My Experience training for Kilimanjaro

Training for Kilimanjaro? It's not essential, but I'd highly recommend it. 

When there are so many things to remember in preparation for your challenge (in terms of visas, equipment, vaccinations, etc.), it can be easy to forget the trek itself. It's so important to remember that in order for you to enjoy your challenge as much as possible, you should train as much as you can. The fitter and healthier you are for the challenge, the less it will feel like you’re ‘surviving’ the trek, and more like you are having the experience of a lifetime (which is how it should feel!). It’s also important to note that your training schedule will heavily depend on your current fitness. So bearing this in mind, here are a few tips to help you get into shape for your upcoming challenge:

1.     Hiking is a highly recommended way of training. You can even get away with just doing this in preparation for Kili, since that’s exactly what you’ll be doing on your trek. Try to hike on mountainous areas, where your body can become accustomed to that type of exercising. The gym equivalent would be the stair master machine, which exercises the same muscles. Start hiking at a relatively short pace and distance, and then gradually increase these, but remember, distance is more important than speed.

2.     Aerobic training (cardio) is important for the moments when your body will have to be coping with less oxygen than it's accustomed to. This will seriously come in handy the further you go up the mountain, and you want to be as prepared for this as possible. Aerobic training includes running, swimming and cycling.   

3.     Strength training involves building up your core muscles (i.e. your lower back and your stomach) as well as your upper shoulder and leg muscles. This will be useful when you need to be carrying your daypack for up to 7 hours a day, and especially on summit night when you need that extra push. This can be achieved by doing sit-ups, shoulder presses, back and shoulder flies, and kettle-bell rows (upper body and core) and squats, lunges, front and reverse leg curls and step aerobics (legs).

The last two weeks before you venture forth to Tanzania should be spent decreasing your fitness regime, and in the last few days before departing you should begin resting. That way, you’ll be fully ready to do your trek when the day arrives.

I remember when I first started looking into training for Kili, I read things like “Kilimanjaro is ‘Everyman’s Everest’”, which can be fairly misleading. It may be that it is the most achievable of the Seven Summits (highest mountains on each of the continents), but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t train. It simply means that you can get by without training. But you’re not climbing Kili to ‘get by’, you’re climbing Kili to have a thrilling experience! So I heavily advise you to do so!

Lastly, don’t underestimate the training of your mind. When I climbed Kilimanjaro last year, I particularly remember it being sheer willpower which got me to the top on summit night. Mental stamina is vital, and physical training can help strengthen this: every time you push yourself to reach your goals whilst training, you are pushing yourself mentally, too. 

Overall, my experience climbing Kilimanjaro was even better than expected. I visited a place I had never been before, I made lots of new friends and I had the experience of a lifetime. I believe it was made even better because I trained for it. I was able to maintain conversations during the trek, take photos and have a laugh along the way!

If you have any questions or need some more advice on training for your challenge, please email us at team@chooseachallenge.com.