Training for any long walk, including the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route across northern Spain, requires some preparation, both physical and mental.
Physical preparation – walking with backpacks
Firstly, physical preparation must include walking on paths analogous to the kinds of track we expect to encounter, with distance and hills and varying terrain. And as departure time approaches it is important to get used to walking with poles – remember a million step walk over 800km (500 miles) requires you to lift those poles a million times. The poles feel light, but you need to build those muscles. And of course, it is vital to practice with packs loaded with everything you intend to carry. Here is a typical day on the track. We are currently covering around 10-12kms (6.2 – 7.5 miles) a day training with packs.
Becoming aware of the bigger picture – taking note of your surroundings
Walking frees the mind and de-stresses the body. The body establishes a natural rhythm and if you keep your eyes open you will see connections that show how the landscape shapes a society, or you will encounter and take note of those services required to maintain a modern society the way the components of a complex organism interact to sustain life all around us. Or maybe I’m just over-thinking it…
Acceptance of setbacks
Life is full of setbacks – some minor, some major – and these serve to make us pause and consider alternative solutions to our problems. It is part of the creative process that enriches our lives. Setbacks can be in our career, our relationships, or losing that fiddly little piece that sprung out of your glasses frame. Whatever it is, there is an analogue in finding a physical barrier to our habitual training route. This time after walking for 4km only to have to turn back and find another route before breakfast.
Making friends with the locals
No matter how isolated your training path may be, no matter how isolated you feel, there are always unexpected encounters. As the saying goes, “there are no strangers, just friends you haven’t met yet”. We are often accompanied on our training walks by a whole range of such friends – be they people out for a ride on a mountain bike, or fellow walkers enjoying the fresh air and bucolic ambience. But quite often there are no people at all – just the local kangaroos or foxes or cockatoos bemused at our antics.
It will be interesting to see how well our training has prepared us for the road ahead. And let me know in the comments about your insights into preparing for a long trek.
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