gradually build strength and stamina until your body adapts to the physical work or walking. There are many who embrace this method.

I have done this for wilderness backpacking trips when I was too busy to consistently follow a training schedule and had no health issues to contend with. This included a normal baseline fitness that was not challenged from being chronically inactive, or severely overweight.

My focus here is why I personally prefer to pre-train ahead of time. I want to talk about some specific advantages to starting a Camino with a better level of fitness. This includes increasing one’s core muscle strength, leg, and upper body strength, as well as cardiovascular fitness.

First: For a Camino, there is no need to train to become a competitive athlete. The idea is to adjust your body to the increased demands of walking up and down hills as the kilometers begin to accumulate. You do not need to be able to run a marathon, or bench press 500 pounds; you just need to be able to enjoy walking from town to town without your body yelling at you and demanding to know ‘Are we there yet… are we there yet…are we there yet…’

Pre-Training Helps Prevent Injury

Pre-training will help strengthen anatomical structures that will deal with increased stresses and loading of muscles and joints. But more importantly is that the process used to become fitter, must also reduce as much as is reasonable the risk of causing an avoidable injury.

Training prior to a Camino, rather than while on it, allows you to have all the time you need to work yourself into shape for distance walking. You do not have to worry about vacation time limits pushing you to reach a destination. You truly have the luxury to plan a fitness routine that can be as relaxed as it needs to be.

Feet and backs and shoulders and knees are the leading ‘stars’ that need hardening for the increased impacts caused by distance walking. Using these muscle and structural areas as you exercise at home will dramatically help your first days on the Camino.

Pre-training before the start of your Camino also gives you a better understanding of how your body might respond when you start your pilgrimage. You have had a change to get in-tune to how your body normally responds and feels under the physical stresses from increased exercise. This can mean a better ability to identify ‘normal’ responses to exercise, from those symptoms that are ‘abnormal’ and might require treatment.

Many injuries like sprains, fractures, lacerations are the result of falling, tripping, and losing footing. This is more likely to occur with increased fatigue. Concentration becomes more difficult the more fatigued one becomes. Muscle control is compromised. Balance becomes more problematic. The better shape one is in, the less risk of these things occurring.

Decreased fatigue increases one’s ability to use proper techniques to lessen shock impacts to the knee with each step downhill, or to avoid slipping on loose surface debris.


Training Allows More Capacity to Enjoy the Beginning Stages of the Camino

Most of us invest a lot of effort and expense to walk a Camino. For me, that means that I want my entire Camino to be enjoyable from its very first hours of walking. I want the biggest bang for my buck.

Physically, fitness training is often accompanied with aches, pains, fatigue, gasping for breath, sore feet, etc. That becomes the primary sensory input into your brain, dulling the sights and sounds and smells of everything else around you. Mentally, all that discomfort can force your focus inward when you really want to be focused on the external world around.

Pre-training can help get us past the stage where our mind is preoccupied with negative thoughts and discomforts from being out of shape. This allows us to fully absorb our experiences, burning into our memory all the things we will see and hear.


Training Increases the Chances That you will Complete Your Camino

Whether the goal is completing a Camino, or qualifying for the Navy Seals, frequently it is the mental component that determines success or failure to reach that goal.

Pre-training at home will expose doubts. The discomfort of exercising, feeling winded and fatigued, the next day aches that makes many of us think things like ‘why the heck am I doing this? How can I keep this up day to day?’ I find it best to try and deal with these issues prior to a Camino instead of after I start.

Of course, there will be other mentally challenging issues like dealing with being wet, or cold, or missing family. I have found that becoming mentally toughened to physical efforts can greatly help with overall mental resilience.

Approaching fitness training thru a gradual and consistent process that allows for smaller steps at home will do three things:
  1. It reduces physical stress that can be damaging.
  2. It reduces the risk of overwhelming your mental ability to comfortably cope.
  3. It leads to increasing levels of confidence. When you set a goal to be able to comfortably walk 5 kilometers and then meet that goal, your confidence level is there to shoot for a goal of 10 kilometers. Wash, rinse, repeat. Whatever your end goal, constantly achieving these smaller steps toward an overall fitness goal will increase your confidence that you can walk a Camino.

