On our Tanzania: Women’s Kilimanjaro Climb, you’ll need to be prepared to tackle an 8-day ascent rising 5,895m/19,340ft above sea level. A feat that would make Jillian Michaels break into a sweat.
But before you get scared off, let us be frank: any reasonably healthy individual can successfully summit Kilimanjaro. With the proper physical training (and perhaps some mental), you’ll be able to strike one of the world’s greatest bucket list items off your list.
To help you prepare for the journey, here are six tips to successfully reach the ceiling of Africa.
Start Hiking 6–12 Months in Advance
The best way to prepare for a hike is to, well, start hiking. In fact, start early and often.
Start with 1–2 hour treks 6–12 months out—the more in-shape you are before signing up, the less training you’ll need to do in advance.
In the final months before jetting off to Kilimanjaro, you should challenge yourself with a few 4–5 hour journeys. In fact, it’s a very good idea to do back-to-back treks in order to gauge how your feet, knees and calves will hold up on the mountain.
Get geared up
Piggybacking off of our last point, a great training tip for Kilimanjaro is to do a couple of dress rehearsals. Strap on a 15–20lb day pack and lace up the same pair of hiking boots you plan on bringing to Tanzania. Then hit your local trail for a 4–5 hour hike—bonus points if it’s uphill!
In our ample trekking experience, dress rehearsals are important because they replicate the actual experience. Hiking for a few hours on flat ground without any weight on your shoulders is one thing. Hiking uphill with 20lbs on your back is quite another.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the reason we always recommend a training session is to break in your hiking boots. If you don’t break in your hiking boots, you risk getting blisters on the slopes of Kili. And believe you me, a few blisters can and will ruin this once in a lifetime experience.
For the go-getters amongst us, an advanced tip is to break up your training hikes with cross-training. In other words, any activity other than hiking itself. Think cycling or spinning, swimming, rowing, or even jogging if you have healthy knees.
Cross-training will help you build strong, dense muscles and improve your cardiovascular system. Be sure to safely push yourself for best results—the harder you train in advance, the easier the hike will be.
Finally, to really build those important gluteus maximus, challenge yourself on a Stairmaster. Pro tip: wear your backpack on the Stairmaster. Yes, you’ll likely get a few confused glances at the gym, but the results will be worth it.
On our women’s Kilimanjaro climb we have the good fortune of being accompanied by an amazing team of guides and porters. These industrious, trained mountaineers will be responsible for carrying our larger luggage from camp site to camp site. However, you’ll still be expected to carry your day pack.
To handle the weight of a day pack, you’ll want to build strong quads, calves, hamstrings and glutes. The stronger and more durable they are, the less tasking the hike will be. To accomplish this, we recommend adding one or two leg-focused weight days to your weekly training. Focus on squats, lunges, leg curls and extensions. But don’t neglect core and back exercises as well.
Don’t Forget to Rest
Overtraining can be just as dangerous as under. Remember, growth and gains happen on rest days.
In our experience, a good ambitious schedule should be no more than two training days to every rest day. But for the average woman looking to surmount Kili, a simple one-on, one-off training schedule should suffice (provided you begin training at least three months in advance). Finally, slow down your training in the final week. At this point, you want to be resting up before taking on the one of the world’s seven great summits!
What if I Didn’t Start Training Over Three Months in Advance?!
First things first: calm down. Run a bubble bath and light some eucalyptus incense. There’s no sense hyperventilating. While not ideal, most reasonably fit individuals should be fine.
If this is the case for you, we recommend slotting extra time cross-training as your cardiovascular system will ultimately be the key to your success. More specifically, get acquainted with that aforementioned Stairmaster. 😉
A Final Note on Training for Kilimanjaro
While we’re avid hikers with a number of summits under our belts (including multiple treks up Kilimanjaro), we’re not fitness professionals. If you want to be truly prepared, a personal trainer might be a worthwhile investment.
Want More Kilimanjaro Tips?
Read How To Pack For Our Women’s Kilimanjaro Climb where we outline everything you should and should not bring on this epic assent.
All photos courtesy of unsplash.com.
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