After Decades of Successful Summits, Here’s What We Found
You can taste the summit and you haven’t even reached it yet. In reality, your trek up Mount Kilimanjaro is still two weeks away but you’ve been visualizing the peak for months.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa and it’s also one of the highest nontechnical treks on the planet, meaning no ropes or climbing experience is necessary. Because of this, an estimated 25,000 people arrive each year to attempt one of its seven official routes. (Join Us Today)
But don’t underestimate this mountain. Each year hundreds of people come away without a successful summit. And while it’s true that you never quite know how your body will respond to high elevations, there are many things within your control to maximize your chances for a successful summit attempt. After decades of Kilimanjaro summits, decades of surveying hikers on what works and what doesn’t, here’s your crowd-sourced guide to failsafe Kili training for body and mind:
Primary Focus #1: Strength Training
Low oxygen levels are one of the most common challenges you face on summit day. Our training advice encompasses a routine that will ensure your fitness level improves. To maximize your opportunity for physical training, it is advised that you master the following exercises:
- Crunches for core strength
- Squats for leg muscles
- Lunges for leg muscles
- Step-ups for leg muscles
- Pushups for upper body strength
It’s important that you undergo this physical training to ensure you overcome this difficult terrain. Doing these exercises daily, preferably with weights, will ensure you growth in physical endurance.
Primary Focus #2: Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise is an important key to success. An 8-year-old recently set the record for the youngest female to climb Kilimanjaro. How did she train her body? Hiking up stairs, parking garages, and bridges. (Source) “Aerobic exercise” is exercise that is directed to elevate your heart rate, meant to prepare your lungs and heart for the extreme altitude of 19,000 feet. The more aerobic activities you do in preparation before going, the better. Hike stairwells, stadium bleachers, or stair-climber machines. Better yet, find beautiful trails and scale their steepest sections. We suggest completing regular 3-4 hour hike sessions and focusing on aerobic fitness for your climb in the Kilimanjaro region.
A Note on Acclimatization
How will your body respond to scraping the skies at nearly 20,000 feet? Who the heck knows. Kilimanjaro’s elevation is always the elephant in the room, and even the experts aren’t unanimous in their understanding of how humans respond to altitude. Recent findings show it comes largely down to genetics, but most experts will prescribe the same four things when preparing for trips to high elevations (hint: focus on #4):
- Slow, gradual approaches
- Climb high, sleep low
- Adequate fluids and rest
- Plenty of strength and aerobic preparation beforehand
Easy Travel guides are experts in designing Kili treks for optimal success gradual ascents, lower-elevation campsites, plenty of fluids but they can’t train you or fix your mental attitude; that is yours to own.
Here’s your one-word training mantra: SIMULATION. The more you train in accordance with actual conditions found on Kilimanjaro, the better off you’ll be. Try walking at higher elevations, starting some hikes at night, and learning to use new gear before you go: trekking poles, hydration packs, footwear. Specificity. The more specific you get, the more success you’ll have.
A common no-no in training plans is to jump in too quick, too fast. Some of the best advice you’ll hear any trainer recommend is adhering to slow increases in workload over time. By starting a plan 3 months (or more) before Kilimanjaro, this affords you time to ramp your strength and aerobic sessions while avoiding burnout.
Of all the literature we’ve surveyed on successful training regimens for Kilimanjaro, here’s the sweet spot for summit success:
1 hour of strength and aerobic training per day, 4 days a week, 3 months (at least) before arriving.
Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro will be an unparalleled moment in your life. It’s that good. But it’s no walk in the park, and training is critical: at least three months prior, commit to specific strength and aerobic training to simulate the experience. Night hikes, breaking in gear, and mental preparation are essential. Visualize success, do the work, and then relish in your achievement. Because, believe me: that summit tastes good.
Easy Travel supports responsible tourism and is a proud member of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project KPAP ensures that porters receive proper gear, payment and treatment from tour operators and less than 40 of the 300 Kilimanjaro Tour Operators in Tanzania are KPAP members.
Getting You There?
Easy Travel offers 5-9 day treks up Mount Kilimanjaro, year-round. Our guides and porters have decades of experience and offer safe, enriching mountain experiences for all ages, fitness levels, and goals. Contact us today.