This post is my point of view. It has helped me as a mountaineer, various thru-hikes including the PCT, and on the Caminos I've walked.

There are also positive points for waiting to train until you start a Camino, and that would make a good topic for a second thread.
 
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Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances; Aragones; VdlP; Madrid-Invierno; Levante
Thank you: helpful as always. One way that I put this into practice is by buying my new boots, regularly wearing my customary camino footwear, for months before my departure. I bought a new pair of my usual brand and size of boot more than a month ago (I wore out the tread on the old ones on my last camino). The salesman brought me exactly what I always buy, and said that he had sold them to me six times previously. They fit a little differently with the custom orthotics that I bought after my knee surgery. I wear them everywhere but to church, with whatever socks are most comfortable with them. I know what it feels like to climb hills with them, or walk distances. Sometimes, I place patches on my feet to make the boots more comfortable. When the time comes, I expect to be able to walk as much as I choose in comfort. This is my usual footwear now.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
Training during a Camino involves deliberately moving at a reduced pace at the beginning of the pilgrimage and walking shorter stages during the first week or two. The thought is to gradually build strength and stamina until your body adapts to the physical work or walking. There are many who embrace this method.
As I do more caminos and as I age I do less rigorous training before I begin my camino. I usually will walk 7-10 kilometers a day and will walk on our NordicTrack at about a 10 degree angle for 30-40 minutes. But I do not push myself too hard.
My real training starts on the camino. I will try to walk no more than 20 or so kilometers a day. If there are days that are 30 I will break them up into two days. When I walk I do not have it in my mind that I am walking 20+k's that day. Everything is broken up into 5K segments. After all the caminos many of us have done we can get a pretty good idea of when we have walked that distance. I will stop wherever I am. Take off my pack and if I can my trail runners. stretch a little, sit down, drink water and have a snack. I usually stop for 10-15 minutes. Then get up and walk again. When it is time for lunch. I usually make food the night before, I will stop in a town if possible. Eat my lunch on a bench or sitting by the church. Then find a cafe and have a coffee and relax for an hour or so and then continue. After 10-14 days I will start to walk longer distances. But now that I am 68 I prefer to keep this routine as much as possible. I find that I feel better, have a lot fewer aches and pains and by respecting my body it takes better care of me. I think if I was 28, 38 or even 48 my routine would probably look alot different after a week or so but I think for an inexperienced of average fitness it may be good for them too.
 

A Crackpot Abroad

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, Via de Plata, Norte, Levante in 2022???
Thanks Dave. Excellent advice!!!

Don’t be like me. Be in condition and aware that the route conditions change. I was lazy with the stretches after a couple of weeks. My route conditions changed from being mostly flat to a steep incline.

Today, I’m laid up in Ourense (64 years old). After doing most of Levante (except for snow storms and gaps in places to stay) from Valencia starting the beginning of April. Levante been pretty flat so far. No issues. I did the steep uphill out of Ourense (without poles this time. I did same section from VdlP in 2019) and injured a (probably unused) tendon on my left hip. I remembered this section was really steep and cut my mileage to adjust. Barely able to negotiate 6 steps to the hostal when I arrived. 6 out of 10 pain 3 days ago. No meds and no pain today. Lesson learned. Don’t power through pain as it is not worth potentially setting your self up for a lifelong disability. Take a cab, bus or train to your destination (BTW, 25 euro taxi ride 15 kms back to Ourense from the little village I was in). I’m confident that if I resume the Camino that the injury will return. I’m opting to bow out for some proper physical therapy and healing.

crackpot
 

BillW

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
Thanks, enjoyed your post. One comment and one question...

Comment: I started a walking program this spring to get ready for my Le Puy to Santiago/Finistere hike in August. I realize this is pretty long training period, but I enjoy the exercise, and it allows me to gradually increase over time, then have a few weeks of "taper" before I leave.

Question: I live in an area where rocky trails and serious hills aren't easily available. I can simulate Camino distances, but not terrain. I'm wondering... Do you think the change of terrain will introduce any challenges? For example, with all my training, I'm presuming blisters won't be a big issue for me, but I'm wondering if that's optimistic given the different terrain.

