“Walker” here…I’m in charge of physical preparation for the Camino so I thought I would share some information about how we’re training for a 500-mile walk. The first challenge is getting information about what it’s like to walk 12-15 miles day after day for over a month. There are a lot of opinions about physical preparation for the Camino and there’s not a lot of agreement except for one issue – blisters! Everyone says that regardless of how much you prepare, you need to expect blisters and have a strategy to deal with them.
The most interesting treatment for blisters seems to be taking a needle and thread and running the needle through the blister, then cutting off the thread so that there is some thread inside the blister and a bit of thread hanging out of the blister to serve as a wick to remove fluid. Sounds somewhat yucky but apparently it helps. There’s also a product called Compeed (apparently not sold in the U.S.) that Camino pilgrims mention frequently in their books and blogs. We’re planning to stop at the first drugstore we see and buy Compeed. Most everyone agrees that if you begin to feel a hotspot on your foot you should stop, take off your shoes and put something on the hot spot (Compeed, moleskin, etc.) so that it doesn’t develop into a full blown blister.
Okay, here’s what we’re physically doing to prepare – walking A LOT! We’re both still working but we’ve been able to find plenty of time to fit in 5-6 walks per week of one hour or more. We’re both reasonably fit and can walk long distances on flat terrain. However, the addition of packs and hills adds a significant challenge so that’s what we’re focusing on. Our neighborhood has two pretty steep hills and we’re walking repetitions of those hills when we don’t have time for a long walk. Now that the days are longer we’re able to go out in the evenings for 1-2 hours and walk on hilly terrain on a local trail.
The toughest walks we’ve done are in the mountains located all around us. To the east we have the Blue Ridge Mountains and to the west we have the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. It’s easy to find trails, especially on the Appalachian Trail (AT), where there is 2000 foot of elevation gain in just a few miles. Last Saturday we drove to the place where the AT crosses Virginia Highway 60 and walked up to Bald Knob. It took us about two hours and it was all uphill. We met about a dozen AT thru-hikers and they are superfit. The ones we met started in early April in Georgia and have now been on the trail for over two months and 800 miles. It’s amazing how small their packs were and how quickly they moved up the trail. Hopefully we’ll be like that after about three weeks on the Camino!
On Sunday we did a nice 5-mile hike in the Saint Mary’s Wilderness Area with a local hiking group. It was a relatively flat hike but included a lot of stream crossings that were somewhat treacherous. I don’t think stream crossings will be much of an issue on the Camino.
We’re currently two months and two days from our departure for Spain and we are both committed to upping the intensity of our walks. Tonight we’re going to do about six miles on a hilly trail and I’m going to wear a pack loaded down with books to simulate the load. I gave the pack a short trial yesterday and everything seemed fine. The walk tonight will be much longer, though, so I’m a little apprehensive about it.
Our goal for the next two months is to continue to train primarily by walking longer and longer distances over hilly terrain with our packs. I will probably add some cycling since I enjoy it so much and it helps me build both my cardiovascular capacity and my climbing muscles. The most important thing though is to walk a lot in the shoes and socks that we intend to wear on the Camino and try to toughen our feet so that they are not too vulnerable to blisters. If all goes well, we’ll be doing some 12-15 mile walks in the final month before we fly to Spain.
That’s all for now, if you have any comments I’d love to hear them and if you have questions, feel free to ask.