100 Days to Go

January 30, 2018 - My soul has been ready to return to the Camino de Santiago for some time. There has been a longing for the rhythm of the Camino and the opportunity it provides to be present to my own heart, and the heart of God. My vocation calls me to be present to the hearts of others on a daily basis. I have the privilege of walking with them as they grow in their understanding of themselves and God. Being with people like this makes many of my days feel a lot like walking the Camino, but it is not exactly the same.

The simplicity of the Way, the long hours of walking in silence, the reflection, the beauty of the landscape, the mental and physical struggle, the moments of rest, the chance meetings and the meaningful conversations that flow from them all work together to touch and shape one’s soul in deep ways.

I did not imagine, when I set on my first Camino, how what I do as a vocation would be informed, almost on a daily basis, by what I experienced on The Way of St. James. In a very tangible way, walking it equipped me for my calling, and knowing it has more to teach me makes me excited to return. I am ready to go, at least internally.

After a short hike this weekend, I realized my body is not as ready as my soul. I am 100 days away from beginning my second Camino and physically I am unprepared. If I had to leave tomorrow, I might be able to finish it, but I know, especially in the beginning, it would be much more difficult than it will be if I give myself to preparing my body to walk an average of 15 to 16 miles per day.

The first time I walked the Camino, I was diligent in my physical preparation because how difficult it would be was left to my imagination, and I imagined it would be hard. I was afraid I might not be fit enough to complete the journey. This time, I will prepare because I know how difficult it is. Doing the work of preparing physically is in some ways humbling myself to the reality of the Camino and the toll it takes on the body. This is good for the body and the soul.

Even though the difficultly and steepness of the trail on Saturday’s hike was what alerted me to the reality that my body needs a bit (maybe more than a bit) of conditioning before I return to Spain, I know what is involved in the process is more than that. Preparing physically is as much about trainign the mind and the will to choose to do the necessary work, as it is about getting the body ready. Strength of the mind/will is as important to completing the journey as being fit. It needs to be exercised too.

Given this reality, I have set a goal for the next 100 days. I want to walk 1,000,000 steps in the next 15 weeks. That is the equivalent of walking all 500 miles of the Camino. Since I will be walking every other day, it is really like completing a 30 day Camino in 50. The goal is enough of a stretch to push me, but not so much that I risk overuse injuries before I even set out.

Most of these steps will be taken in the park near my home, but I also plan to utilize a nearby hill to build strength for crossing the Pyrenees on day one. A local trail will also prove useful, allowing my body to become reacquainted with walking on uneven, rocky terrain, something that will be important in helping to avoid the kind of injury that almost ended my first Camino (I severely sprained my ankle). Knowing what the journey will demand of me physically, I am giving myself to developing greater endurance, strength and agility before I go. The last time around I focused only on endurance, and I felt it.

So here is to the first day of the next 100. Let the training begin, because the journey will be well worth it.

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