Thanks again, Dave, for taking the time to write down your thoughts on training. These kinds of contributions make this forum so valuable.
 
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jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2021, 2022
Training during a Camino involves deliberately moving at a reduced pace at the beginning of the pilgrimage and walking shorter stages during the first week or two. The thought is to gradually build strength and stamina until your body adapts to the physical work or walking. There are many who embrace this method.
I don't know that I agree with the bolded part of your statement. For those training DURING the Camino - the only day that I would recommend shortening the stage is SJPDP to Roncesvalles. After that - no reason why not to do the normal stages for "most" people. I just don't recommend attempting to go BEYOND the stages the first week or two, whether or not you trained. You can still deliberately move at a reduced pace while training on the Camino - and still complete the "proposed stages" during that first week. It may mean walking slower and/or taking more breaks - but "most" people can still complete the stage. I do concur with the rest of what you said though.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Question: I live in an area where rocky trails and serious hills aren't easily available. I can simulate Camino distances, but not terrain. I'm wondering... Do you think the change of terrain will introduce any challenges? For example, with all my training, I'm presuming blisters won't be a big issue for me, but I'm wondering if that's optimistic given the different terrain.
You could run into blister problems on downhills, especially after your feet have swollen because you have been walking for some time. The issue is that gravity will be pulling your feet down to the tips of your shoes and you could get toe blisters. Special lacing patterns can help prevent your feet from sliding but you may need to walk in hilly terrain with a shoe larger than you normally wear.
 

davebugg

A Pilgrimage is time I spend praying with my feet
Past OR future Camino
2019
As I do more caminos and as I age I do less rigorous training before I begin my camino. I usually will walk 7-10 kilometers a day and will walk on our NordicTrack at about a 10 degree angle for 30-40 minutes. But I do not push myself too hard.
My real training starts on the camino. I will try to walk no more than 20 or so kilometers a day. If there are days that are 30 I will break them up into two days. When I walk I do not have it in my mind that I am walking 20+k's that day. Everything is broken up into 5K segments. After all the caminos many of us have done we can get a pretty good idea of when we have walked that distance. I will stop wherever I am. Take off my pack and if I can my trail runners. stretch a little, sit down, drink water and have a snack. I usually stop for 10-15 minutes. Then get up and walk again. When it is time for lunch. I usually make food the night before, I will stop in a town if possible. Eat my lunch on a bench or sitting by the church. Then find a cafe and have a coffee and relax for an hour or so and then continue. After 10-14 days I will start to walk longer distances. But now that I am 68 I prefer to keep this routine as much as possible. I find that I feel better, have a lot fewer aches and pains and by respecting my body it takes better care of me. I think if I was 28, 38 or even 48 my routine would probably look alot different after a week or so but I think for an inexperienced of average fitness it may be good for them too.

Not a bad strategy at all. Perhaps this would be referred to as 'Hybrid Fitness for a Camino' :)
 
Past OR future Camino
Future
Thanks Dave. Excellent advice!!!

Don’t be like me. Be in condition and aware that the route conditions change. I was lazy with the stretches after a couple of weeks. My route conditions changed from being mostly flat to a steep incline.

Today, I’m laid up in Ourense (64 years old). After doing most of Levante (except for snow storms and gaps in places to stay) from Valencia starting the beginning of April. Levante been pretty flat so far. No issues. I did the steep uphill out of Ourense (without poles this time. I did same section from VdlP in 2019) and injured a (probably unused) tendon on my left hip. I remembered this section was really steep and cut my mileage to adjust. Barely able to negotiate 6 steps to the hostal when I arrived. 6 out of 10 pain 3 days ago. No meds and no pain today. Lesson learned. Don’t power through pain as it is not worth potentially setting your self up for a lifelong disability. Take a cab, bus or train to your destination (BTW, 25 euro taxi ride 15 kms back to Ourense from the little village I was in). I’m confident that if I resume the Camino that the injury will return. I’m opting to bow out for some proper physical therapy and healing.

crackpot
Thanks for giving us the benefit of your cautionary tale. Very generous of you! I’m 59 and having 3month sabbatical next year, 2months of which will be a very slow Camino. I’ve starting my training and now I know to include some stretching, thanks to you. Hope to hear you’re on Camino again before too long
 

davebugg

A Pilgrimage is time I spend praying with my feet
Past OR future Camino
2019
Thanks, enjoyed your post. One comment and one question...

