I have recently completed the St Olav’s Way walk from Oslo to Trondheim. This is the latest in a series of long-distance hikes that I have completed. Despite walking regular long distances, I’ve managed to remain injury free. I credit this to regular and structured training before completing any hike like St Olav’s Way. Here’s my guide on how to train for St Olav’s Way.
If you want to jump straight into a yoga training programme for hiking, you can find my bespoke online yoga for hiking course here.
How much walking to train for St Olav’s Way?
How much walking you need to do to prepare for St Olav’s Way very much depends on your fitness levels and your prior experience. Additionally, much will depend on your goals for the walk. There are plenty of people who do not plan to walk more than no more than 15km or 20km. Others aim to walk around 25km to 30km each day. The average that most pilgrims walk per day is between 20km and 25km each day. On this basis, the training suggestions below are written for the “average” goal of 20km to 25km.
Walking for a beginner to train for St Olav’s Way
If you’re completely new to hiking and you don’t walk regularly, the most important thing is to start your training early! A good benchmark would be four to- six months prior to the walk, but even earlier if you can.
A good starting distance to walk is 5km. We would suggest trying to walk at this distance a few times per week. After that, you can start to increase the distance gradually. The main focus should be to increase your pace a little each time you walk and walking regularly. A little each day can help.
Each week, we suggest introducing one longer walk. If you work Monday to Friday, the best time to do this might be on the weekend. If you want to make it more fun, maybe plan your walks around a visit to a coffee shop or pub – or bring a friend along! Most towns (at least in the UK) have some sort of ramblers society or walking group – try reaching out to these groups to join some hikes too!
The best way (in our opinion) to introduce more walking into your life is to swap public transport or driving for walking whenever you can. It’s really surprising how many steps you can introduce each day if you choose to walk. Whether this is to the supermarket or on your daily commute, it can really add up and help to prepare you for regular walking on St Olav’s.
Introduce the backpack to train for St Olav’s Way
If you plan to walk between 20km and 25km each day on St Olav’s, we would suggest that you get one or two of these distances under your belt if you can. Ideally, try walking with your backpack with some weight too. Walking this distance at least once will give you the confidence to know you can do it! But also, help to identify any injuries that might flare up on the walk so you can prepare for them.
Do note, that you can expect your backpack to be a little heavier than you might be used to if you’ve walked something like the Camino before. On St Olav’s Way, you will need to carry provisions and possibly camping gear. Find out more here about what to pack for St Olav’s Way.
Walking for more intermediate hikers to train for St Olav’s Way
If you’re a hiker with some experience, or a runner, you’re likely to be able to walk at least 10km/ 15km comfortably. This was similar to our experience level before our first Camino. We could run 5km or 10km comfortably (ish) and walk 20km, with a little challenge. However, walking the St Ola’vs Way is different for a few reasons.
Firstly, St Olav’s requires you to walk lengthy distances every day for a long period (an average of 32 days) Secondly, you will always be carrying your backpack, which on St Olav’s can be quite hefty.
Therefore, for intermediate hikers we would recommend that these are your two focus areas during your walking training for the walk. Prior to the first Camino that we walked, we took some short camping trips over long-weekends. During these trips we aimed to walk at least 25km (which was our goal daily target for the Camino) and we carried weight similar to what we would carry on the Camino.
If you’re regularly walking through the week, whether hiking or just getting from A to B, and you have a few practice walks under your belt – in our experience, this is enough! You don’t need to walk 25km every day for a month to prepare for the St Olav’s There will be plenty of time to do that when you get there!
Hill training for St Olav’s Way
One thing to be aware of, is that St Olav’s Way has a number of considerable hill climbs. Therefore, in training for this walk, we strongly recommend that you introduce hill walking into your training regime. We also recommend that you do regular strength training, or yoga, as part of your regime. The focus should be on strengthening leg and glute muscles (see more on that below).
Find out more about whether you should pack trekking poles for St Olav’s Way here.
Equipment for training for St Olav’s Way
Wherever you are in your journey prior to St Olav’s we highly recommend trying to walk at least some distance with your backpack with a similar weight to what you will carry on the road. Additionally, it’s great if you can wear the footwear (socks etc. too) that you plan to wear on the way, during your training. You’ll quickly realise whether you’re carrying too much weight on your back and whether there are any issues with footwear.
How to introduce mobility and strength training to train for St Olav’s Way?
I am a certified yoga instructor, so I am a little biased, but I believe the best way to introduce strength and mobility training to prepare for hiking is through yoga. But, I also regularly do strength training and there are benefits to including both in your hiking training programme.
In addition to walking, as part of a training programme, there are clear benefits to introducing yoga and strength training into your training. These include:
- Creating more stamina and strength helping you to walk longer distances;
- Strength in your muscles helps to stabilise your joints, which reduces the risk of injury during hiking significantly;
- Increasing strength can help with carrying a heavy backpack for long periods of time;
- Improving the mobility of your body helps to prepare for daily movement undertaken on a multi-day hike;
- Yoga helps with mental preparation, which may benefit you during long distance hikes.
Which muscle groups are important for hiking to train for St Olav’s Way?
