Fat, Fifty & Flabby? How fit do you have to be to walk a Camino in Spain?

A long, straight road on the camino via de la plata in Spain
A long hot road on the camino Via de la Plata

There’s a whole lot of mythology out there about walking a camino in Spain.

To you, it may appear to be an attractive romantic notion – out there strolling across the Spanish countryside, breathing in that fresh country air and restoring yourself at the end of each day with copious quantities of vino tinto.

It may also seem to be something well out of your comfort zone and far above your fitness levels.

But, No!

This post will remove some of the mystique and hopefully a few barriers stopping you lacing up your walking shoes and joining the friendly flow of folk on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

1. You do not have to be fit to undertake a camino, but it helps. Common sense says that the more kilometres you get under your belt (or in your legs) at home, the more enjoyable the experience will be in Spain. You make the decision. The choice is yours whether you are fit enough, as are the consequences if you are not.

A foggy morning on the camino via de la plata in Spain
Strolling in the fog

A hilarious read is The Year We Seized The Day by Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles. They made the decision to walk the Camino Frances and three weeks later they were taking their first tentative steps on The Way. Yes, it was incredibly challenging for their bodies and not real pretty in places, but they survived to laugh about it at the end and they got a book out of their combined experiences. Grab a copy to get a bit of real camino insight. No romantic, or glossing-over notions here.

2. Walk in Your Shoes and Backpack: If the thought of training makes your blood run cold and you are more than happy to avoid it, that’s totally fine. One small recommendation though is to get your body used to the weight of your backpack – even if it is just a daypack – and walk your shoes in. On the camino you will quickly learn that your backpack and shoes are your two most important pieces of gear and they can make or break your experience.

Walking through plowed paddocks on the camino via de la plata in Spain
Walking through plowed paddocks on the camino Via de la Plata

3. Choose the Right Camino: After even the smallest amount of research, you will find that the camino is not just one path. There are paths leading to Santiago de Compostela from all over Spain and Portugal, and connecting to a large number of other European cities. If you are not fit, I recommend you start out on the most popular route, the Camino Frances. Yes, it can be very busy, but the infrastructure is so well set up that if you decide you only want to walk 10km a day, in most cases that is possible. That distance should get you to the next village with accommodation and a bar! This path also has excellent public transport connections.

4. Don’t Carry Your Backpack: If you want to make it even easier for your back and your knees, have your backpack (or suitcase) transported to the next town by a luggage carrying service. This will cost you around €10 per day, but it means you can amble along with your water and your snacks and without a care in the World.

On the Camino Frances, there are a large number of transport companies to choose from and it is possible to organise this very quickly and easily when you get to Spain.

You might find that as you do get fitter, you can walk further each day and one day, toss that sucker on your back with absolute ease and sprint into Santiago de Compostela.

So glad to sit down and get those shoes off on the camino via de la plata in Spain
So glad to sit down and get those shoes off…

5. We All Hurt: I can’t speak for everyone of course, but we all hurt. Even the fittest amongst us take some time to adjust to the day-after-day rigours of the path. We all sweat, our feet and legs get tired and we gladly throw off our backpacks at the end of each day. We are all in this together and all have the common goal of Santiago de Compostela in sight. There is no need to strive for perfection. Perseverance is far more appropriate.

6. The Camino Welcomes Everyone: You will meet a veritable United Nations of humanity as you walk and, believe me, they come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t worry about your extra kilos, your love handles or lack of fitness as I can guarantee there will be someone even worse off than you. Yes, there will also be many people a million times fitter than you. Just take it in your stride and accept them and yourself.

Road walking on the camino via de la plata in SpainYou will also meet people who have all the latest hiking gear, bells and whistles and brand names who look like they have just stepped out of the flashest outdoor store. You will meet people who look like they have gathered a few essentials in a well-worn backpack and simply walked out their front door. And they probably have.

There is no right or wrong on the camino. The most important thing is to set out in the first place.

7. You Will Lose Weight and Get Fitter Along the Way: I would put money on the fact that a camino will change you physically and spiritually. Unless you catch public transport every day and eat your body weight in pintxos and tapas, your body will respond to all that fresh air and exercise. Not that it is a goal, but I always lose 5-6kgs when I walk. A nice little side benefit.

Breath taking sunrise on the camino via de la plata in Spain
…on the Camino Via de la Plata

8. Just Do It: Life may never be perfect. The time may never be right. Your fitness level may not be ideal. Just do it. Make the decision to walk and then walk.

Yes, there will be tough days and days when you question your sanity. Other days you will be dazzled by a breathtaking sunrise and you will know that this is the best and ‘rightest’ place to be.

Don’t be put off by the size and scale of walking a camino. Just think of it as going out for a walk one day and then do it all over again the next day, and the next day, and the next, and…

What are you waiting for?

Buen Camino

 

A roadside marker on the camino via de la plata in SpainThe Basics

What: The Camino Frances is the main pilgrim path connecting numerous northern and north-eastern European paths, leading all the way to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. It was the route featured in the movie The Way starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen.

Where: The Frances starts on the French side of the Pyrenees at a gorgeous small town called St Jean Pied de Port and takes in the major Spanish cities of Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, ending at Santiago de Compostela. It is approximately 790km long.

When: For safety reasons, avoid walking in the extreme Winter and Summer temperatures. Each year a small handful of pilgrims lose their lives on the path because they have put themselves at risk and not prepared for the conditions.

Why: To walk, dream, talk, laugh, wonder, appreciate, taste, think, and be grateful.

How: Walking is by far the most popular way to undertake a camino, but horse and donkey transport are also acceptable, and bicycles are extremely popular too.

Who: It is a walking United Nations. Just take that first step to opening yourself up to a whole range of new people and experiences. Regardless of your age, you will find wells of resilience you did not know you possessed.