Comment: I started a walking program this spring to get ready for my Le Puy to Santiago/Finistere hike in August. I realize this is pretty long training period, but I enjoy the exercise, and it allows me to gradually increase over time, then have a few weeks of "taper" before I leave.

Question: I live in an area where rocky trails and serious hills aren't easily available. I can simulate Camino distances, but not terrain. I'm wondering... Do you think the change of terrain will introduce any challenges? For example, with all my training, I'm presuming blisters won't be a big issue for me, but I'm wondering if that's optimistic given the different terrain.

Thanks again, Dave, for taking the time to write down your thoughts on training. These kinds of contributions make this forum so valuable.

Hi, Bill. .

A primary reason to 'taper' is to recover from a fitness regimen that is more aggressive and over a much shorter time frame that achieves a fitness level much higher than you might need, then you gradually back down to a 'maintenance' workout schedule.

You have much more time to gradually achieve your fitness goal, so once that goal is reached you can then immediately switch to the 'maintenance' workout schedule. Usually that will be three days per week (every two to three days), rather than 5 to 6 days per week..

I would stop formal fitness workouts about 5 days prior to travel. That is plenty of time to relax. Just do some relaxed walking around the neighborhood.

Walking does a lot of incredible things, in and of itself, to prepare for distance walking. It will strengthen your foot and ankle structures. Wearing a loaded backpack will engage your core muscles and help strengthen your shoulder girdle and lower back (normally, I prefer to keep about a 85% ratio of the pack weight on my hipbelt, and 10 to 15% on the shoulder straps).

Ankles will develop strength just from walking over uneven surfaces. One foot balances (holding onto a table top or wall, etc.) will also help. When you are over the 'beginning' stage of your schedule, try to incorporate slightly uneven terrain into your walks. This will also help to improve balance.

Be sure to include stretching routines pre and post exercise. You can find basic exercises online if you need suggestions.

To help prevent Shin Splints, I wrote a guide that will help. (click on Blue text).

For training, there are really two different parts to focus on:

1. Cardiovascular fitness.
2. Muscle strengthening.

Cardiovascular fitness is the ability for your heart and lungs to supply oxygenated blood to your muscles during exercise under load, and your muscles ability to use that oxygen efficiently so they can produce energy.

Exercises should be used which will allow you to hit a target heart rate zone, over a for a period of time during exercising, which provides the needed aerobic effort for conditioning. This is a website which will help you calculate what your target heart rate zones will be.

https://www.lifespanfitness.com/fitness/resources/target-heart-rate-calculator

Some examples of effective aerobic exercises for achieving target heart rates.
  • Treadmills set to 7% incline at the start of training, then set to a 12 to 18% incline as your fitness progresses (raise the front of the treadmill several inches to increase its normal range of incline),
  • Running
  • Walking at a faster than normal pace
  • Walking up hills
  • Rowing machines
  • HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts
  • Riding a bicycle at a faster than normal pace
  • Swimming
  • Etc. are all

Keep in mind that as your fitness level improves, it will take a more sustained effort to hit the same heart rate zones. That is why using target zones is so effective. They don't change relative to fitness level. Someone extremely out of shape does not exercise as hard as someone who is extremely fit to reach their target.

Muscle strength is a function of how much maximum force your muscles can exert against resistance. Exercises for strength will also provide a temporary aerobic effect, but the main goal is to increase your capability to function while under resistance.

Think about having to lift the weight of your body, with a pack, with each step going up the Pyrenees. Or being able to lift and carry a load. Or the constant resistance of your body weight and pack to your shoulders and to the 'core' muscles in your back and abdomen.

Some basic strengthening exercises for home include push-ups, lunges, squats and planks. A google search will show you the way to do these exercises.

Other conditioning issues involve things like ankles, feet, and flexibility. Do a search on this forum for posts about exercises to help prevent shin splints and to help prevent plantar fasciitis.

