Let’s get ready!
Maybe you have booked a trip already. Maybe it’s itching the back of your mind. Either way, your pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago is a very real possibility. You want to prepare for the Camino as much as you can, both physically and mentally.
But where to start? Getting ready for such a big trip may seem overwhelming, so here is a plan of action to get rid of all the nagging doubts that are weighing you down. You want to be excited, not stressed, about the first steps of your pilgrimage.
From a walk in the park to walking the Way
Andaspain welcomes pilgrims of all physical abilities. Whether you are an experienced hiker or embarking on your first long-distance walking adventure, we will have a tour that’s right for you. However, everyone should do their best to get their body ready for the many miles of the Camino. Your experience in Spain will be so much more enjoyable if you are not aching and creaking.
Let’s start with your legs
If you are not an avid hiker, you will be soon! Scope out local trails near you and try to set up a routine. Start small and increase distance and difficulty slowly. For example, if there is a short walk you can do close to home (under three miles), aim to walk that a few times every week. Walking is a beautiful way to wake up in the morning, or to disconnect from work and other chaos in the evening. Having a dog will give you the perfect companion – but otherwise seek out a friend who would also like to improve their fitness (or to also prepare for the Camino to join you in Spain!). This walking buddy will make time pass faster and will make sure you stick to your training plan. If you prefer to walk solo – enjoy it with some great music or a favorite podcast. Once you have your waking plan, write it down, stick it on your fridge and savor the satisfaction when you tick off completed walks.
Spice it up at the weekends
Plan longer walks, further away. These can still be day hikes, but aim to explore and enjoy a new location. A longer day hike will be the perfect opportunity to see how your legs cope with more miles and change in elevation. You will notice many changes in your body as you test it and make it stronger. Don’t forget to stretch and rehydrate. This is also an important element to prepare for the Camino!
If you’re feeling up to it, try an overnight hike. That way you will see how your body copes with fatigue and extra effort, without the recovery time you normally have after walking. But – and this is important – don’t go crazy! You don’t want to push yourself too far and injure yourself before you even land in Europe. Listen to your body and take care of any extra special aches and pains that might appear. These aches and pains will likely pop up at some point during your Camino. It’s best to know about them beforehand and pack the right first aid kit. Always, rest and stretch accordingly.
Prepare for the Camino with your boots
All these training hikes will be a great way to test drive your gear, too. The most important part of your gear will be your hiking boots or shoes. Make sure to buy these in time to break them in! Pilgrims on the Camino often have more problems with blisters than with anything else. Pamper your feet and invest in some quality footwear.
No matter what type of shoe you prefer, we also recommend buying good socks to go with them to prevent rubbing. If that’s not enough, our favorite blister preventive methods are Compeed bandages (order online), tape or Vaseline. Test one or two methods to find out what helps you most. Your method may be different from other people. Final words of wisdom: don’t get a pedicure BEFORE your Camino (but do make sure your nails are short) – save it for after!
Essential Equipment to prepare for the Camino
There is some other essential equipment you should trail trial before taking off. You can find a detailed packing list on our Andaspain website. A light layer for the first couple of hours on the Camino is a must. You don’t want something too bulky or too sweaty. Perhaps a light sweatshirt to keep the chill off your arms until the sun comes out. Of course, in Galicia sun is never guaranteed. Try out a few heavier layers also to see what suits your body temperature.
We always recommend packing a rain jacket. In fact, it should probably be the first thing you put in your suitcase. Make the most of winter weather to take it out on a path near you. Check that it’s breathable enough for you, has accessible pockets, fits nicely in your day pack, etc. For people who can’t stand the rain, think about full rain gear – all the way down to waterproof socks! It’s important to walk at least a few times in the rain while you’re still at home because it will affect your body temperature, your feet’s resistance, your phone, and maybe even your mood.
Prepare for your Camino with your day pack
However, if the sun comes out after a couple of miles, you will definitely want to pack all this away in your day pack. A good day pack is essential as it will contribute to making your daily walk more comfortable. It should be the right size and weight, otherwise you will end up weighing yourself down with unnecessary items. You could even end up injuring yourself by putting too much strain on your joints. Don’t hesitate to ask an expert in your local sports shop. Remember that if you are hiking with Andaspain, you will have access to a back-up van a few times a day. You can store anything you might need or no longer need until you reach the hotel.
If you’re keen on hiking ultra-light, our Andaspain guides also enjoy hitting the trail with just a fanny pack or bum-bag. These are also available in many sports shops. Just make sure you have a place for water. Once you’ve purchased your dream pack, take it for a walk so your body get used to it. This also gives you practice runs on how best to organize it. Where will your phone be handy for that perfect snap of the cows running down the lane? Will your water bottle be available to take a quick swig in the uphills? Should your snacks be within reach or out of sight (and mind)? Within a couple of hikes, you will probably master the art of day-pack packing and save yourself time every morning during your adventure!
Prepare your mind for the Camino
Now for the most important part: how to prepare mentally for your walking adventure abroad. This will probably be the hardest thing for you to do before you leave. My first piece of advice to all pilgrims, and indeed all travelers, is to go without any expectations. You are going to a unique country and region, where anything could happen. Some aspects will seem familiar to you and some will be totally new and exotic. That’s part of the fun. But also keep your mind open about what you will experience and feel on the Way.
Our steps and the rhythm of our steps turn the walk to Santiago de Compostela into what many people call a “walking meditation”. You may want to practice meditation, or walking in silence, in order to enjoy your Camino with a peaceful mind. Long-distance walking presents a welcome break from daily chaos, as you have nothing to do here except walk, eat and sleep! For some, that may sound ideal, but more hyperactive walkers might dread the idea of doing nothing. Hence, the importance of learning how to quieten and disconnect our busy brains.
Obviously breathing is an important part of any exercise. Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth will help increase oxygen flow and calm your thoughts. Set your pace to your breathing, not the other way around. You should always be breathing at a comfortable rate, and able to have a normal conversation. This is another thing to practice on your training hikes! Some may also want to get used to looking at the wildlife, the quaint countryside towns and the variations in light … rather than their phones. Use all your senses during your journey to make the most of it.
Many of our clients come to walk the Camino de Santiago because they have watched the film “The Way.” I strongly advise watching this beautiful movie AFTER you reach Santiago. As much as we would like to, Andaspain cannot provide background music, Martin Sheen, and many other aspects that make the Way seem completely dreamy. High and fictional expectations could lead to disappointment – the Camino is a real path with physical and metaphorical ups and downs.
Of course, it’s a fine line between getting information and creating expectations. I would suggest reading guide books or descriptions. Bear in mind that every Camino is unique – meaning that each pilgrim will live a very different experience, inside and out. When guiding, I often remind my pilgrims before they walk into Santiago itself to just “feel what they feel”. For sure, they will be emotional – it’s just hard to predict exactly which emotion will surface upon arriving in front of the Cathedral.
setting an intention
The final step of Camino preparation can wait until the night before you start walking. Some will already have it in mind when they book their flights: setting an intention. This may give more meaning to your trip than you expected. Many pilgrims walk to Santiago looking for an answer, thinking of a loved one or simply trying to live in the moment and in their bodies. Religious, spiritual or personal; no matter what your intention is, having one in mind, or writing it down somewhere, can help you to stay strong when the going gets tough. We want your Camino to be fulfilling for your mind, as well as for your body.
Reaching Santiago is our final goal, our finish line, but everyone knows “happiness is in the journey, not the destination”. Savor every step of the Way without rushing to Santiago de Compostela.