Let’s consider which muscle groups are most involved in hiking. The important muscle groups for hiking are:
- The glutes (the biggest muscle group in your butt)
- The hamstrings (the big muscle group at the back of your thighs)
- The hip flexors (a group of muscles inside your core responsible for any flexion action at your hips i.e. lifting your leg up)
- The core (your abs and back muscles – the “corset” around your middle)
Many people think about hiking requiring strong legs, but few people realise the importance of the specific groups – the glutes and the hamstrings. Even fewer people consider how important their core and hip flexors are to hiking. Hip flexors in particular are often overlooked because they are not visible!
How can you train these muscles? The best way that I use to train for hiking and make these muscles as strong and mobile as possible is through a combination of yoga and strength training.
Best strength exercises for hiking to train for St Olav’s Way
These are my “go to” strength exercises ahead of walking a long-distance hike.
I include a combination of single leg exercises (asymmetric) and double leg (symmetrical). This is particularly important for hiking long distances, because we can tend to “favour” one leg over the other. If you only train both legs at the same time, this allows one leg to do all the work and the other to become weaker. The long term consequence of this, can be injury on one side. Therefore, exercising both legs individually can help to keep the muscles strong on both sides and prevent injury.
For an additional challenge, perhaps nearer to your walk, start doing these exercises with your hiking backpack on.
Squats, and the dynamic alternative of squats (squat jumps), are a super training exercise for hiking.
Benefits: Glute and leg strength muscles, increases stability to assist with hiking.
Beginner Tips: Try to increase the number you do and how low you can go into the squat, but maintain the posture.
Benefits: An asymmetric/ unilateral move that works each side individually to strengthen the legs and improve stability.
Beginner Tips: You can build this move up gradually, it is quite tricky. Don’t go as low as is shown in this picture at first.
Benefits: An asymmetric/ unilateral exercise that works each leg individually. Benefits stability in legs, which is needed when hiking.
Beginner Tips: Try static lunges (pulsing up and down in the lunge position) before you progress to forward or reverse lunges.
Mini-band walks (also called monster walks) are an exercise that many physios recommend for anyone with weak glute muscles. In this exercise, you use an exercise band around your ankles and walk forward one step at a time.
Benefits: Isolates the glutes to strengthen them.
Beginner Tips: The band needs to be tight to be effective.
There are a number of variants to the plank pose that can help strength training for hiking. I normally introduce a high plank and low plank (forearms on the mat) into my regimes. I also use plank shoulder taps in my training – this is where you tap your right hand to your left shoulder (and vice versa), whilst maintaining your posture in the position.
Benefits: Core strength and stability. Shoulder strength and stability (if using shoulder taps).
Beginner Tips: Hold this pose for less time and build up to holding it for longer. Try 20 shoulder taps, and gradually increase the number.
Best yoga poses to train for hiking
Here are the best yoga poses that you can incorporate into your long distance hiking training plan. You can sequence these into a short yoga flow, or treat them as separate poses.
You can also find my bespoke yoga for hiking online course here. This will help with all training requirements before and during your walk on St Olav’s.
Benefits: Leg and glute strengthening and excellent for stabilising hips and knees whilst legs are active.
Beginner Tips: Keep the back leg straight and bend into the front knee as far as possible. You are aiming for a right angle between your shin and thigh of the front leg, with the thigh parallel to the floor.
Hand to toe pose
Benefits: This standing pose helps balance and body awareness. It also strengthens the standing and lifted leg, from the glutes through to the ankles.
Beginner Tips: There are two variants to this pose, one with your leg out in front of your body and one with you leg to the side. It’s OK if you can’t straighten your leg fully in this pose at first. Try this with a bent knee. Or, if you can’t reach your toes you can just hold your knee.
Benefits: This pose improves your balance as well as focus. The standing leg is active and engaged, creating strength in the leg and glute muscles.
Beginner Tips: The foot of the bent leg can rest against the calf, if it doesn’t reach the thigh. But be careful not to put your foot directly onto your knee of the standing leg.
Benefits: This pose is great for core strength and to strengthen the hip flexors in particular.
Beginner Tips: You can do this pose with bent or straight legs. You can also hold onto your thighs to make it easier too.
Benefits: Core strength and stability.
Beginner Tips: Hold this for small amounts of time at first. Keep the core engaged and stop your hips from dropping down towards the floor.
What are these yoga poses best for?
These yoga poses are all great for preparing for hiking as part of a training programme. They focus on stabilising and strengthening the core joints and muscles that you will use.
However, these are not the best yoga poses to do after a day of hiking. These poses are also sometimes not the best poses to do in the morning before your hike.
My yoga for hiking course includes a warm up class and a class to do at the end of your hiking day, as well as classes to help you train. Access the course here.
Would you like access to more yoga for hiking content?
If you’re interested to access my bespoke yoga for hiking course, you can find the link here.
John and Emma’s hiking gear. These are items we love to use when we go hiking, find them here on Amazon.
Osprey 40L, Multi, O/S
HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 Textile Synthetic Trainers
HOKA ONE ONE Women’s Clifton 8
CWVLC Unisex Cushioned Compression Athletic Ankle Socks Multipack
Dr. Scholl’s Blister Cushions, Seal & Heal Bandage, 8 Cushions
Montem Ultra Strong Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Poles – One Pair (2 Poles)
Or more blog posts here:
Most of our planning is done using other blogs, but you can’t beat a guide book at the bottom of your case. Find yours on here on Amazon and get the travelling started!
How to walk the Norwegian Camino: Oslo to Trondheim on St Olav’s Way
Norway Travel Guide by World Citizen
Lonely Planet Norway
Rick Steves Scandinavia
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