What training is necessary to prepare for the Camino de Santiago?
Many of the people who pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with us, ask us how to prepare physically and mentally to make the Camino de Santiago. We know that it is a frequent doubt especially among the pilgrims who make the route for the first time. That’s why we have developed this training guide to make the Camino de Santiago.
Good planning, proper training, and following some specific recommendations to avoid injury are the keys to successfully completing the Camino de Santiago. Now we will explain what physical and mental training to follow before making the Camino de Santiago and what measures to take during the tour.
Physical training for the Camino de Santiago
Walking is considered a low-intensity exercise and is recommended for people in any physical condition. However, it is not the same to take a walk or do a specific excursion to walk for days. In this case, the activity is much more demanding and it is advisable to carry out training for the Camino de Santiago.
Both sedentary people and those who perform an exercise usually should prepare physically to make the Camino de Santiago. Obviously, the training that should be followed is not the same.
Sedentary people should start with much more moderate activity. It is generally recommended to start training approximately 90 days before the pilgrimage begins.
Physical preparation for the Camino de Santiago
Spending hours walking is essential during pre-training for the Camino de Santiago. However, there are other types of exercises that you can do in a complementary way. Some of the physical exercises you can do to train for the Camino de Santiago are:
Train for the Camino de Santiago by walking
If your body is not used to walking, the first thing you need to do is prepare it to develop this activity. Do it little by little. You can start by making small walks, on flat surfaces, fifteen or twenty minutes, two or three times a week.
Then increase the time of the hikes up to 15 minutes, until you get to walk for an hour or two without feeling exhausted. Think that on flat terrain we travel approximately 4 kilometres every hour, at a moderate pace.
The stages on the Camino de Santiago vary between 15 and 20 kilometres. To complete a 20-kilometre stage you will have to walk for approximately 5 hours.
Obviously, during the tour, you will make several stops to rest. Still, your body needs to be trained so that it has the ability to recover and continue.
Once you have progressed in the training, incorporate ascents and descents that allow you to prepare for the slopes. Consider making some excursions to the mountain during your training period for the Camino de Santiago.
Carrying your backpack on the Camino de Santiago isn’t necessary . If you do decide to do it, prepare for it two weeks before leaving. Prepare the kit that you will take on the Camino and walk with your backpack on your back. In this way, your back and your joints will get used to the weight.
Cardio-vascular exercises to do before the Camino de Santiago
Cyclists are encouraged to train on long rides. However, pedalling is also a good way to train for the Camino de Santiago on foot.
Cycling for 30 minutes several times a week will help you improve your lung capacity and activate your circulation. If you are not a bicycle fan, you can also practice any other activity that will help you improve your stamina. Examples include aerobics, swimming, dancing, kickboxing, running, rope jumping, etc.
Training for the Camino de Santiago needs to strengthen your muscles
To successfully complete your pilgrimage, in addition to having resistance you must strengthen and tone your muscles. Working your leg muscles will allow you to avoid joint injuries, especially on ascents and descents.
Exercise routines composed of squats, strides, steps, or other similar exercises are ideal for this. You can do them at home or go to a gym to do this type of training.
Stretching is part of training for the Camino de Santiago
Any training should be accompanied by stretching exercises. When it comes to making the Camino de Santiago, improving elasticity will be a great help. This way you will avoid muscle problems.
A very common lesion among the pilgrims is that of the Achilles tendon. Stretching this tendon during your training for the Camino de Santiago will help prevent it.
If you are a woman, who frequently uses heel shoe, this kind of stretching is even more necessary. Using flat shoes for many hours could easily end up with suffering tendinitis in this area.
Other recommended training methods for the Camino de Santiago
Many people already arrive at the Camino de Santiago with strains or pulls caused by daily stress or old injuries. A preventive measure is to visit a physiotherapist before starting the route. A physiotherapist will help you to relax your muscles and you will be able to enjoy the experience in optimal conditions.
