Leslie and Anna on the Camino

Training Plan for the Camino de Santiago

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How fit do I have to be to walk the Camino de Santiago or what kind of training do I have to do?  This is one of the questions I am asked most often.

The answer depends on your Camino plan.

  1. How long do you want your Camino to take?
  2. Are you walking the whole Camino route?

If you have a lot of time say 40 days or more you don’t need to have good fitness, you can risk getting fit as you walk, this is what most people do – however, this is not a good or advisable strategy for looking after your body, finishing, or reducing the inevitable pain that comes with walking every day and carrying a backpack, even though you will likely lose a lot of weight.

The last time I was fit was towards the end of the Camino Frances.
The last time I was fit was towards the end of the Camino Frances.

If you are only walking for 5 or 7 days and you are walking with a tour company that moves your bags for you each day, then fitness is not a big worry.  Even if you are walking the last section of the Camino, (112km from Sarria, as many do), then fitness is not a big issue.

For the rest of us, I suggest the following training plan.  It is much more enjoyable to walk the Camino Frances or any of the longer Caminos if you have some level of fitness before you set out, however, this is not an Iron Man competition and should not be approached as such.

It is a good idea to start training at least 3 months before you start your Camino.

Training, like life, is about steady effort – not trying to make big jumps in intensity every time you train.  Bear in mind for a lot of us walking the Camino comes a long time after our teens and twenties when we were once fit – it is not helpful to compare against that previous fitness.

You are starting from where you are, I was 40+ the first time I walked.

12 Week Training Schedule

Fit yourself anywhere into the following program.  I am not a qualified doctor or training instructor, this program has been adapted from my half marathon training from a zero fitness start. If you are going to be wearing hiking boots, this is a good time to break them in.  Usually, lightweight hiking shoes don’t need to be broken in. (See my full Camino packing list here)

Note: from week 4 all walks should include walking up and down hills if you cannot do this perhaps try a treadmill.

Week 1 – walk three days for between 45min and 60 min, Tue Fri and Sun

Week 2 – walk 4 days, 45 to 60 min, Tue, Fri, Sat, Sun

Week 3 – walk 4 days 3 at 60 min Tue, Fri, Sat, and Sun walk for 2 hrs

Week 4 -Walk 3 days up and down hills 60 min, Tue, Fri, and Sun

Week  5 – 4 days walking. Tue 60 min fast 6km hr, Wed 45 easy, Fri 60 moderate, Sun 2.5 hrs in hills

Week 6 – try to add a Pilates or yoga class once a week, this will help your back and core.  4 days walking. Tue 60 min fast 6km hr, Wed easy 60 min, Fri fast 60 min 6km hr, Sun 3 hrs in hills with a light backpack, less than 4kg.

Week 7 – Same as week 6 with 60 or 120 min easy on Wed.

Week 8 – 4 days walking. Tue moderate 70 min, Thur fast 60 min 6km hr, Sat 2 hrs in hills, Sun 3 hrs in hills with light backpack, less than 4kg

Week 9 – 4 days walking. Tue and Thu easy 60 min, Sat 2 hrs in hills aim for 4km hr total of 8km, Sun 4 hrs in hills 16km with light backpack, less than 4kg

Week 10 – Tue easy 60 min, Thu fast 60 min 6 km, Sat 2.5 hrs in hills 10 km, Sunday 5 hrs in hills 20km with light backpack, less than 5kg

Week 11- Tue easy 45 min, Thu moderate 60 min, Sat easy 3 hrs with backpack aim for 10km, Sun 5hrs with your backpack of about 5/6 kg – aim for 20km.

Week 12 – Take it easy, Tue fast 60 min, Thu moderate 30 min, Sat 2hrs in hills, Sun 90 min easy in hills – both Sat and Sun with your backpack about 6 kg.

This program is designed for beginners to get you to a point where the first few days on the Camino will not be a blur of pain.  However, nothing can really prepare us for walking about 20+ km every day with a 6 to 8 kg backpack, (14 to 20 lbs).  The first week is going to be tough, though it gets better very quickly – after about a week or so. If you have problems keeping yourself motivated then find a coach for training or join a group that meets a few times a week.

Once on the Camino de Santiago, there is one main point to remember DO NOT RUSH. Muscle strain is more likely when you are pushing your body by moving too fast, listen to your body, water it and feed it well, and take rests when required. I ate very well while on the Camino and still lost about 18lbs – a great side-benefit.

Please bear in mind that I am not a doctor or a fitness adviser – I am just a guy who likes hiking, cycling, and a bit of jogging.

My last point is no pain no gain is rubbish.  If your fitness is going to be a habit then pain is the last thing you want.