As your departure date nears and you've been involved in your fitness regimen for the next 6 weeks or so, rather than your routine exercise schedule, put on the clothing and footwear you will be using on Camino, load up your pack, and spend the next several days in a row walking. See how you feel and at what pace you are able to best sustain yourself. That will give you a baseline estimate to calculate logistical issues surrounding the question of how many days it may take to walk your Camino.

Blister Prevention Tips
Blisters are a product of friction.... often referred to as shear force friction. The skin of your foot, and the sock that is in contact with that area of skin, are sliding and rubbing together.

Strategies for the prevention of shear force friction and blisters have changed and matured over recent years.
  1. A properly fitting shoe. In brief, it needs to be long enough and wide enough to accommodate any insoles, orthotics, metatarsal pads, etc., PLUS the socks that you will be wearing, PLUS the increased pressure on the feet from wearing a loaded pack.
  2. Light padded Merino wool sock designed for walking or backpacking, or the same type of sock in a good synthetic blend. A heavy pad on a sock allows potentially more movement against the skin, takes longer to air out, and takes longer to dry when washed.
  3. A sock fit that is snug and form fitting to the foot, but not gangrene-inducingly tight. You want the shear force to be between the sock and the interior of the shoe, not the sock and the skin. A snug fitting sock will help to make that happen.
  4. Allow the sock to move a bit in the shoe. By keeping the shoes a bit looser on the feet, the sock will take the brunt of the shear force. If a shoe is tied snug, then that forces the foot to move more in the sock, which means the sock and skin are absorbing the shear force. An exception occurs on long downhill grades; the shoes need to be tied tight enough to keep your toes from hitting the front of the shoe which can cause injury and trauma to the nail bed and toe joints.
  5. While there are foot lubricants, from Body Glide and Hiker's Goo to plain old vaseline, the have a fairly short viable working span as the material rubs of the skin and is absorbed by the socks. For prophylactic protection from shear force friction, a long lasting barrier is the better option. The placement of tapes, like Leukotape P, or moleskin-type products, if adhered correctly, will last the whole day.
  6. To apply tapes and moleskin type products,
    1. Clean off the area of application with a bit of alcohol to remove grease, dirt, and body oils. A bit of regular hand sanitizer works for this, in addition to hand cleansing.
    2. Cut a piece of your chosen barrier material to fit the area you want protected; be sure to cut rounded corners rather than square in order to help the material from rolling up away from the skin.
    3. Apply a thin smear of Tincture of Benzoin to the skin area where the adhesive will stick. This will increase the holding power of the tape or moleskin.
      1. If the tape or moleskin, etc. is going on top of a blistered area, avoid getting the benzoin on the roof area of the blister, and add a thin coating of ointment/vaseline onto the blister roof, avoiding the surrounding skin area. This will allow removal of the product without hurting the blister wound.
    4. Place the barrier on the area, taking care to not handle the adhesive; spend a bit of time rubbing the material to create friction so that the adhesive will heat up and adhere more firmly.
    5. At the end of the day, remove the barrier and use some alcohol to wipe the area that was covered.
      1. Since fungus (athletes foot) and pathogens splash around in showers, shower shoes are not necessarily preventative to one's feet being exposed or infected. It is helpful to use an alcohol or astringent product applied to the feet after showering.
 
Last edited:
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how to successfully prepare for your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.
Past OR future Camino
Future
Hi, Bill. .

A primary reason to 'taper' is to recover from a fitness regimen that is more aggressive and over a much shorter time frame that achieves a fitness level much higher than you might need, then you gradually back down to a 'maintenance' workout schedule.

You have much more time to gradually achieve your fitness goal, so once that goal is reached you can then immediately switch to the 'maintenance' workout schedule. Usually that will be three days per week (every two to three days), rather than 5 to 6 days per week..

I would stop formal fitness workouts about 5 days prior to travel. That is plenty of time to relax. Just do some relaxed walking around the neighborhood.

Walking does a lot of incredible things, in and of itself, to prepare for distance walking. It will strengthen your foot and ankle structures structures. Wearing a loaded backpack will engage your core muscles and help strengthen your shoulder girdle and lower back (normally, I prefer to keep about a 85% ratio of the pack weight on my hipbelt, and 10 to 15% on the shoulder straps).

