Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no easy feat. It is as much about physical endurance as it is about being and staying in a positive mental state. Training to climb Kilimanjaro takes time and dedication. I’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice now and will most likely be hiking it again with WHOA Travel (who I work for). In this post, I’ll go over things to think about for your training and share the Kilimanjaro training plan I used when I did my first climb.
Training to Climb Kilimanjaro
Things to keep in mind before you start Training for Kilimanjaro
Talk to your medical professional
Before starting any kind of training program to epic mountain climb you should get the all-clear from your doctor. They might have you take special care if you have previous injuries or other health concerns.
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Read More: Kilimanjaro Questions Answered
Take your time
Remember when you first start your training to not push yourself too hard too early. Over time you’ll be able to exercise longer and at a more intense pace. Early on in the training process make sure you give your body time to adjust to your exercise routine.
Don’t forget to warm up!
Before every exercise make sure you warm up your muscles. This will help to prevent injury. A full body stretching routine is helpful for me, but everyone’s body is different and you should speak with a trainer or physical therapist for a personalized routine.
Mount Kilimanjaro is all about the Altitude
The day before my first hike up Mount Kilimanjaro I was sitting with my fellow hikers in our briefing. After introducing himself the man doing the briefing said, “No matter how hard you’ve trained or had bad you want to make the summit, some days it just isn’t your day.”
For some people, the altitude just gets the best of you. If the altitude affects you bad enough, for your own safety you’ll need to turn around. Altitude sickness is no joke. It has killed people on Mount Kilimanjaro and around the world while doing hike altitude hiking.
Kilimanjaro Training Plan
I did my first Kilimanjaro climb in 2015 and trained hard to reach the summit. When I was training I focused on 4 areas:
- Leg Strengthening
- Core and Back Strengthening
Each of these areas helped me to prepare my body in different ways to climb Kilimanjaro.
The higher the altitude the harder your heart has to work to send vital oxygen to your body. Doing cardio regularly during training will strengthen your heart. