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52 Ways to Walk

I love to walk, and I love to read. Imagine my delight when I discovered a book about walking!

“Discover” isn’t quite the right word, though. My friend and housemate, Mary, told me about this book. Today I would like to share with you the fun and relevant 52 Ways to Walk, by Annabel Streets.

First, about Mary. Mary is both a walker and a reader, too. She walked the Camino in 2015 – that’s how we got connected, through a Camino Facebook group. Mary is an avid walker. I mean turbo-avid, as in walking is happening today no matter what.

Each year she participates in a challenge to walk 1000 miles within the year. If you do the math, that means walking 2.74 miles (4.44 km) a day, which would take me about an hour. Every day. The thing is, though, Mary usually hits the 1000-mile mark by September. And not by walking the Camino.

Mary listens to audio books while walking (I am more the sit-on-the-couch-and-read kind of girl), and 52 Ways to Walk is one of the many books she has recommended to me. The book is set up as a 52-week walking adventure, with suggestions like those I am sharing here. You can get the book on Amazon, at your local booksellers, and probably at your neighborhood library.

It’s as if this book was written for us.

Here are five of the 52 ways to walk, adapted to get you started on your Camino training walks.

1. Walk in the cold

Full confession, I am a fair-weather pilgrim. I wait until the sun comes out to walk. Not too hot, though, and preferably the sky is blue and filled with puffy white clouds. Ideal walking temperature, 70F or 20C.

But Streets suggests that we walk in the cold on purpose. Apparently walking in moderate cold is good for us – good for our cells, good for fitness, good for brain cognition, and good for mental health. Just be sure to wear layers, like you will on the Camino, so you can adapt to your body’s needs as it warms up. And bonus, you can test out your warmth and waterproof layers before you leave home.

For more information and actual scientific research that shows that walking in the cold is good for us, check out week one of the book.

2. Walk alone

One of the most intimidating (scary? terrifying?) thoughts about walking the Camino is, for some, the thought of walking alone in a foreign country. Alone out in the wilderness. Alone and  . . . lost?

Why not start practicing that now? A walk alone around your neighborhood might not seem too intimidating, so instead try some new places. A new park, a different neighborhood, the next city over – just to start stepping outside your comfort zone.

Walking alone has other benefits, too, beyond building confidence. Streets says that research shows that people who are able to spend time in solitude become more resilient and more contented. From experience I can tell you that walking alone allows me to go deeper into my own thoughts and feelings, to know myself more fully. Try it for yourself!

Get more on this idea in week 15 of the book.

tree and person walking

3. Sing as you stride

What do you do on the Camino while you are walking those four to six hours a day, every day for a month or more? You meet people from around the world, engage in interesting and enlightening conversations, and – yes – sing!

On my first Camino in 2005 I wrote my nearly famous Blue Sky Puffy White Clouds song. (If we ever meet on the Camino, I will teach it to you.) I bet I’m not the only one who has written songs while walking the Camino, and I know for certain that singing is an integral part of many pilgrims’ days on the trail.

Pro tip: Find a song whose rhythm matches your walking cadence. For me that song is Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. The theme song to Star Wars also works well for me.

In week 27 of the book Street discusses some of the benefits of singing while walking.

4. Walk beneath a full moon

A full moon happens reliably every 29 to 30 days, so there is a good chance you could catch one while on the Camino. I have read about pilgrims who choose to walk all night when there is a full moon, walking rather than spending the night in an albergue or hotel. I can only imagine how magical an experience that might be (and tiring, but that doesn’t really need to be stated, does it?).

Just in case the timing (or the weather) doesn’t line up for a moonlit walk on the Camino, or in case you are someplace where you wouldn’t feel comfortable walking at night when it does happen, how about doing a training walk under a full moon?

Fun fact: a full moon is 10 times brighter than a half-moon.

There’s more on moon walking in week 34 of the book.

5. Walk like a pilgrim

Oh, yes, of course, let’s do that! We are, after all, preparing to walk on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. But what does that mean, walk like a pilgrim?

While your training walks aren’t exactly pilgrimages in and of themselves, you can make them pilgrimage-like by adding in two significant components: a meaningful destination and intention.

Here’s how: on at least some of your training walks, choose an actual destination, rather than walking in a loop or circle. Your destination can be a building, like a church, courthouse, or library, or it can be the school you attended in grade 5, the pool where you swam as a teenager, or the picnic table where you had lunch with a loved one.

The key is that the destination has some significance to you. And then when you get there, before you turn around and head back, take a moment to acknowledge the significance.

As for intention, what is your why for walking. Why are you walking the Camino? You can do your training walks for those same reasons – to heal a trauma, to honor someone dear who has passed, or to discover a new destination. Awareness is the key to intention.

The pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago gets a mention in week 40 of the book.

And finally . . .

Bonus: Walk like Mary

How? Walk every day. Every day. Even if it’s just for 15 to 20 minutes. Put on your Camino shoes or boots and take a stroll in the park or race around the block. It doesn’t matter which, the goal is to establish a walking habit.

Before too long you will get to where you miss it if you skip a day. You will long to be outside, long to be walking. And when you return from the Camino, be sure to keep up your walking habit. It is the best way I have found to stay connected to the Camino experience.

(This one’s not in the book; I made it up to honor my walking hero and role model, Mary.)

And an invitation: Walk with me

If you have been dreaming of walking the Camino Francés but you are not so keen on starting this adventure alone, I can help.

Or if you are full-on do-it-yourselfer, I can help with that, too, with a couple of self-guided, self-directed programs.

meseta spring Camino