After hearing her girlfriends talk about a gritty pilgrimage, Kimberley Seldon, editor-in-chief of Dabble, an interactive magazine, joked she could do the 300-kilometre walk. Friends razzed the Toronto-based interior designer, saying that trekking through mountains, rural hamlets and forests was no posh promenade. She took on the dare.
“Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The entire walk is 800 km, but my friend Beth Halstead and I are doing a 300-km portion of the walk; walking 30 km a day for two weeks, starting at 5 a.m. We’re starting from the city of León and end in Santiago de Compostela and we’re staying in hostels every night so you need to carry everything on your back.”
“I started training in February. At a minimum, I did one walk a week, but most weeks I got in three walks – not always eight hours. In total, I’ve probably only done an eight-hour walk 10 times.
“What’s been critical in the last three months is doing walks back to back because it’s a different experience when you wake up on Day 2 and you’re sore and you have to walk again. I did 30 km one day, and then 20 the next day to see what that felt like; it’s an eight-hour commitment and that includes a meal break every two hours to eat half a granola bar and almonds.
“I'm getting so much stronger and my pace is faster. Now five hours is nothing for me. I lost eight pounds and the biggest difference is my thighs are much firmer.”
“Long walks alone aren’t nearly as much fun as with a friend, so I make dates with people. Our property up north is a three-hour walk to Creemore, so if I walk into the town for breakfast and walk back I’ve gotten a six-hour walk in, that’s about 23 km. Food is a very powerful motivator.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to fit long walks into my week, but I had to go to Mountain Equipment Co-op, so I mapped it and it was a two-hour walk from my condo, so I got a four-hour workout in on a night where I would have gotten in my car and driven.”
“I was turning 50 and looking to make positive changes in my life. Beth and I work hard in the interior design world, but she always, always makes time for yoga. She’s been my mentor.”
“If you’re trying to come to some spiritual understanding with your bad self, music is a distraction.”
“Not knowing where I’ll be spending the night seems scary. Because you’re going to and end up in some town in Spain and you’re going to go to a hostel and hope there’s a bed. Sometimes there are no beds; people got there before you. So at that point you decide: Can I walk another six km to the next town to find a bed? Or am I going to throw down a sleeping bag? Or am I going to go to a hotel? Beth has decided we are not staying in a hotel.”
John Stanton, founder of the Running Room and author of Walking: A Complete Guide to Walking for Fitness, Health and Weight Loss, is experienced in endurance walks and knows well the challenges of covering distance with the added weight of a backpack.
Build core strength
“In her training, when Kimberley goes for a 10K walk or longer, she should she walk a kilometre, stop, take her pack off, do some body weight squats, push-ups and pelvic tilts; she can start with five, gradually working up to 25 [reps of each] That’s going to build up her core strength so that she arrives at the event injury-free and can enjoy the celebration.
“It sounds silly, but the push-up is the most effective exercise for upper body strength and Kimberley needs upper body strength because as she fatigues, she will collapse in her upper body if she doesn’t keep core conditioning up. That upper body strength means she will breathe better and allow her to maintain good posture, making her walk efficiently.”
Train with a pack
“She should train with her pack. She should start with just the backpack and then add a light weight – say five kilos – and gradually work her way up to the weight load of the backpack she’ll have on the walk. Come the day when she starts the walk, she won’t even notice the weight she’s got in there.”
These interviews have been condensed and edited.
Special to The Globe and Mail