If you are elderly or suffer from some type of illness, such as heart disease or diabetes, for example, it is advisable to visit the doctor before making the Camino de Santiago. This will help you to assess the suitability of the plan and will recommend what things to avoid.
Mind training for the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is not just a physical matter; it is also mental. Therefore, we recommend that you spend some time training your mind for the Camino de Santiago.
Train your mind for the Pilgrim’s path
On the one hand, you have to plan properly the route you want to make. At this point, it is important, to be honest with yourself. Choose one of the Pilgrim routes that suit your personal and objective characteristics. Each path and each stretch has its wonders.
Afterwards, it is important that you think clearly, especially if it is the first time that you do the Camino de Santiago, that you cannot be rigid on the route. If your physical conditions require it, go slower and go shorter distances.
If you don’t get to Santiago de Compostela on your first pilgrimage, you can always come back another time. Many pilgrims travel along the longest pilgrim paths, such as the Camino Frances or the Vía de la Plata, over various periods.
Prepare yourself mentally for the experience
Be clear in your reasons why you want to walk to Santiago de Compostela . During the tour, your priorities can change, but it is important that you keep an eye on your goal.
Some pilgrims seek to spend time with themselves and end the journey, without having achieved it. If you do the Camino de Santiago because you want to have time to meditate, make sure you do some stages on your own.
On the other hand, if you complete the way of Santiago full of energy and wanting to share experiences, also be prepared to spend time alone. If you choose one of the less popular routes and go alone, you may have to travel a few kilometres without company.
Prepare yourself mentally for the effort that involves pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This is not a beach holiday, no matter how much you choose one of the coastal routes.
Obviously, if you choose to complete the Camino de Santiago with an organized group, staying in comfortable establishments, or a pilgrimage without a backpack, the effort that you will have to do is less. But every day you will have to make the effort to travel tens of kilometres.
What else do you need to do apart from training for the Camino de Santiago?
Training for the Camino de Santiago previously is not the only requirement to complete your goal successfully. Preventing injuries is also essential. Here are some recommendations to avoid getting injured on the Camino de Santiago.
Choose the correct equipment that you will use
In another article we were speaking about the perfect backpack to take on the Camino de Santiago . We recommend that you read this article, where you will also find information on the best footwear to complete the Camino de Santiago.
Paying special attention to the weather that is expected during your pilgrimage will allow you to have the proper attire. Remember that cold and moisture can aggravate muscle-skeletal discomfort if you suffer from chronic pain. And, as we told you before, make sure, during your training for the Camino de Santiago, that you do some walking with the weight of your backpack.
Plan your stages well
Stage planning needs to be adapted to your physical capabilities. They must not imply a superhuman effort on your part.
It is recommended that the first stages are shorter and do not have big climbs. This advice is especially important for people who are not accustomed to exercising.
The stages on the Camino de Santiago should not be based exclusively on distance. The type of terrain on which the day runs is also an important factor.
It does not require the same effort to walk on a flat surface or to perform a stage full of ups and downs. To prevent trauma, do less on those days that you have to cope with big climbs.
As your body becomes accustomed to walking for long distances, you will be able to increase the intensity of the activity. Generally, it is said that during the first four days of the Camino de Santiago, the body gets used to it.
Stretching during the route
Stretching exercises are a big secret to avoid muscle injuries or tears. These are especially important at the beginning of the day and at the end, but it is also advisable to do them during the stage.
Pay special attention to the stretching of the calf and thigh muscles. These are the parts of the body that are most under pressure.
Design an easy routine to do anywhere. You can use a mobile application, search exercises on the Internet or ask for advice at your gym or physical therapist. However, we leave you this link with some stretching exercises for the legs which help on the Camino de Santiago .
Physical preparation before starting is the key
In addition to stretching, before starting a stage it is advisable to do a warm-up. You can do this once you’re ready to begin the day.
Just start walking smoothly and rhythmically until your body warms up. Then you will be able to increase the intensity little by little.