Endless views on the camino via de la plata in SpainRelated Posts: Check out my posts under the TWO FEET tab on this blog for walks all over Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Related Blogs: For an excellent source of information, check out the Camino de Santiago forum. There is not a question in the World that hasn’t already been asked. The answers are here.

Read About It: To get planning your Camino Frances, go to the camino bible – John Brierly’s Camino Frances guide book. Available from Book Depository.

 

#camino #travelinspo #caminofrances #walkinginspain #mustdo  #caminodesantiago #stjames #theway #healthandfitness

26 thoughts on “Fat, Fifty & Flabby? How fit do you have to be to walk a Camino in Spain?

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 24, 2020 / 12:07 pm

      Well, you have some time to get a plan in place and think about getting a bit fitter! You won’t be disappointed!

      Like

  1. Suzanne June 24, 2020 / 11:54 am

    Very informative and you nearly had me putting on my tramping boots 🙂 Seriously, it is something I would like to do. It will have to be solo as most friends find the idea crazy, not inclined to walk for km like me or can’t afford it. How easy is it to do it solo? I always think I will get lost, especially when exhausted! We did housesit near a French village that was on the trail. So, managed to walk a few km of it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 24, 2020 / 12:10 pm

      You will love it! And you are only as solo as you want to be and will quickly fall in with a new camino family. I would recommend starting on the Frances if you are in any way concerned. It is really, really well-signposted and there are tonnes of directional apps out there as well as Brierly’s guidebook I mentioned in my post. The beauty of this walk is that you can enjoy solitude if you want or make a world of new friends! Buen camino!

      Like

    • Patricia Davis June 25, 2020 / 10:23 pm

      I did my first Camiño in 2018 at the age of 62. It is very easy to go alone, and very safe. You will probably not be alone for long. Most pilgrims develop a Camiño “family” very quickly. I absolutely loved it! It is hard to describe to someone. I walked again in 2019 and loved it again. Both times I walked I chose the Francés route. Each time it is different because the people you meet are different and I stayed in different places. The route is well marked and not impossible to get lost, but you will learn quickly to look for those markers and yellow markers.
      The only thing I would suggest is if you are going to start in St. Jean then make sure you have a good plan to get there. I had a rough idea on how I was going to get there and it didn’t go well. The next time I went I just started in Pamplona merely because it was easier to get to Pamplona.
      Just go! Buen Camiño!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Life...One Big Adventure June 26, 2020 / 7:38 am

        Go you! You sound like a convert! We flew to Paris and then trained it down to St Jean PdP. That went well except for some very long delays on the train due to an accident on the line. It was all good though. My other recommendation would be to break the first day out of SJPdP by stopping in Orrisson or similar. And a big Buen Camino to you too.

        Like

      • Suzanne June 26, 2020 / 7:46 am

        Thanks for your encouragement Patricia, much appreciated. One day I do hope to do it. Good point about starting in Pamplona and doing the Frances route. We drove through Spain and France a few times when we were fulltime housesitters so have visited a few places on the route.
        Thanks again for the information.
        Buen Camiño!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan June 24, 2020 / 12:14 pm

    Looking at the hot, arid road, I’m not at all tempted. I’d prefer to walk where there’s green all around and the climate is cool, like in Ireland maybe. 😸

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 24, 2020 / 12:32 pm

      If you walked in Spring, you would be dazzled by the green. Most of my photos show the camino in the hotter South of Spain and in the late Autumn after Summer has dried everything out. Plenty of beautiful green fields in Spring. Buen camino

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 40puddlejumper June 24, 2020 / 5:30 pm

    I would love to do this walk, it’s been on my to do list for a very long time, I think my big problem is time (unfortunately I work full tome and taking enough time off to do this walk would be impossible) 😕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 25, 2020 / 11:40 am

      A lot of people only do small sections or perhaps two weeks at a time. If you did the last 200km or so you would definitely get the sense of what it is all about and still meet so many fabulous people. Don’t think you have to wait until you can complete the whole thing, although I get that too. Have good day

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jen June 25, 2020 / 12:45 am

    And now I have a new dream vacation to add to my list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Travel Architect June 25, 2020 / 10:39 am

    Fitness is a funny thing. You can be massively fit for one activity and then gasp for breath in another. I work out hard 5-6 days/week, but lengthy walking absolutely exhausts me! I would collapse at the end of each camino day! I would also need a full body massage several times on the route. Are those available? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 25, 2020 / 11:36 am

      Yes, it is a different kind of fitness, but I think if your underlying fitness is strong, you would adapt very quickly. And yes, plenty of masseurs in the big towns along the way and pedicurists! They would see some damn ugly feet! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Marie June 26, 2020 / 2:32 am

    Definitely going to do some of the Camino at some stage – at least the easy stages!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue Slaght June 28, 2020 / 12:11 am

    My friend in her 50s did this last year. Her stories of meeting others, the spiritual component and of course some of the pain were mesmerizing. This is a inspiring read for anyone looking to take in the journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 29, 2020 / 9:21 am

      Age is no barrier when walking a camino. It is really about having the willingness to be open to a new experience and content to take the good days with the bad. Thanks for reading and your feedback. Have a good day.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Frances Antonia July 2, 2020 / 7:57 am

    Mel! Have you met up with any of your camino family upon your return? I went to Copenhagen over Christmas and met up with three! It was amazing. Lol. Perhaps this is a story for me to write. Thanks for the great read. Always fond of a camino post. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 2, 2020 / 8:34 am

      Because I live a bit remotely in Aus I don’t get to see my camino family very often, but there is lots of chatter on the email and through FB. I think with these sorts of people it is not necessary to see each other often as when you do, you just pick up where you left off. Very special friendships. x

      Liked by 1 person

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