Chapter 2 in “Camino Ready, Backpacks, Boots and (n0) Blisters in Backpacks” provides insights into walking as a “system”.
Reading and studying this chapter will provide a better understanding of all the forces in play when we walk, the amazing network of fascia tissue throughout the body and its critical role in being able to walk successfully with minimum injuries. It shows surprisingly the fascia is in many ways more important than muscles and can off “free energy” through recoil. It is fragile however and can start to fail without adequate hydration.
Chapter 4 includes a 3 months program. This is so your body can slowly develop the stamina needed for the many days of walking and carrying a backpack. If you are planning to walk without a backpack, getting fit is still important.
These notes are intended for people planning to walk 300-1000 km with accommodation and food along the way. On treks such as the Pacific Crest Trail between Mexico and Canada, which is 4265 km (2650 mi), such luxuries are intermittent and present a totally different challenge.
The Camino Frances in Spain is about 800 km (497 mi).
If in doubt about your overall health or have particular issues then talk to your medical advisers before starting on any fitness program. You will need to find out if there are any likely health issues to take into account before or during the training. Over the years I have sought advice from doctors, pharmacists, podiatrists, and physiotherapists to determine what was right for me.
Start with a short 2-3 km walk once or twice a week, progress to two or three times weekly, and over time increase the distances by 3-4 km each fortnight. In the book I provide a detailed program which includes distances, frequency, gradual loading your backpack, starting using water poles, how to look after your feet and much more practical advice.
We all have a natural walking pace and rhythm. You will want to experiment with different speeds. Bear in mind that “fast” means more pressure on your joints, tendons, and feet. As you know, some runners are sprinters and others are long-distance runners; it depends on their body, muscles, and age.
Both young and older people who are fit can walk at a much faster pace and over long distances. They seem to have developed this capability from years of exercise or are, I think, naturally gifted with this ability. You will encounter people of all ages who can walk faster or slower than you. You have to determine the speed and pace at which you wish to walk the Camino and try to stick to that pace.
You will see me repeat this wise saying:
“If you want to finish like a young person start off like an old one”
That doesn’t mean you can’t walk faster or further than predicted; however, you must determine if this can be sustained for the duration of the Camino, from four to six weeks. Long distance walking, like long distance running, is a totally different challenge than walking for a few days or sprinting for a few hundred metres.