Find your own rhythm and remember that the magic of the Pilgrim path is on the way. Don’t let yourself be dragged along in the rush.
On many occasions, an absurd pace is established among the pilgrims to reach the end of the stage, to ensure their accommodation. Don’t get into those games, even less, risking your physical condition.
On other occasions, for the sake of sharing a talk with another pilgrim, the pace is accelerated. If you want to enjoy the company of someone who walks faster than you, the best thing is that you ask him to be the one who adapts to your rhythm. Otherwise, you’ll end up with tendinitis.
It is also important that you make as many stops as you need. No matter if you do the Camino de Santiago in a group, you don’t need to go all the way together. One of the wonders of the Pilgrim’s path is that people are separating and rediscovering themselves throughout each stage.
Be careful on the ascents and descents
Pay attention to where you walk and how you walk on the ups and downs, especially if they are stony or slippery. Ankle sprains are very common among pilgrims. Most of them occur during descents.
On the descents, it is advisable to move forward with long steps. If the terrain is not steep you can make quick steps, to exert less pressure on your joints.
Stick your heel on the ground, during the descent, but without forcing it. Like this, you will avoid injuries and reduce the chances of slipping. If you carry a backpack, tighten the waist straps to give rest to your shoulders.
On the contrary, during the climbs it is advisable to advance to a slow and short step, supporting the entire sole of the foot. Lengthen the belt on your backpack so you can breathe better.
The use of a stick or trekking canes will help you avoid falls in sections with unstable surfaces. It will also prevent your joints from overloading during stretches with steep climbs.
Take adequate rests
Sleeping well is essential to avoid suffering injury from fatigue. It is advisable to allow at least 20 minutes between intense physical activity or a heavy meal before going to bed.
If during the trip you experience extreme fatigue or feel that your body does not just recover, take a full day of rest. If you have time and spend many days on the Camino de Santiago, take a day of rest, every 7 or 8 days.
Hydrate and eat in balanced way
To avoid heat stroke or dizziness that may make you lose balance, make sure you drink frequently. That’s especially important in warmer times. Maintaining optimal hydration is essential.
Diet is also important. A balanced and healthy diet will help us to maintain musculature, which we have achieved with the training for the Camino de Santiago, in good condition.
In addition, it will allow you to count on the energy reserves necessary to complete the challenges posed by the Camino de Santiago. Do not eat in any way or feed on sweets and snacks.
Avoid excessively heavy meals in the middle of the stage. It is preferable to take several light meals.
Alcohol consumption should also be moderated. Abuse of the latter favours body dehydration and increases the risk of falls. That you have had good training for the Camino de Santiago does not exempt you from it.
Look after your feet on the Camino de Santiago
Chafing, problems with nails or blisters are common complaints among pilgrims. To avoid them, in addition to wearing proper footwear and socks, take care of your feet on the stages of the Camino de Santiago. Here are some preventive measures:
Use Vaseline and cream
Applying Vaseline to your feet before you begin to walk will encourage them to stay hydrated. In this way, you prevent the appearance of chafing or blistering. At the end of the day, it is recommended to apply it a second time. You can also use an anti-fatigue cream for your feet.
Maintain good hygiene
It is key to maintain good foot hygiene. If during the trip you put your feet in a river or on the beach, be sure to clean them and dry them well.
Saltpetre in seawater can cause chafing. The ideal thing is to wash your feet with fresh water before restarting the route.
Cleaning your feet every day is a must. Think that during the stage it is normal for these to be subjected to high temperatures, especially on the asphalt sections. So they’ll accumulate a lot of sweat. If one day you can’t take a shower, wash your feet with water or clean with a wet washcloth.
So far our tips to prevent injury. If you train for the Camino de Santiago and follow our advice to avoid injuring yourself on the route, you will arrive in Santiago de Compostela without any problem.
Before we say goodbye, as we always want to remind you that Santiago Ways is here to accompany you in this experience. If you want us to help you make the Camino de Santiago, you just have to tell us .