Ankles will develop strength from walking over uneven surfaces. One foot balances (holding onto a table top or wall, etc.) will also help. When you are over the 'beginning' stage of your schedule, try to incorporate slightly uneven terrain into your walks. This will also help to improve balance.

Be sure to include stretching routines pre and post exercise. You can find basic exercises online if you need suggestions.

To help prevent Shin Splints, I wrote a guide that will help. (click on Blue text).

For training, there are really two different parts to focus on:

1. Cardiovascular fitness.
2. Muscle strengthening.

Cardiovascular fitness is the ability for your heart and lungs to supply oxygenated blood to your muscles during exercise under load, and your muscles ability to use that oxygen efficiently so they can produce energy.

Exercises should be used which will allow you to hit a target heart rate zone, over a for a period of time during exercising, which provides the needed aerobic effort for conditioning. This is a website which will help you calculate what your target heart rate zones will be.

https://www.lifespanfitness.com/fitness/resources/target-heart-rate-calculator

Some examples of effective aerobic exercises for achieving target heart rates.
  • Treadmills set to 7% incline at the start of training, then set to a 12 to 18% incline as your fitness progresses (raise the front of the treadmill several inches to increase its normal range of incline),
  • Running
  • Walking at a faster than normal pace
  • Walking up hills
  • Rowing machines
  • HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts
  • Riding a bicycle at a faster than normal pace
  • Swimming
  • Etc. are all

Keep in mind that as your fitness level improves, it will take a more sustained effort to hit the same heart rate zones. That is why using target zones is so effective. They don't change relative to fitness level. Someone extremely out of shape does not exercise as hard as someone who is extremely fit to reach their target.

Muscle strength is a function of how much maximum force your muscles can exert against resistance. Exercises for strength will also provide a temporary aerobic effect, but the main goal is to increase your capability to function while under resistance.

Think about having to lift the weight of your body, with a pack, with each step going up the Pyrenees. Or being able to lift and carry a load. Or the constant resistance of your body weight and pack to your shoulders and to the 'core' muscles in your back and abdomen.

Some basic strengthening exercises for home include push-ups, lunges, squats and planks. A google search will show you the way to do these exercises.

Other conditioning issues involve things like ankles, feet, and flexibility. Do a search on this forum for posts about exercises to help prevent shin splints and to help prevent plantar fasciitis.

As your departure date nears and you've been involved in your fitness regimen for the next 6 weeks or so, rather than your routine exercise schedule, put on the clothing and footwear you will be using on Camino, load up your pack, and spend the next several days in a row walking. See how you feel and at what pace you are able to best sustain yourself. That will give you a baseline estimate to calculate logistical issues surrounding the question of how many days it may take to walk your Camino.

Blister Prevention Tips
Blisters are a product of friction.... often referred to as shear force friction. The skin of your foot, and the sock that is in contact with that area of skin, are sliding and rubbing together.

