A lot of people think that Camino de Santiago preparations should be very tough and intensive, and I was no exception.
At that time when, back in 2009, before my first Camino I was running quite a lot, and 20-30km distance was no problem for me, so I thought that I am quite ready to do this long walk through all of northern Spain.
We did a few hikes with my friend in Lithuania, up to 30km, but that was it.
What should you do?
I think it really depends on your fitness level. You just have to be honest with yourself. If you were doing no sports for the last 10 years, then yes, you should at least try to evaluate yourself while doing a 10-20km hike back home, just to know how far you can go with no problem.
But if you are doing some sports, you are running or do some long walks sometimes, you shouldn’t worry too much, because Camino is the place where you improve yourself every day.
So let’s concentrate on the ones who are doing no sports at all and get you prepared for this long trip.
From 5 km to 20 km a day
You may think that you need to hit the road really hard and try doing 20km each day, but that is really not necessary.
First, you may get tired very fast and even don’t want to go to Camino de Santiago, second, it takes 4-5 hours to walk 20km, so you need quite a lot of free time every day.
If you have like 2-3 months before your trip to Spain you should try to walk 3-5 times a week. Not too much, 5-7 km is very ok. Just enjoy, don’t rush it, do not put on the heavy backpack, and try to walk 20km. There’s no need to do it at home, you will do it later.
Later on, especially on weekends, when you have more time, try to walk 10-20km a day and see how you feel. It’s a very good time to test your hiking shoes. DO NOT GO TO SPAIN WITH BRAND NEW SHOES.
You must test it, feel it, make it comfortable for your feet. If you go in brand new shoes, they will kill you, you will have many blisters which will drive you crazy.
Further reading: How many kilometers should you walk per day on Camino de Santiago?
You may join your local nordic walking group. That’s a very good place to keep your motivation high. People who do such things usually are very nice and friendly. As well, if there’s no group in your city, you can buy hiking poles and try to train with them as well.
Another thing is that you could join your local gym. The reason is very simple. You will be carrying your backpack on your shoulders every day and it may hurt like hell. I had this particular problem for a very long time on my first Camino and it’s really irritating. The pain in the back can be as unbearable as teeth pain. It’s like someone is stabbing you in a back with a knife every step you make.
So the gym is a very good place to strengthen your shoulders and back. Ask your trainer to recommend some exercises for your back, shoulders, and do it 1-2 times every week. Do not overdo it, you are there not to build crazy big muscles or shred it, you are here just to strengthen them and get you prepared.
What to expect?
If you walk 3-5 times a week and go to the gym 1-2 times a week, you should be really prepared to do your Camino.
Still, you may feel pain in your legs, get blisters or anything else could happen on Camino de Santiago. You can not really prepare for everything, unless, of course, your preparation takes 1 year or more and you really train hard.
Further read: Which Camino to choose for first-timers?
Camino teaches you and strengthens you every day. If you feel tired after your first 20km, believe me, after 2 weeks that 20 km will be a joke for you. You will be ready to hit the 30 km limit pretty soon.
So do not get scared after your first days if you get tired, it’s just your body getting unaware of what’s happening, but it will soon get better and stronger.