I think I am a terrible example of getting fit before walking the Camino de Santiago.  I walked only once for about 3 hours, with a rucksack, to see how I would be walking before going to Spain.  I did have some hill walking experience, though not a lot.  I would have walked in the Wicklow hills about twice per month in the two years previous to my first Camino, that was it in total.

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The year before my first Camino I was very ill.  I had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and was taking medication that I later found out I was allergic to.  I went on the Camino two months after stopping the medication and I really had no idea how I would be; would I be able to walk every day or would I have to abandon the Camino at some point? But, amazingly – I was bloody wonderful – I had never been so fit or healthy for quite a long time.  Even though my feet suffered a great deal initially.

First Week Hell

The first week on the Camino Frances passed in a haze of agony.  I was overweight when I started and had no walking fitness, I paid the price for both of these.  My first day from St Jean Pied de Port was tough, it is all uphill – and I stopped at the Orison on the top of the Pyrenees; thereby splitting the one day from St Jean to Roncesvalles into two.

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The days from Roncesvalles to Pamplona disappeared with little memory of the small villages – only the pain remains in my mind, I concentrated every moment in putting one foot in front of the other.  My body was not used to this exercise, my boots were not great, (cheap – I was a student at the time), and I was paying the price.

My boots went into the bin just before Pamplona, and walked the rest of that day in my sandals.  The boots were killing my feet – they were fine for a one day walk in the hills of Wicklow, but not for all day every day use on the Camino.  I walked in my sandals into Pamplona and went and bought the best walking shoes I could find, – a great decision.

However I suffered the rest of the Camino with my feet – the blisters that had developed during the first week had to be cut off with scissors and bandaged every morning – but the pain was little while walking and I learned how to look after my feet very well. I developed a mantra that helped – Pain reminds me I am alive – whatever works I guess.

Fitness After One Week

After the first week I was good, I found a good walking pace for me.  I walked every day and felt great at the end of each day.  I lost about 7 – 8kg in weight and I learned that I did not need all the stuff I brought in my rucksack, I left books in albergues for other people to read and gave away everything I did not want.


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After I got home from the Camino I went jogging.  I was amazed at how easy it was and how fit, (it’s all relative), I had become.  I walked the Camino again the next year and I had no problems with my feet – I had the same good walking shoes from the year before (they are now in walking shoe heaven).

Perhaps this is a short description on how not to do it.  I would have better if I had invested in good walking boots or shoes the first year, and – or have been a bit fitter before I went; it wasn’t what happened, the above is.

If you are prepared to get a little fit before you go you will enjoy the Camino de Santiago more. This page is a good guide to slowly getting fit before you set off.

Buen Camino.