KILIMANJARO CLIMBING TRAINING
Updated: Mar 15
Your Ultimate Guide on how to train to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a hike, not a technical mountain climb. A difficult multi-day altitude trek. In the thin air, it can feel like a long, arduous slog, especially on summit night. Physical preparation can mean the difference between a safe and enjoyable climb and a miserable, exhausting experience. So, how should I prepare for Kilimanjaro?
Peak physical fitness does not ensure summit success. Even the fittest athletes can be affected by altitude. You don't have to be an elite athlete to climb Kilimanjaro because the altitude will be the deciding factor.
However, the more fit you are, the less of your aerobic capacity you will need to use to trek, allowing you to handle the additional stress of acclimating to the altitude more easily.
Training and fitness to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Any Kilimanjaro fitness program will be tailored to your current workout routine, injury status, and fitness levels. You don't need superhuman levels of physical performance; most healthy people can get in shape for Kilimanjaro with enough time (and if your doctor agrees).
There is no best fitness program for Kilimanjaro, and the amount of training required is specific to your situation. If you're very fit or regularly go to the gym, you might want to include some hiking trails (preferably uphill). If you're out of shape, you might have to start from scratch.
Keep it simple and long-lasting.
Choose an activity that you enjoy. If you enjoy biking, go for a ride; if running is your thing, go for a run. The important thing is that whatever exercise you do, make it progressive so that you build stamina and continue to push yourself.
If you don't have much time, consider doing high-intensity interval training. Anything that boosts your muscles and cardiovascular system's work capacity.
Use everyday occurrences as training opportunities.
Find other opportunities as you go about your day, in addition to your more formal training program. Do you own a dog? When you take Milo for his daily walk, put on a daypack weighing 6&8 Kg. Take the stairs, mow the lawn, whatever gets you moving.
Put on your boots and daypack and go outside whenever possible. Hiking up and down hills on rough terrain will give you a sense of what it's like on the mountain. Increasing the length of your walks will help you prepare for being on your feet for long periods of time.
Is there no access to hills? Set the treadmill or Stairmaster to a steep incline. Put on your daypack and hiking boots and get some practice in.
Make it progressive and pay attention to your body.
You want your training to be difficult in order to prepare your body and mind. But you don't want to exhaust yourself. Make your training program progressive so that you can continue to make gradual gains in your fitness process.
If you are unsure how to prepare your own training program, consider consulting with a personal trainer or enrolling in an online training program to assist you.
Every 3-4 weeks, change up your workout and include something new. If you do the same activity over and over, your body will adapt, and you'll have to work more to achieve the same results. Changing your training program gives your body with new challenges to overcome.
Note: This is the primary reason why you should not "simply walk" to prepare for Kilimanjaro. Unless you're spending numerous hours of hiking per day, your body will soon adapt to walking at sea level.
The Value of Rest and Recuperation
It's a fine line to walk between pushing yourself hard and pushing yourself too hard. Muscle soreness, injury, lack of sleep, and fatigue can all be signs that you're pushing yourself too hard, too soon.
Begin training for your Kilimanjaro climb as soon as possible (3-6 months). Good training is not an overnight success; it is a long-term process.
Can You Climb Kilimanjaro Without Training?
Yes, in a word.
Many hikers have made it to the top without any prior preparation. Thousands of climbers, however, abandon their attempts each year before reaching the summit.
It's impossible to gather precise information on Kilimanjaro climb success rates. Tour operators want to advertise themselves, so they may display a high proportion of successful climbs, but it could just be one member of a group who completed the climb successfully, not including other members of the group who dropped out on the last day. They might also show presumed successful climb numbers for the entire Kilimanjaro, not just their own company's.
How good of shape do you need to climb Kilimanjaro?
You want to be in good physical shape to climb Kilimanjaro, but there’s no need to be super-fit. This is a trek, not a climb after all, and if you can run for 30 minutes two to three times a week, and enjoy an all-day hike at weekends, you should be fine. That said, many people do underestimate Kili. Its conical shape, rising straight up out of the plains, leaves little time to develop a head for heights and, unlike on other treks, if altitude sickness kicks in that’s it. There isn’t the infrastructure or support to rejoin your group for the final ascent. Read more about how fit you need to be to climb Kilimanjaro, and how to prepare.
Anyone in good health (as long as your doctor agrees) can train to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. There is no "magic bullet" or "secret" to training for Kilimanjaro; it is simply a matter of putting in the effort and gradually increasing your capacity.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. Many people in poor physical condition have reached the summit, while many athletes have failed. Altitude effects are a great equalizer. Be your best self, and train to be in the best physical shape possible. If you are unsure, consult a qualified personal trainer or your physician.