Strategies for the prevention of shear force friction and blisters have changed and matured over recent years.
  1. A properly fitting shoe. In brief, it needs to be long enough and wide enough to accommodate any insoles, orthotics, metatarsal pads, etc., PLUS the socks that you will be wearing, PLUS the increased pressure on the feet from wearing a loaded pack.
  2. Light padded Merino wool sock designed for walking or backpacking, or the same type of sock in a good synthetic blend. A heavy pad on a sock allows potentially more movement against the skin, takes longer to air out, and takes longer to dry when washed.
  3. A sock fit that is snug and form fitting to the foot, but not gangrene-inducingly tight. You want the shear force to be between the sock and the interior of the shoe, not the sock and the skin. A snug fitting sock will help to make that happen.
  4. Allow the sock to move a bit in the shoe. By keeping the shoes a bit looser on the feet, the sock will take the brunt of the shear force. If a shoe is tied snug, then that forces the foot to move more in the sock, which means the sock and skin are absorbing the shear force. An exception occurs on long downhill grades; the shoes need to be tied tight enough to keep your toes from hitting the front of the shoe which can cause injury and trauma to the nail bed and toe joints.
  5. While there are foot lubricants, from Body Glide and Hiker's Goo to plain old vaseline, the have a fairly short viable working span as the material rubs of the skin and is absorbed by the socks. For prophylactic protection from shear force friction, a long lasting barrier is the better option. The placement of tapes, like Leukotape P, or moleskin-type products, if adhered correctly, will last the whole day.
  6. To apply tapes and moleskin type products,
    1. Clean off the area of application with a bit of alcohol to remove grease, dirt, and body oils. A bit of regular hand sanitizer works for this, in addition to hand cleansing.
    2. Cut a piece of your chosen barrier material to fit the area you want protected; be sure to cut rounded corners rather than square in order to help the material from rolling up away from the skin.
    3. Apply a thin smear of Tincture of Benzoin to the skin area where the adhesive will stick. This will increase the holding power of the tape or moleskin.
      1. If the tape or moleskin, etc. is going on top of a blistered area, avoid getting the benzoin on the roof area of the blister, and add a thin coating of ointment/vaseline onto the blister roof, avoiding the surrounding skin area. This will allow removal of the product without hurting the blister wound.
    4. Place the barrier on the area, taking care to not handle the adhesive; spend a bit of time rubbing the material to create friction so that the adhesive will heat up and adhere more firmly.
    5. At the end of the day, remove the barrier and use some alcohol to wipe the area that was covered.
      1. Since fungus (athletes foot) and pathogens splash around in showers, shower shoes are not necessarily preventative to one's feet being exposed or infected. It is helpful to use an alcohol or astringent product applied to the feet after showering.
Wow! Very comprehensive! Thanks
 
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2016, del Norte 2019
As some of you might recall, after my truncated Camino del Norte walk in 2019, I started a FB group, a spin-off from a larger women-only FB group called Camigas, for those who wanted to challenge themselves to walk 1,000 miles/1609 kilometers in 2020. Most who joined did so to train for their upcoming 2020 caminos. Of course, then came COVID and we all were resigned to walking close to home, which we did with great success. Now in our third year, this group has been an amazing source of collegiality and support, even for those who have not yet walked a Camino. Our shared training challenges and successes are a source of wisdom to us all.

Most interesting and relevant to Davebugg's excellent post is that those of us who have been consistently walking before leaving on a Camino have experienced little of the injuries and blisters that seem to plague others who have not trained. We are fitter, we weigh less (in a good way), we have tried walking 20k per day for multiple days at home, and, just as importantly, we have come to know our bodies and our equipment very well. (For example, I am amazed how many women in the larger group get incapacitating blisters while on their Caminos and were not aware of what a "hot spot" feels like, or were aware but for various reasons did not stop to address the issue immediately. Members of our training group know this through our individual and shared experiences.)

This year we have begun having monthly mini-challenges, which have been a fun addition to our overall 1,000 mile annual challenge. For example, this month our mini-challenge is to walk four 10ks in the month, posting pics of each one. Of course, those currently walking Caminos, (and there are quite a few) finish this mini-challenge in four days! There is a volunteer mini-challenge monitor each month at at the end of the month, those who have successfully completed the challenge post a comment, the monitor draws a name and that person receives a small memento that is representative of the monitor's home region. Other mini-challenges have been both milage-based like this month's or focus on other things, like walk with four different people over the course of the month, walk two new routes, etc.

So just a note that advance training can be not only beneficial while walking a pilgrimage, it can be a source of strength, pleasure and community building as well.

Thanks Dave, your posts are always so beneficial to me and many others in this forum!
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
Something that just occurred to me is the intersection of the training discussion and the timing discussion. There's been a lot of discussion over the years about which is the best time to walk the Camino, with the bulk of the advice tending towards spring and autumn. Each of those has their proponents. Some like the greens and flowers of spring, others like the autumnal colours and harvests later in the year. But training could be a factor. If you live in an area where long walks in the winter can be a challenge, it might be easier to do your pre-camino training for a September/October/November camino than for a March/April/May camino.
 

hawkeyepierce

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances July 22
I'm setting out on the CF on July 28 and started training at the beginning of May (when I had the idea to do this!). I'm a very out of shape and overweight 32yo male. This is what my personal trainer and I came up with:

- 2 hours a week of weight lifting
- Progressively longer walks 3x weekly, starting at 6mi (9.6km) and adding about 10% each week with a goal of 22mi (35km) days before I leave
- One of those walks is a hike, with elevation gain (I live in Colorado so lots of steep hikes near me)

So far I've been reasonably successful at sticking with the plan though sometimes I've only hit 2 walks a week. Over Memorial Day weekend I walked 23 miles (37km). On days when I go to the office, I walk which comes to 6-8 miles depending on route.

