Let’s Get Physical

Thinking about preparation for hiking the Camino de Santiago, I suddenly hear Olivia Newton-John’s Let’s Get Physical rolling around in my head. Urgh…I never did like that song. I have only one thing to say to that… Physical shmysical!Shel Sweeney - Get Physical


This body’s done alright over the years, hasn’t it? Do I really have to get physical – the idea kind of terrifies me. Okay, so if I’m honest, I haven’t taken the best care of it, it’s fighting an uphill battle with my genes, it’s at that age where it’s all about maintenance rather than transformation. Really, my body is a direct translation of all the things I’ve done and haven’t done, the things I’ve enjoyed or not, and the challenges I’ve faced to date. In reality, it has been at the mercy of events and circumstance, responsive more than proactive. But that’s all changing – now I’m in training to hike the Camino de Santiago.


Rundown of my physical health

Overall, my physicality is not great, but it’s not horrific. I don’t think it will take too much effort to get physical – just a little commitment. I’m reasonably, generally healthy, but I’m overweight. For a range of reasons, I have done little exercise in the past 5 years and because I love food, I’ve eaten more than I should probably have. Oh, and I’m totally addicted to chocolate, even though I don’t eat it every day…I think about it all the time and it takes earnest effort to avoid it and even more heroic effort to resist it when it’s around. Well, I guess this is the case for most people and sugar, but I seem to have very little will power around chocolate. So, generally healthy, but let’s a bit more specific…



Let’s talk recent history… My ankles have been swelling for about five years. A doctor once told me I had fat ankles and, aside from cosmetic surgery, he said, there was nothing I could do. Another doc said it was fluid retention, but offered no solutions. Let’s get this straight…my whole feet swell up sometimes too…I totally get cankles – you know, ankles that run into the calves with no delineation. They feel like overstuffed sausages…tight and uncomfortable and ready to burst. They are at the point now where they are always swollen…just the degree of swelling varies. I find it difficult to buy shoes. My ankles hurt a lot and often.

So I went to another doctor – I really just wanted a definitive and sensible diagnosis so I could weigh up all my options. My latest doctor has no idea why the swelling is occurring, but he sent me for a barrage of tests and, as a result, we ruled a stack of stuff out. In the end we discovered some generalised swelling and Achilles tendonitis So at least we know WHAT is happening…kind of!

Next stop physiotherapist! He decided to treat me as a thrombosis and Achilles tendonitis client and suggested we could tackle the pain, if not the swelling. Now I’m all about ankle raisers, isometrics, Smith machine, foam roller, ice, compression socks and soda crystals…I’ve been following this regime for about 6 weeks now. My calves are stronger, my Achilles less inflamed and painful, but my ankles still swell up – though not as bad and I do now have some tools to alleviate this, if only in the short term.

To be honest, my ankle issues are my current major concern when thinking about hiking the Camino, but I have plenty of time to work on this and the physio assures me I’ll be totally up for this hike come 2018. I will not let me ankles problems be the reason I can’t get physical!



I’ve also been going to the gym. I started almost three months ago. I’ve been doing a weights and cardio circuit. I’ve lost 1kg, not a huge amount, but feel a lot better. It kind of sucks that I’ve only lost 1kg, but I really need to distance myself from this emotion because I know it comes from preconceived ideas about culturally constructed ideologies around weight and feminine beauty. I’m not here to try to squeeze myself into any societal view of thin as healthy and I’m not going to the gym to try to achieve this. I am focused on building up my calf strength, dealing with my Achilles, building general strength and fitness and building endurance.


Let’s Get Physical

Last month I added 30 minutes walking on the treadmill…easing the incline up to 3. It mightn’t sound like much, but with this Achilles, it’s slowly as she goes! This month the incline went up to 5 and I’m doing around 7 kilomtres on the treadmill almost every day. I’d do more, but, you know, I have to work too. As it is, I’m getting up at 4.45am to hit the gym by 5!!

Some days on the Camino, I’ll need to cover 30km and some days will be steep inclines and declines. It is important that I can increase both the treadmill incline and distance.

This month I aim to walk for at least an hour a day and lift the treadmill incline to 6. In the gym, I had been alternating between weights and cardio – so a day of weights followed by a day of regular cardio. This month I’m aiming for an hour and a half of cardio one day followed by a weights session and an hour of cardio the next day. I’ve been averaging 4-5 days a week in the gym, I’d like to up this to 5-6 days.

My aim is to be walking 30km in one stretch outside of the gym by August this year and then start build to carrying a weight of 7kg and build that incline up to mountainous!


Speaking of Weight

From my research, it is advisable to carry up to 10% of your body weight, but no more than 10kg. At the moment, I weigh 86kg, but I’d like to be 75kg by the time I start the hike – not to be thinner, simply to best protect my ankles and knees by reducing the amount of weight they have to carry! Effectively then, I could carry 7.5kg of weight.


Tell me…

If you are struggling with chocolate or you’re training for a hike, I’d love to hear from you – you can find me on Facebook, Twitter or at A Worded Life.

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