Most anyone in average condition can walk a day or two on a PilgrimPaths itinerary. It’s a little harder to walk the full itinerary, and harder yet to enjoy yourself while walking from 13 to 20 miles each day, every day for around two weeks. Here are some tips for training that will help you not just survive, but thrive during your upcoming pilgrimage.
#1 – Start by getting your hiking shoes and socks
The biggest part of training is making certain your feet and shoes work well together. When they don’t, the result is painful blisters, which happen to be the #1 reason people are unable to complete their walk. Most pilgrims nowadays use either hiking shoes or trail runners. Have these fitted professionally so they provide ample space for foot swelling in the day, usually ½ size larger than your normal shoe size. We recommend SmartWool bike socks or similar, which fit the feet very snugly, reducing friction. We also recommend very well-ventilated shoes or boots, since blisters are born in wet conditions.
#2 – Take a good, long walk and listen to your body
Even before you start your training, set aside a day to walk 12-15 miles in your new shoes and socks. When the day is over, how did you feel? How did you feel the next morning? If you were stiff and sore (most people are), your training objective is clear. You want your body to be ready to walk these distances each day and the only way to ensure you’re ready is to increase your walking stamina by, well, walking.
#3 – Establish a daily regimen of 2-3 hrs walking in mixed terrain
It’s a big commitment to set aside this kind of time, but it’s so good for your general health anyway. You’ll want to find a hiking course that has uphill and downhill terrain so you’re ready for hills. Downhills are more difficult, so make sure to include good, long downhill stretches.
#4 – Adjust your diet
It’s never too late to eat right. If you are careful about your carbohydrate intake, you will start losing weight as you gain muscle. The less extra weight you carry, the easier your walk.
#5 – In the month before your pilgrimage, make bi-weekly walks of 5-6 hours with a 10-lb pack
Now it’s time to get serious. At least twice a week, maybe on weekends for example, take an all-day walk with your loaded backpack of 10ish lbs. Your body will become used to standing for long periods, your shoulders and back will adjust to the new weight distribution, the skin on your feet will start to change. You’re watching closely that you have blisters under control, that you have adequate hydration and that you know what kind of calories you need in order to make a day-long hike work for you.
Want to go deeper? We can suggest pilgrimage fitness training consultants who will help you get yourself in shape. Contact us with any questions, and have fun out there!