He also taught me a pre-walking stretching routine. Head rolls, arm circles, standing lunge hip stretch, standing quad stretch, runner's calf stretch, standing soleus calf stretch, front/back and side-to-side leg swings, butterfly stretch for my piriformis and ankle circles. It's a long list but I've found it productive. I don't stretch until I've walked 10 or so minutes.

This has also really helped me put my footwear through its paces. I've gone through a few different shoe/orthotic/sock combinations. I've unearthed an odd toe issue and have an appointment with my podiatrist tomorrow to sort it out, hopefully with enough time to correct it before I leave.
 
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Pathfinder075

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (Villada to SdC) (2016)
Primitivo (Ribadesella to SdC) (2017)
The key is to walk a bit every day.

My first year I was doing 90 mins of cardio (30 mins row, crosstrain and treadmill) and 60 mins of weight lifting, every day. When I got to Spain, I did a couple of hikes in the Picos before I started my camino. It all paid off and I was doing 20-25 miles every day. The only slight niggle I had was the rucksack digging into my shoulders. That went after a week. By the end I had lost over a stone.

Generally exercising daily will be helpful. Even if you only walk for 30 mins. It gets your body accustomed to exercise. If you can throw a rucksack on with 10kg of weight in it, it's even better and you will struggle less with carrying the rucksack.

If you have access to a Sauna at your gym (or at home), use it. It made a difference for me and lessened the effect of heat and humidity on me when I got to Spain.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
After my second camino, in 2001, I decided that instead of training, I would just keep myself in shape year round. So I adopted a pretty vigorous exercise routine, which I still have. I never did any additional pre-Camino training and I did a lot of long caminos with long stages. Never had a problem — ah, pride comes before the fall.

But on my last camino, in September 2021, I undertook several long stages with a LOT of elevation gain at the beginning of the Salvador/Primitivo. In hindsight, my problem was that, though my cardio fitness was fine, my leg muscles were not at the same level of fitness, and I suffered a partially torn hamstring tendon. I realized (thanks to @davebugg and others), and of course hindsight is 20/20 for me, that having strong leg muscles is just as, or more, important as cardio fitness if you are going to walk a mountainous camino like the Olvidado or the Salvador/Primitivo.

For those who live in the flatlands like I do, getting strong quads, glutes and hamstrings can’t be done by practice walks in the mountains. But a good exercise regimen can give you the strength to do those mountain stages. My tendon is still partially torn, but I am hoping that my fairly fanatical PT routine is going to give me the muscle strength I need so that those other muscles will “come to the rescue” and alleviate the stress on the torn tendon. This is not my medical diagnosis, btw, but that of my PT and MD.

In some ways, having good cardio fitness has its downside — huffing and puffing makes you stop and rest, but muscle injuries come slowly. So if you are breathing fine and feeling great and just keep on walking, you may get a muscle injury that would have been avoided by less cardio fitness. If that makes sense!
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances; Aragones; VdlP; Madrid-Invierno; Levante
I do not get as much exercise as I should, but I walk every day to the top of the escarpement behind my neighbourhood, except when it rains. For the last year or so, I have been getting regular treatments by a massage therapist at a local university. I was a little surprised that he always begins with work on my legs, which generally do not bother me at all. But he says that leg muscles can tighten and be at risk of injury, even if they are not bothering me. So I allow him to probe my legs even I would rather he worked more on my stiff shoulders. And I know that it is my legs that carry me to the end of the long and longer caminos that I feel the urge to walk each year. But it is hard to make it a priority to care for legs when everything else is demanding attention. Now, I have two months of summer to work on the general fitness that will make me better able to to complete the long and interesting caminos which I have planned.
 

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