By on March 5, 2015 in Health & Fitness, Kilimanjaro with 1 Comment

Training for a Kilimanjaro climb is essential. That is, if you want to make it to the summit and back without injuries. Hiking up to 19,340 feet (5,895 meters) on Kilimanjaro is an incredible life-changing experience. But the strenuous conditions, rough terrain, and difference in oxygen levels can take a serious toll on you. Read on to learn how to physically prepare your body for the “Roof of Africa.”

The push to the summit on Kilimanjaro

Why You Need to Train

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t a walk in the park; it is physically demanding, especially once you reach 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). Your body needs to be prepared for the challenges that await you or you may obtain injuries. These can range from sore leg joints to aching and pulled muscles in the upper and lower body. The descent from the top is particularly taxing on the knees, hips, and thighs.

If you’re not physically fit, you will also tire quickly and struggle to breathe. About 30% of climbers experience acute mountain sickness (altitude sickness), which can result in exhaustion, lassitude, nausea, headaches, and swelling of the hands and feet. Someone who is fit is less likely to experience these symptoms.

How to train for Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro Training Guide

Depending on which route you take, you will spend between 6 to 12 days trekking (that’s a lot of trekking), so training for a Kilimanjaro climb should begin at least two months before your hike. While you’re training, make sure to focus on weak areas. Any weak joints will be painfully identified on Kilimanjaro. Follow this fitness guide and make sure to rest for at least 4 days before your climb.

1. Aerobic Exercise

Strengthening your heart and lungs before the trek is important. These vital organs need to be able to cope with the high altitude and extreme physical demands of a Kilimanjaro climb. Cardio endurance training will improve your ability to ascend the mountain, especially on those steeper hiking days. To avoid sickness, fatigue, and other problems, we recommend vigorous aerobic workout sessions of between 45 and 60 minutes, 4-5 days a week, during which you maintain a heart rate of at least 70% of your maximum heart rate. The following aerobic exercises are all great ways to get your heart rate up:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Stair climbing
  • Strenuous hiking

2. Strength Training

Strength training should be done 2-3 days a week. The goal here is to increase physical strength in your legs and upper body. You are going to need it. To build up your legs, you can do 3 sets of 15 repetitions of each of the following exercises:

  • Incline leg press
  • Leg Extension
  • Walking lunges
  • Rear lunges
  • Standing calf raises

To build upper body strength, include these exercises in your training routine:

  • Push ups
  • Crunches
  • Reverse grip pull down

3. Stretch

Stretching lowers your risk of injury by preparing the muscles for activity. Stretching also reduces stiffness and soreness. To prepare for a Mount Kili climb, stretch the following muscle groups daily:

  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Calves
  • Shoulder Girdle

These are the muscles that tend to take most of the strain, but don’t ignore the rest of the body. There are many different types of stretches. 15-30 seconds per muscle group per day is recommended.

4. Hike

Hiking up and down hills is perhaps the best way to train for a Kilimanjaro climb. Try to go on at least one strenuous 3-hour hike every weekend.  If there are no hills where you live, stairwells, stadium steps and parking ramps can simulate hiking conditions. Be sure to hike in your full gear (boots, daypack, and poles), so you can get used to trekking with your equipment.

Tusker Guides Mel and Duncan on a training hike in the SierrasPrepare for the Journey

Training for a Kilimanjaro climb makes you stronger, smarter, and much more confident. Plus, you’ll avoid injuries. The Roof of Africa only reveals its secrets to those who prepare for the journey.

Need motivation to start training? Book your climb now.

Tusker Trail


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  1. Is the Mt Kilimanjaro Adventure a Hike or a Climb? | March 20, 2015

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