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Many people ask about a the best way to train for Kilimanjaro. Having summited the mountain twice, I can say that training plays a huge part in your success and enjoyment.
On Kilimanjaro, you will be walking an average of 5-6 hours a day at altitude up to 5,895m, carrying a daypack. While it is possible to train and condition the body to walking, it is harder to simulate the altitude and weather conditions that you will face on the mountain, so it’s important to make sure the body is in good form!
A good training schedule should involve 1hr -2hr cardio-vascular workouts, as well as endurance and strength training at least 4 times a week increasing in frequency and intensity closer to the departure date. Cardio workouts will increase your oxygen intake capacity, which will help you while walking uphill at altitude. Personal trainers are great for developing customized programs for such an expedition.
Endurance training will condition your muscles to the demands of hiking for long periods. Suggestions for such training include walking on a treadmill on a slow speed at an incline, or if you do not have access to a treadmill, find large flights of stairs to walk up and down for extended periods. It is advisable to wear your hiking boots while training to break them in.
You should start your training as soon as possible, keep disciplined and slowly increase your exercise periods over time. The longer you have to prepare and train, the less likely you will face the possibility of injury while on the trek and, the more enjoyable your experience will be!
Below is a training schedule put together by personal trainer and Kilimanjaro summiter Faith Jones. Enjoy!
Mount Kilimanjaro Training Plan
Key things to remember:
- Drink plenty of water, the more you workout the more H2O you need. On the mountain you will be drinking up to 3 litres/day
- Endurance cardio is the most important training. On the mountain you will be hiking long distances at a slow pace every day.
- Leg Strength is important to ensure your chances of getting up and down the mountain. Coming down is just as hard on your muscles and joints as going up.
- Make sure your hiking boots are worn in before you leave to lower the chances of getting blisters.
- Start your training plan at least 6 months before you leave!
Aerobic endurance cardio is planned to increase oxygen consumption. You should train at 60-75% of your maximum heart rate for best results. To calculate your max heart rate (MHR) you take 220-age x 60-75%. For example: If you are 26 years old and you want to train at 70% of your MHR you calculate 220-26 x.7=136 beats per minute.
Endurance Cardio should be done at least 3x/week for 45mins-1hour.
Pick an aerobic exercise you enjoy, for example running, biking, climbing stairs, elliptical training, brisk walking as long as you are keeping your heart rate at 60-75% of your MHR.
Fitness Tip: Train with your backpack on filled with weights or soup cans to challenge yourself!
Leg Strengthening is needed to prevent injuries on the mountain. Strengthening the major muscle groups are important: quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
Leg strengthening workouts should be done 2-3x/week.
Fitness Tip: Leave 24 hours in between each leg workout.
This program takes 30mins:
Do this circuit 3x with 30 second rest in between each exercise.
1. Squats (12-15 reps)
2. walking lunges (12 reps on each side)
3. Bent knee deadlifts (12-15 reps)
4. calf raises (15-20 reps)
5. Step ups (12-15 each side)
6. wall sit (held for 1 minute)
Fitness Tip: Increase weights every 2-3 weeks
Last but not least you need to go walking or hiking outside with your hiking boots and back pack on. Simulating what you will be doing on the mountain will help you achieve success physically and mentally. Finding paths with hills are the best to improve endurance and strengthen leg muscles.
Fitness Tip: Remember to stretch during and after a workout to alleviate muscle soreness and prevent injuries.
Please consult with a doctor before you start a new exercise program.
Program developed by Faith Jones, Personal Trainer at The Boulevard Club.