Mt Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain, standing at 5,895 metres above sea level. Climbing it is an exhilarating experience, however it’s important to ensure you are well prepared beforehand. Understanding how to train can be daunting, however the right preparation can help make summiting a reality.
The first step is to understand the terrain. Kilimanjaro is a steep but steady trail through four different climate zones, meaning you will need to adjust to changing temperatures as you climb. Prior to your climb, you should build your endurance and strength. Building your endurance involves running for as long as you can, at least twice a week with a time of 30 minutes or more. Increase your pace when you can, but no more than 30-40 seconds faster at a time. You should also research the type of clothing and footwear you will need for each climate zone and make sure you have it ready to go when you arrive.
To build your strength, professional hikers advise doing exercises such as squats, planks, and lunges in addition to regular hikes. If you are already an avid hiker, consider adding a heavier weight to your pack, like a weighted vest, to simulate the effects of climbing a steep mountain. With an extra 15-30 pounds of weight, you will gain an advantage as it will increase your leg and core strength. Make sure you practice wearing the weight during your hikes and keeping up a steady pace.
As you start to increase the intensity of your training, replenish the energy you burn with a balanced diet. Eating a healthy balance of protein, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fruits will boost your energy levels and help your body recover. In particular, emphasise on getting lots of magnesium and potassium which are key electrolytes. You should also hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Staying hydrated is essential as altitude increases so before, during, and after your hikes make sure you drink plenty of fluids.
In addition, ensure all your important items such as your insurance, passport, climbing permit and passport are up to date and in order. Familiarise yourself with the altitude sickness symptoms and understand the symptoms of dehydration as well. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Speak to experts and experienced climbers to get their advice and find out other useful tips, as this will help you better plan and prepare for your kilimanjaro hike.
Allotting Proper Time for Training
Planning for Kilimanjaro is best done in advance, as couple of months are needed for proper training. Depending on individual fitness level, planning for the hiking can be done for about eight weeks pre-climb. Start following a regular training routine during this period and try to have steady and regular uphill hikes in order to help in gaining the necessary strength and endurance. For people with a busy schedule, they can plan multiple training trips that last at least several days each. This way, they get to practice the right type of training and help in the necessary conditioning relative to their fitness level.
The key to good fitness training is consistency and self-efficacy, believing in yourself and your progress. Have faith in that Kilimanjaro is possible with determination and proper training and set achievable goals throughout your training including strength, endurance and distance. Visualising yourself on the top of the mountain and creating a list of rewards related to summiting it can also be beneficial to keep you motivated.
Be sure not to overtrain as you will be burning precious energy that your body needs for the mountain. When hiking Kilimanjaro, you will be moving slow and steady and your fitness training should reflect that by exercising at a low/moderate intensity. You don’t want to push your body too hard, or you will be leading with fatigue from the beginning. Therefore, it is best to slowly build up your fitness by steadfastly following a regular training plan.
Incorporating Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are good additions to your training plan as they are excellent for flexibility and increasing core strength. With their emphasis on breathing and meditation they can also be a great form of mental preparation for the trek. Building flexibility includes stretching and stretching-based activities that can reduce muscle soreness and help prevent injury. Therefore, build flexibility with yoga poses and incorporate some yoga breathing exercises. The core strength that Pilates provides can help to increase stability and reduce fatigue.
The major muscles climbing Kilimanjaro is the gluteus, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Therefore, complete exercises that strengthen these muscles such as squats and lunges. Additionally, do exercises for the upper body, arms and shoulders so that you can carry your gear comfortably during the climb. Working on your breath control can also be beneficial as it will help to support prolonged effort. Moreover, with longer time spent in altitude, working on your breath control can be useful as well.
Incorporating both endurance and strength training to Kilimanjaro training results in a strong and steady body and mind. Add yoga and Pilates for flexibility and for mental workouts and your trekking experience can be more enjoyable.
Rest & Recovery
Rest is an essential part of any fitness training programme. It is important to allow your body to recover after a hard workout. Incorporate strategies such as taking a cold plunge or a hot yoga class to help your body relax and to ensure it performs optimally. Investing in a foam roller and a pair of good running shoes are additional safety measures that help in providing rest and recovery.
Developing mindful breathing techniques also help you relax during times of stress and also promote better recovery. When climbing Kilimanjaro, mindful breathing techniques help you manage altitude symptoms and also aids in releasing muscles tension during the trek.
Sufficient rest is essential to recover from the day’s activities and to be sure that one is not pushing their body beyond its capacities. This also means that one needs to know the signs of fatigue and take necessary precautions to prevent any potential injuries.
Adding Acclimatisation Walks
Research indicates that adding altitude training to your routine can help with the process of acclimatization. This can be done by hiking to smaller hills in order to simulate the similar effects of high altitudes. One should begin their acclimatization exercises at 10-15 days before the actual climb to ensure their body gets used to the altitudes. Acclimatization hikes should be done twice weekly for 2-3 hours each time, using some of the same terrain that will be encountered on the actual climb.
Additionally, invest in travel insurance and get a check-up with your doctor pre-climb to ensure no underlying health and safety issues are present. Plan for rest days while doing your training so that you can get sufficient rest and sleep. Owing to the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes, it is best to sleep during the day, especially when altitude sickness sets in.
Finally, start reducing caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meal in the days leading up to your climb, this will help your body adjust more easily to the effects of higher altitudes. As Mt Kilimanjaro is a grueling climb, it is important to approach it with both physical and mental preparation.
Staying Motivated Throughout
It is important to stay motivated and committed to your training plan throughout. Most essential is to have a goal or a vision in which to focus on of scaling the summit and treat it with positive emotions as you envision it coming true. Have faith in your ability to continually strive for greatness and push past your mental and physical boundaries.
Also investing in the necessary gear and planning with a company who knows the mountain well can add to the sense of commitment. And make sure to take moments to appreciate the journey and slow down at times to make the full experience more pleasant. Join a Kilimanjaro training group so that it can be more fun and motivating as you will be surrounded by likeminded individuals.
Train your body and mind on different levels to increase the chances of success. It is important to “listen” to your body’s feedback as you train and modify the plan accordingly. And follow the expert advice and plan holistic training in the form of customized exercise program, taking into consideration your individual fitness level, terrain, climate, rest days and other important factors.
Working on Mindset and Attitude
Having a positive mindset is essential for success in climbing Kilimanjaro. Have a positive attitude about the climb, even when it gets hard. Believe in yourself and your body capabilities, goals and dreams and trust that you have the controls to create it. Learn to be present, allowing uneasy feeling and being willing to endure it as it can help you learn more about yourself as you prepare for the ultimate adventure.
Focus on your strengths, how well your body responds to the road ahead and be grateful for what your body can do. If tiredness sets in, remember to take a break, but stay motivated and focused on summiting. Incorporating meditation and mindfulness can help bring clarity to where your focus should be and remain centered on the goal. Assign rewards for finishing objective and stay motivated.
Though the journey of training for Kilimanjaro can take months of physical, mental and logistical preparation, the rewards for summiting the mountain make it all worthwhile. With the determination and proper training and preparation, you can achieve your dreams. Relax and be present in each moment, from the early months of training to the summit.