Henri Craemer | My Misguided Attempts at Getting Fit before Previous Hikes
Getting fit for a long distance hike, such as the Cammino or the St Francis way, is not to be ignored or taken lightly. Some ways simply do not work. Here are some of my previous misguided attempts and non-attempts at getting fit for hikes.
Cammino, hiking, jogging, running, martial arts, Drakensberg, pack weight, pain
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My Misguided Attempts at Getting Fit before Previous Hikes

Common sense says you should be fit enough before starting something like a Camino hike of about 500 Km. Here are some of my previous attempts, some more misguided than others.


Do Nothing

Hindsight and common sense says this is a bad idea. Yet on my first serious hiking excursion into the Drakensberg, this is exactly what I did. Being uniformed on this attempt had a lot to do with it.

After all, it’s only a walk with some weight on my back. I’ve carried a bag full of books at school, so what’s the big deal? Then all of a sudden, I found myself with a pack weight of 35 Kg on my back. Considering I only weighed 58 kg at the time, you can imagine I was cruising for a serious bruising. It took us two days to get to the top of the Amphitheatre of the Drakensberg from Royal Natal National Park.

It reached a point where I felt as if I was sweating blood. I was convinced my shoulders were being torn from my torso. At least, as the hike progressed and the pain faded, the pack got lighter, and I became extremely fit.


Jogging or Running

I’ve tried jogging. It did not work for me. I reached a point where I could do 7 Km in 28 minutes. Most people would regard that as quite adequate. After this I embarked on a Drakensberg hike. There was almost no difference between that hike, and any before it. The first two days were hell. After that, the hike got into a rhythm, and we covered far greater distances with ease. Are there any experts out there who can offer possible explanations as to why this could possible? What say You?

I’ve also tried doing stairs. I was living in a 20 floor apartment block (24 if you add the basements). An opportunity to hike came along, and I thought, here’s the perfect chance to get really fit. I’m going to jog up and down the stairwell. Thus decided, thus done. I spent a half hour doing this. I managed to increase the number of times I went up and down the stairs per half hour, as I got fitter and faster. When I left for the hike I was feeling extremely fit. Yet the results were no different – two days of hell, recovery on the third, strolling for the rest of the time.


Martial Arts

There were a few times I hiked after taking up martial arts. This probably delivered the best results in terms of initial reaction to being out on a hike. The muscular strain was tough, but my respiratory reaction was good.


After all these attempts at getting fit for hiking, I’ve come to one very certain conclusion: There is no substitute for walking itself. I have proof of this when I once did two seven day hikes back to back with a break of three days in between.

You have to start somewhere. Get your feet moving. Push yourself. At least in this way you can soften the impact of suddenly having to go the distance. Even then you simply have to suffer through the initial stage of a hike, get fully fit that way, and enjoy the rest.

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