Before I walked my first Camino, my body rejected me. It rejected the whole notion of walking over the Pyrenees and across Spain.
Basically, a few days before I headed off to walk the Camino, I came down with a chest infection, an eye infection, and a knee so sore I could barely walk.
I wrote about it at the time in this post:
Now, on the eve of heading off to the Portuguese Camino, the same thing is happening.
I’ve been training solidly – some weeks I’ve walked more than 100kms – and I’ve been averaging about 80-90kms most weeks. And I’ve been fine. Not a problem.
Backstory: When I walked my first Camino in 2013 I had real problems with my right knee. I did that walk on pain killers and grit. After the Camino when I returned home I had an MRI and my orthopaedic surgeon said my knee was bone-on-bone. There was simply no cartilage left in the joint. He told me that a knee reconstruction wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. In the interim he told me I had to wear an elaborate $1500 knee brace.
I was dutiful and did what I was told, and wore my brace on subsequent Caminos, and all my training walks – and there’s no doubt the brace helped. By and large the brace helped me walk without pain.
But I have this crazy notion that the body heals itself. If you listen to it. And I don’t believe in invasive surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary. And I mean absolutely necessary.
Last year while filming my intuition film I had to climb a steep mountain to get to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan. It was as tough a climb as the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles. Then I had to come down again, in the dark, down a rocky track.
I did this without my brace, and whilst my knee was sore for a few days after, basically it was ok. No longer term damage.
So when I got back home I started to do my training walks without my brace. Short distances at first, but then longer. Listening to my body all the time, and respecting what it was telling me. Resting up when I needed to, allowing it time to heal between walks.
I haven’t been using my brace now for about six months – and as I say, I’ve been clocking up some decent mileage each week.
I decided that I wouldn’t take my brace on this Portuguese Camino, which is 240kms over 12 days. Until the other day, when suddenly, for no apparent reason, my knee said:
Hello Bill! Remember me?
Here’s the thing –
The mind knows.
The body knows.
Just like before that first Camino, when I came down with all those ailments.
It’s a ruse.
It’s faux pain.
It’s pain that likes stasis.
I’m about to head out now for a 15km walk. I’ll assess it after that. But I’m still of the mind not to take my brace on the Portuguese Camino.
I do believe the body has a very powerful self-righting mechanism. And that too often we rush to western medicine when we should just allow our bodies to heal themselves.