The Camino Frances

The Camino Frances

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Training, part 2

Several people have kindly suggested that perhaps my training agenda in my recent post was a bit over the top. I love to walk, so I walk a lot, maybe more than is necessary for training. Some might characterize my regimen as excessive, or perhaps obsessive, so here is what I think is a minimum that you might consider in preparation for the Camino.

Do some kind of regular walking -  to accustom the body, and to encourage the happy hormones.

Walk at least 100 km, over a number of days, in the shoes you plan to wear. After each walk, take off the shoes and look for any red or hot spots on your feet and ankles. Are your shoes big enough? Would you benefit from 2 pairs of socks? Or perhaps try vaseline the next time. My feet were vaselined every morning on the Camino.

Practice with your poles. You will be able to go farther, faster, and it will take some of the weight from your feet, hips and knees.

Find someone, or a group, who has walked the Camino, so you can listen and learn, and share your own plans. Going through your packed backpack with a veteran can also be very helpful. Attending an information session can answer a lot of questions and allay some fears.

Get your backpack, try it out, and get help getting it fitted. When you are sure it works for you, and fits you well, start wearing it while walking. Gradually fill it up, so that by the time you leave, you have walked with the weight you will carry on the Camino. Aim for approximately 10% of your body weight, and remember that the weight will grow as you add water and snacks.

Walk 2 hours. Then walk 2 hours with your backpack. Then walk 3, then 4 hours, then 5 hours with your backpack. Then walk 5 hours on 2 consecutive days. Track the distance, so that you know that you can walk 20 kms on 2 consecutive days. If you can do that and enjoy it, you will be ready.

You could always do more to prepare. Some people show up in untried equipment and make it. And then, some people have to give up as a result of injuries, chronic conditions that flare up, accidents, and just plain doing too many kms. I am a prudent pilgrim. I go prepared. But truly, I am training not just for an upcoming Camino, but for life.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tools for training

What tools do I need to help me to accomplish my training goals?

First, the goals, for me, need to be concrete and achievable. 100 kms per week is a challenge most weeks, and I achieve it most weeks. I track my steps with a LifeTrak watch. It records my step, calorie burn and distance each day, then charts them for the week. Many people who walk with me use a Fitbit, and the info is on your wrist and in your computer, but as I don't have internet access at home, that wouldn't be an advantage for me. My watch was a gift from my daughter and went on my last Camino with me. I am very satisfied with the way it monitors my walking.

I lead walks, so there is incentive for me to be out there 3 times a week, with a plan ( and snacks for everybody). Being accountable to others help me get out of bed every morning. I'll blog later with some snack recipes, and also another blog post on my favourite walks here in Toronto. I don't have a car, so I go everywhere on foot or transit, and occasionally in a shared ride. The way I see it, if I have the time to walk to a destination, then I don't see taking transit ( and thus I save money towards the next Camino). I also can read and walk, so when I have a great book to read, I am happy to walk and read outside.

Since I don't have a back seat to toss items into, I carry a backpack everywhere. I have food, water, reading material, my wallet, my to-do list, and sometimes maps and miscellaneous other items. It often weighs 10 pounds ( and more, as I shop for groceries most days), so when I put on my Camino backpack, I am used to the weight. I use a MEC daypack.
It looks like this one. I like them with a flat bottom so they don't fall over when I set them down.

 MEC Senior Book Bag (Unisex)

I have lots of coats ( the benefits of thrifting, mostly) but the ones I wear the most are waterproof and lined with fleece. It is easy to layer underneath, so that I can wear the same coat if it is raining, snowing, sleeting, or sunny and 10' or lower. I don't often wear my down jacket, as it isn't warm when wet. I do have a down vest, and I love it for layering. I have the weather channel on mute most mornings, so I can decide how many layers to wear under my coat.

I only wear Keen Shoes. I go through 2 pairs a year - one pair of sandals, which I wear as long as possible, even with socks (gasp!), and another pair of shoes for cooler weather. This is what the shoes look like. I wear a men's size 43, as my feet are very wide ( partly thanks to all the walking) and also thanks to genetics. I wear them a size larger that I might if I weren't doing all this walking, allowing room for swelling and sweating and merino socks.

 This is the sandal I wear, and these are the two shoes I take on the Camino. The sandal is heavier than clogs or flip flops, which are popular with pilgrims, but I am able to wear these on the trail, with socks, if I need a change from the heavier shoes. I also can wear them into the shower room, but I go into the shower itself in bare feet.

Using poles while walking in Toronto is a good idea. They take some of the weight off your feet, knees and hips, and give the upper body a bit of a workout. Mine are missing right now, or I would be using them, and I might not have slipped and fallen in the mud on Friday!

Here's a picture from 2 years ago, as I was training for my 2014 Camino - so far we have had no snow in Toronto! Thanks for the picture, Julie.

Buen Camino!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Plans for training for my 2016 Camino

I'm walking the Camino this summer and fall. I'll be turning 70 while I am there, so I am giving careful thought to my training in preparation for about 4 weeks of walking, and 2 weeks of 18 hour days, caring for pilgrims at Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal.

The largest part of my training is the walks that I lead here in Toronto. I have been leading 3 hikes a week for several years, and I'll continue to do that while I am in Toronto.
On Mondays, we walk for about 4 hours with a break for coffee - about 15 km.
On Tuesdays, we walk for an hour or so, then have coffee, and walk home - roughly 6 or 7 kms.
On Fridays, my goal is 20 kms. Sometimes we go further, especially if we walk home after lunch. Sometimes it is shorter.
That adds up to roughly 43 kms on training walks.
I walk about the same amount over the week, doing my errands. I walk to pick up my grandson, to pick up my email at the library, to church on Sunday and back again, food shopping.....I walk almost everywhere I go.
My goal is 100 kms per week, and I have averaged that over the last 18 months.

Miguel Cura did this caricature of me and put it on his blog. He walked the Camino with his dad, and trained a few times with us. See his Camino at

I also attend a 90 minute Iyengar yoga class each week, and have been doing this for the past 12 years. It has helped my stamina, strength and balance, and I enjoy it (mostly).

I wear a backpack wherever I go, and it usually weighs in at about 10 pounds, so that is part of the training too. When I start to practice with my Camino backpack, I hardly notice a difference.

I am thinking of walking to my cottage this spring as part of my training. It is about 120 kms, and most of it can be done on trails. I have friends along the way, so I can possibly stay at various homes, maybe taking 5 days to walk it. So far, I have no definite plans, just the possibility, but it is a fun idea.

All this walking makes me a happy woman!

I read about the Camino, follow blogs, and help to organize our twice yearly meetings about the Camino. Yes, and I dream the Camino!