There are numerous studies and research on the many physical benefits of exercise to include aerobic exercise, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and balance, however, there is increasing evidence to list the psychological and cognitive benefits and its relation to physical exercise, some of these include; heightened mood state, less anxiety, stress and depression, improved self esteem and body image. Studies conducted in Finland on participants between the ages of 24-64 explored the association between physical exercise and psychological traits and demonstrated that participants who exercise at least 2-3 times a week experienced less anger, distrust, depression and report a stronger sense of social integration compared to those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
Why is the Camino de Santiago so popular? An incredible 347,578 pilgrim walkers undertook the Camino last year from over at least 50 different pilgrimage routes for various reasons. Is this the year you embark on a Camino for your personal health and well-being? You could be a gap student, undergoing change in your life, maybe your retired and want to spend more time looking after your health.
The busy-ness of our lives with the constant technology, demands and overload consumes our time and depletes our energy. The Camino allows space to reflect, slow down, re-energise, re-connect with others and gain a perspective on how we lead our lives. As we become more conscious through awareness and mindfulness walking each day, we become more in tune with our body, mind and spirit and can aim to facilitate change for a more well-balanced life.
What is Resilience? Resilience is the ability to bounce back, know how to cope with setbacks, learn how to manage yourself and your resources, it is also the ability to function in times of stress, recover, adapt and change. However, do we know what skills we need to pick ourselves back up. Why do we need to develop resilience? Without this skill, it is easy to give up, this could apply to any area of life, study, career or sport. One of the skills for developing resilience is perseverance, it is defined as the continued effort to keep going. Where do we start? You can start by building your mental resilience through enhancing your health and well-being.
Some simple steps to start with are: to improve your physical health by eating well and exercising, develop your sleeping habits, incorporate meditation through mindfulness, celebrate your successes and achievements. This is fine when everything is going well, but what about when something comes along to throw us off course? Compare this to a gymnast balancing on a beam, how many times do they wobble and fall? It is only with determination through getting back on the beam, pushing through with persistence will they achieve their objectives and advance to perform a complex routine.
This excellent seminar I attended enabled me to explore and gain more knowledge in the fields of ‘Guidance and Resilience’. Key speakers delivered lectures in the role of guidance in building resilience and promoting coping skills from an array of topics. Delegates from across Europe came together to discuss and share good practice as well as enhance their own professional development. What is Resilience? Resilience is the ability to bounce back, know how to cope with setbacks, how to manage yourself and your resources. What skills do we need to pick ourselves up? One of the skills for developing resilience is perseverance, this is defined as the continued effort to do or achieve something despite failures or difficulties.
Resilient people are able to control a situation and tackle problems, however this depends on your motivation and how much you are willing to do to overcome these obstacles. Some simple steps to start with are: to get control of your emotions, your reaction to the situation and find out what is causing the problem, learn to keep growing, stay strong and reward yourself for your achievements.
I depart the warm hostel at 6.30am for the final 25km of the walk into the cold, chilly morning air. The route leads out of Padron, there are about 80 other pilgrims silently proceeding down a flat path, passing farmhouses and fields, it is very dark and there is not much conversation. About 30 minutes later we walk out of the darkness into light as the glorious sun appears above the farmhouses. We reach A Escravitude and delight in the splendid views of Padron. The way leads to traditional villages, historic places, rivers and towns, eventually reaching Santiago. The cathedral is under renovation, but still as magnificent with plenty to see inside as well as outside absorbing the atmosphere of singing and listening to the bagpipes as pilgrims congregate in the square congratulating each other on their journey.
This stretch of the Camino leaves Caldas De Reis via the N-550 and continues into dense forests surrounding the Valga River, it is pleasant and shady blocking out the intense sun rays. The way is clearly sign posted with the blue and yellow signs showing how many km are left to walk to Santiago. As the route leads into villages, over bridges. After arriving in the town of Pontecesures, follow the bridge over the River Ulla, you can walk down the delightful promenade along the River Sat. In the centre of Padron is the church of Santiago, where you can see the Pedron, this is the stone where claims are made that the boat bought the remains of the Apostle St James, was moored. The group of walkers navigate through the town to our hostel for the night, where we enjoy excellent food to include tasty, traditional green peppers, accompanied by a very large youth club singing Camino songs.
On departing Pontevedra, I cross many rivers to include River Lerez over the O Burgo bridge. The way leads between the railway line and the River Grande, after much walking the route continues into the woods. It is extremely hot, but there are places to stop and rest. On approaching an idyllic village of Tibo, I join a large group of walkers, we make conversation as we stroll along and pass the Santa Maria church, arriving at Caldas, a spa town. From this point we follow the street Santa Marta, cross a bridge and arrive at a hot water spring town, there are more bridges to include the delightful medieval bridge over the River, bringing this part of the journey to a close.
Day 3 – Another 6.30am start as it is going to be a tough day walking in the heat. Passing through and leaving Redondela behind, there is a much to see to include the estuary of Vigo and its islands. I merge with a long convoy of walkers in good spirit who greet each other with ‘Buen Camino’. Continuing along the way there are quaint villages, cobbled streets, crossing the medieval bridge of Ponte Sampaio, a varied, hilly route, with numerous places to stop for rest where you can get a 3 course pilgrim lunch at most restaurants for 10 euros. Eventually arriving in the historic centre of Pontevedra, for a well deserved back massage with the local physiotherapist.
Vigo can be reached following the River Lagares which leads into Samil beach, there is much to see on this riverside walk. Vigo is a large town and perfect for an overnight stay. An early rise 7am to start walking to Redondela, it is dark and there are no arrows to follow, it can be difficult to get out of town. Eventually a group of us notice a faint yellow arrow, this leads the way into interesting streets and the old historic parts of Vigo and fishing areas of O Berbes, There is plenty to see in Vigo to include a Museum, the Church of Santiago and peaceful botanical gardens. There are many cafes offering great food and stamps for your passport on route. Many more walkers appear now and eventually after 5 hours, I reach the town of Redondela.
I started very early as this was a long day walking and wanted to avoid the heat of the day. Baiona is a pleasant, busy fishing town, with many Atlantic islands which can be reached by boat. On leaving Baiona the Camino continues across sandy beaches, over the River Groba passing beautiful Romanesque bridges. Here you can stop for a rest, where there are many cafes. A quiet, flat route with no other walkers in sight, it continues along the Foz do Rio Minor, surrounded by marshlands, an important ecological site which host many species of wildlife. The way displays interesting architecture and stone crosses, although peaceful, I am aware of the busy C-550 in the background. After 6 hours I approach the city of Vigo.