If something is difficult for me every time I do it, I will stop doing that thing – whatever it is.  Making it easy for yourself and you have more chance of developing a habit. Start out by doing less than you know you can do.

What was your training like before setting out on the Camino?  Let us know in the comments below.

30 thoughts on “Training Plan for the Camino de Santiago”

  1. Charlotte Kennedy Takahashi

    Was happy to see this 12 course to prepare for walking a pilgrimage.
    I walked half of the 88 temples of the Japanese Buddhist pilgrimage in two trips (total 1200km—will continue the other half of the pilgrimage this fall. Then am hoping to walk the Camino.)
    The physical routine above is actually quite close to what I did to prepare for the Japanese pilgrimage, except I did it for four months. However, I had a third activiiy that helped me immensely. Swam about five hours a week and beside swimming did extensive leg exercises in the water. Am in my 70’s-but can walk eight hours a day with a lunch and short coffee breaks because of this preparation (despite this pilgrimage is very mountainous).

    1. I am from Chicago. I walked the camino Frances in July/August 2017 I started In Burgos and walked 505 km in 21 days. I was 69 years old, I wore excellent boots that I broke in 3 months prior. I didn’t do a lot of preparation, however I officiate baseball and football. My backpack weighed 18 lbs but after day 4 I reduced the weight to 12lbs. I slept well, ate well and kept up with the young 25-40 yr olds who become my CAMINO family. I hope to walk the entire 800 km some day in the future.

    2. Elizabeth Mitchell

      I like your ideas. I want to do the Camino de Santiago this fall (Frances). Have been stymied due to Covid 19. This will be my first long walk and I will be 62 years old. I love that you are in your 70’s and going so strong. I want that to be me!
      Thanks, Elizabeth Mitchell

  2. Walked the Camino Frances twice in my late 60’s, Camino portugese at 70, Camino Norte at 72. Carried 15 to 17 kilos each time

    Training? Twice a week I walked 8 miles carrying 35 lb of sand in my pack on flat ground. Do not believe you can train for the hills. First day out of SJPDP is all up hill and is a LONG day. But by the time I hit O Cebreio, I was able to walk up hill with out taking a break.

    Norte was TOUGH–lot of STEEP hillsides to climb and if you saw a windmill , you coukld be almost sure you would soon be climbing up hill to it.

    Weight of pack does not bother me as I carry a heavy chainsaw into the woods and carry my fire wood out of the woods, but I do not consider that to be training as I am not really walking far with the saw or wood.

    Heaviest packs I saw were 30 kilos of Kosher food and Kosher cooking utensils carried by Israeli and 25 kilos of dog food carried by a Swedish woman for her two mutts–who each carried nothing.

    Camino Portugese and Camino Frances are not that hard—if you can walk across a WalMart parking lot carrying a case of beer then you can walk those two Caminos—but Norte is another story!

    1. Great information…thanks for sharing your experience. I am planning my first trip June of 2021. Hopefully, this pandemic will be behind us and we are able to travel again. I had to laugh at your example of walking across the Walmart parking lot. 1. I am planning to walk the Camino Portugese. 2. Does walking across a Walmart parking lot with a case of cheap wine help in training? LOL

  3. Thanks for this helpful advice and information regarding training. The comments are also helpful. Good to have this as a training schedule to follow and work with.

  4. My daughter and I walked the Camino Portuguese beginning at Porto in 2018. We walked the Coastal route 280km. Confirmed in Santiago Stamp Office. I was 75yrs old then.we did it in 11 days. WE r from Australia

  5. I always tell people that if Neal Armstrong could walk to the moon, you can walk the Camino! By the way, if you add up the elevations for each stage of the Frances, you will climb higher than Mount Everest!

  6. Thanks so much for your messages and help. Feeling anxious, planning my first Camino this August, but am wondering if I should head off in July as it seems August will be super busy?…
    I’m a 54 yr old woman travelling alone for the first time since my last adventure with a backpack 32yrs ago!
    It sounds like a wonderful pilgrim community so am comforted by that, but anxious non the less.

    1. Leslie Gilmour

      It is slightly hotter in July. I wouldn’t worry too much this year about the way being too busy in Aug. Traffic is picking up but it will still be down quite a bit on previous years and that should make it easy to find places to stay.

      1. Thanks Leslie,
        Was beginning to panic as a lot are saying you must book ahead and to be honest I just won’t know what distances I will be able to manage until I begin, and I really don’t want to rush this.
        Thank you 🙏

        1. Never booked ahead! Always found some place to stay even if I had to sleep on the floor. My wife did the Frances camping in fields because she had no money. So broke that when she found a zucchini, she ate it for three days.

          And definitely walk to Finisterre!

          1. Thanks Al,

            Humbled by your wife’s experience.
            Good to know I will always be able to find a bed somewhere.

