My body knows I’m about to do a Camino ~

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:

Yesterday my body rejected me

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.

© Bill Bennett

22 thoughts on “My body knows I’m about to do a Camino ~

  1. Bill,
    I too, believe in our body’s powers.
    Remember thoughts become things,

    I am hoping all will be well, but I would take the brace along just in case. I always travel with my silly little knee brace (that’s a secret I bet you didn’t know) and have never ever needed to put it on. Prophylactic you know. 🙂


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  2. I remember reading of your agony real time in 2013. Take the brace and your panty hose. Better safe than sorry. Catarina can keep in the van. Have fun. I have fond memories of sharing the Camino Portuguese with you.


    • Steve mate, good talking to you before… And yes, I too have very fond memories of the fun we had on that Portuguese Camino, and the laughs. It was a great time.


  3. Echoing your two friends, Hey Bill remember the agony…Heck I would just take it, tucked away and not overplay my hand (your knees I would say). I too, take my ankle brace with me on all of my walks… just in case… have not yet used since coming back in 2012.

    Looking forward to your blog entries. Light and Love Ingrid


    • Bill,

      I say take the brace along and make the call in Portugal. Still a year away from my first Camino, I have been concerned about worsening knee arthritis. Admittedly, mine is nowhere near as severe as yours and I have not even been to an orthopaedist as yet. But I would proceed with an abundance of caution and have the brace just in case. What can it hurt?



    • Hey Ingrid – you know, I was thinking back on that first Camino, and the very real pain I had, particularly early on. But I was so determined to keep walking, and I wonder if I would do the same thing now… I don’t know. Very sensible of you to take your brace…. they don’t take up much space and weight, and at least you have it with you. But you also do long long walks! haha

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  4. Well Bill, the ‘rainbow’ bus is a great stand by just in case! I know and appreciated the ride in Italy for a couple of days And what would Michael say about your knee I wonder?


  5. As a nurse, I too believe in the body’s ability to heal itself but only in the presence of a positive mindset and the gift of time.
    Whenever my knee would tinge with pain as I walked up a hill, I found that I had some instant relief by just adjusting the angle of my foot placement. It only needs to be a very slight change and it seemed to stop the pain for a short while. An on-the-go remedy or maybe thinking on my feet but it worked for me.


    • Hi – it’s Michelle, isn’t it? Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about adjusting your foot-fall just slightly. It’s about walking with full awareness, and that’s what’s amazing about the Camino, that at times it forces you to walk with complete concentration… !


      • With little to distract you on a Camino, it’s easy to be in tune with your body’s wishes. You’re right, it’s all about being fully aware and in the moment.


  6. Ah, Bill, but not many people have a mind like yours … one that will carry your body across or up and down a mountain … just ‘caus you say so! 🙂
    I’m with the others. Take the thing and then forget about it!


    • Ah Britta – I don’t know about that! I saw some amazing feats of endurance and courage on that walk, and I’ve heard about many more since. There are some extraordinary stories of people, incapacitated in one way or another, walking the Camino and getting through it. I think we as a species of human being are an amazing race… !!


  7. Hi Bill – I agree with everyone – take the brace. It’s your ‘insurance policy’ … you know what happens with umbrellas when the weather’s looking a bit doubtful? If you don’t take one with you, you’re caught in the rain for sure; if you take the umbrella it doesn’t rain!
    Camino hugs (my new favourite expression passed on to me by the wonderful Susan Morris of Australian Pilgrims on the Camino Santiago de Compostella) –
    Jenny xx


    • Ah Jenny – it comes down to baggage weight for me, and already the weight is getting up there because I’m carrying all my filming gear. I’m thinking I’ll risk it, and go without the brace. I take the view that if you even bring the slightest thought along with you that you might need a brace, then you’ll end up needing it… haha. But that’s just me… 🙂

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