There are so many pieces of this Camino journey that I need to consider. I have a lot of time- 5 months- to prepare, and I know that this time is going to both crawl and fly. Money, travel logistics, buying equipment (I won’t need much, but, having never backpacked or “formally” hiked before, the ONLY item I already own is a Spork), learning some basic Spanish, training… the list goes on and on.
I’ve done a bit of reading on how much physical preparation is required to walk 500 miles on the Camino, and it appears that this is a walk that nearly anyone can do. Practice and training won’t hurt- and by all means, it will probably help- but many say that the first week of the Camino will be an adjustment, no matter how prepared you are. And that after a week or so, most people find their ‘Camino legs’.
That being said, the advice is to get in some good, long training hikes, ideally wearing both the shoes and pack you’ll be bringing on the Camino. For pilgrims walking the French route and starting in St Jean Pied-de-Port (the common starting point), the first day is widely considered the most challenging of the entire route. Pilgrims leave the village and almost immediately begin a steep ascent into the Pyrenees. From what I’ve read, it is a long, tough day.
I’m relatively fit, and already a regular walker. The winter months slow me down and I don’t get outside nearly as often as I do in other seasons. But as soon as the weather warms, I know that I’ll be hitting some trails and will work up to some long hikes. In the next few months, I’ll find good shoes and a good pack and will attempt to put it all together.
But my legs are getting itchy. I’m reading account after account of pilgrims on the Camino, about the long days of walking, about the sore muscles and blistered feet. I’m anxious to get outside and to get walking. So today, I did. Despite the freezing temperatures and the falling snow, I took a walk. I bundled up and put on some boots and walked through my neighborhood. And despite the raw wind on my face and my numbed fingers, the walk was beautiful.
So this is my training, for now. Short, winter walks in the cold. I’m also thinking about joining the Y so that I can stay a bit more active in these next few months: go to some yoga classes and walk/run around a track, maybe even spend some time on an elliptical. It probably sounds silly but this is big for me: I’ve never joined a gym before. In the past few years I’ve gone to some zumba and yoga classes, but I’ve always hesitated to join a gym. Maybe I still feel out of place: a non-athlete surrounded by people who know what they are doing.
I think I’m finally beginning to let go of this: the idea that I don’t actually belong in certain places or doing certain things. I belong anywhere I want to belong. I have a feeling that the experience of walking the Camino is going to stretch this idea even more, that it will challenge the ways I’ve always seen myself, and that it will challenge the limitations I put on myself. In fact, it’s already started to.