    2. Hi Emily,
      Walking the Camino is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m planning on making it happen this year.
      Was reading through the posts and the details you’ve shared are similar to mine, so I would love to hear how your trip went, any suggestions or lessons learned?
      Cheers, Leslie

    3. Elizabeth Mitchell

      I’m with you. I’m going to do this alone as well and will be 62 at the time of my start – planning around 9/1/22. I am a little nervous but excited as well.

      1. Elizabeth, My wife and I are planning a walk in mid-Spetember, maybe we’ll run into each other. 🙂 Wish you the best. And thank you Leslie and Anna for this detailed guide. I found it very useful in my planning. Thank you.

  7. Thanks for your comments… I am curious to best trail running shoe to get for this walk… Salomon V8 etc. shoes seem to have issues per comments by people who have used them on the Salomon website… What would you recommend? I don’t want to do boots but rather Trail running shoes…

    1. The problem with hiking shoes is that there are so many different brands. I use a few and my wife due to her thinner feet uses different brands. I do think that boots are too much for the Camino outside of winter. If I can get one Camino out of a pair of hiking shoes, I am happy with that – but, that should be no problem.

  8. The recommendation that I give to people who ask me about training for the Camino is to make sure that you do plenty of uphill and downhill training. I had done a fair amount of walking prior to doing the Camino, but where I live it is mostly flat. I handled going uphill pretty well. But what caused me issues for the first week+ was going downhill. Leaving St. Jean Pied-de-Port I handled the uphill fine. But going downhill to Roncesvalles taught me about the legs using different muscles for going downhill compared to going uphill. By the time we got down into Roncesvalles I could not bend my knees at all or I was falling to the ground. Luckily the next few days had limited steep and lengthy downhills and after about a week I was in much better downhill condition.

    1. Exactly what happened to me. I was seventy years old when I walked. We winter in Arizona and I got to the point where I could walk twenty five kilometres easily but did not account for the daft that I was preparing myself ona flat route. It is true that the first day is the hardest and the first day fron St Jean almost did me in. That is best though because once you do thefurts day you know that you can do the rest. Remember that you have ten hours to walk five hours. 🇨🇦

  9. Bryan M, just curious about when you walked the Camino Francis? And thanks for the info about downhill training. If you walked recently, I am curious about the state of cleanliness in some of the places to stay. A lot of things we are reading are from ten or more years ago and I would really like more current information about the conditions in places of lodging? Thanks for your help.

  10. I walked the Camino in 2018, started the 29th August. Walked from St Jean to Burgos, took a bus to Leon, then walked from Leon to Santiago. Arrived in Santiago the 26th of September. That was 28 days walking 618 km and I was 76 at that time. Trained 5 months , use to walk uphill and downhill, that has helped to get my knees strong and never suffered downhill. Hope to do the Portuguese Camino from Lisbon later this year, which was supposed to happen in 2020, but because of covid had to be postponed. ( the airline has postponed my flight ticket until November 2022 ). Salomon shoes fitted me best and had a good pair of walking sticks. 2018 was very busy but I always managed to find good albergues to stay at. It was one of my best experiences ever.

  11. I would so like to walk the Camino but feel quite anxious to go alone and would like to opt for luggage transfer. I was 70 in January and feel it would be a massive achievement if I could do it and see that plenty of people are of a similar age – reading above.

  12. I started on your plan today and I think my motivation will last longer than other attempts to train because it sounds sensible and manageable. Mainly….it IS a plan, not a hope.
    I always travel on my own so no worries there but was a little concerned because I will be 82 when I do it…..not trying to compete with all we oldies! Planning on August which is the hottest month in Spain I understand. Has the Frances route much shelter as in trees etc?
    What sort of countryside are you walking through?
    Anna and Leslie I am so grateful for all your Plans and hints. Reading comments and discussions on FB can be confusing. This is so much better because we know more about you and where you are coming from.

    1. Leslie Gilmour

      There are days when it can be very hot without shade, so make sure you have a wide-brim hat. There are some mountains, but nothing too difficult, most of the paths are easy enough to walk on.

  13. Marguerite brown

    It seems summer is the busiest time on the Camino. If i have no time restraints but want to be with other pilgrims, what is the best time of the year for great weather?

  14. Just starting to research walking the Portuguese Camino with my niece and her husband. Not sure if we will go in May or September 2023 yet. I won’t have the time off work to start in Lisbon, but Porto should be ok for about 10-12 days – I think! This my 65th bday prezzie to myself ☺️ I live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I walk and hike a lot at elevation – 6200 feet above sea level. But not long ones with a pack so the training schedule will help a lot. Any tips, info about Portuguese routes, getting to Portugal from the US, etc?

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