man in forest

The problem with training for the Camino

I will be honest: I don’t love exercise as an activity. I’m not much of a hiker, I’m wobbly on bike, and I don’t willingly go out in public in a swimsuit much. I lose interest in exercise pretty quickly, so while I may enthusiastically start a strength training routine or walking plan, I tend to drift off after about seven to 10 days.

And with all that, I do know that preparing for the physical challenges of walking the Camino is in my best interest.

When I imagine myself leading a group of pilgrims from Saint Jean Pied de Port, up and over the Pyrenees mountains, I see myself striding purposefully and confidently along, cheering on the others, and stopping occasionally to look behind me to enjoy the view.

In reality, if I were doing that walk today, I would be bringing up the rear, stopping to catch my breath often (under the guise of enjoying the view), and wondering if I should have the emergency service providers at 112 on hold. (That’s the equivalent of the US 911 in Spain, France, and Portugal.)

It’s a good thing I still have time. Fifty-one days, to be exact, until the 11 of us meet up in Saint Jean to start the walk over the mountain.

I have a training plan, I do. I dedicated an entire episode of my podcast to the topic. Also, I wrote a 14-page training guide for the pilgrims in my groups and for those who purchase my Camino Francés Getting Started Audio Guide. And I follow it too, I really do. But I have to tell you, a six-month training plan, or even a 10 week plan, is just a bit too much for me to stay focused on.

Same for you?

A couple months ago I started working with a health coach through my medical insurance provider. I had been having a really hard time recovering any semblance of healthy eating or regular exercising after the holiday season. And I wasn’t being too nice to myself about it, if you know what I mean. (Think: hostile self-talk)

At first my coach and I were meeting (by phone) every two weeks, and I was kicking ass. I was walking daily and lifting weights and eating well and generally getting it done. Then we switched to meeting once a month and BOOM I was lost.

What happened???

It took me a while to figure out that the problem wasn’t me or my goals. It wasn’t even so much the accountability factor of not having to give an update to a coach. The problem was the interval. Turns out, I really do have a short attention span.

It’s time to learn from my trials  and goof ups and adapt. It’s time for a new plan.


I leave for the Camino in less than five weeks, start walking on my own in six weeks, and meet my group to go over the Pyrenees in about seven weeks (51 days from this post date to be exact). The time for success in training is NOW.

Here’s what I’m doing now: I have divided my countdown-to-Camino calendar into two-week blocks. On the first Sunday of each block, I am sitting myself down, either alone or with a trusted friend (who, bonus, loves to hike), and planning out the next two weeks. No more, no less.

I am in my first two-week block now, and I am, once again, kicking . . . you know. Here’s my plan:

Start date: Sunday, March 17
End date: Saturday, March 30

1) Walk every day (except for Sunday)

>> On odd numbered weekdays, climb some hills, up and down for an hour.

>> On even numbered weekdays, aim for longer walks. For me that means twice around the local lake, or about 90 minutes.

>> On Saturday, aim for two hours minimum on mixed terrain.

>> Sunday is my day for physical, mental, and spiritual rest

2) Strengthen my quadriceps

>> Twice a week do some squats, keeping a sharp eye on form

3) Tidy up my diet

>> Cut out most sugar.

>> Pre-make some healthy meals so weekdays are filled with leftovers (my favorite food group)

That’s it for Block One.

On Sunday, March 31, Easter, I will sit back down and make a plan for the next block, incorporating what I learn in this first block. I will do that again on April 14th, and then 10 days later it’s travel time . . .

Top of the mountain, here I come!


I would love to hear what you are up against. Maybe we can find some solutions together. And let me know if you try out this two-week block plan. I would love to hear how it goes!

You can reach me by email at or, even easier, here.

Feel like exploring? Here are the ways I help first-time pilgrims get ready to walk the Camino pilgrimage. And here is a ton of information about the Camino de Santiago.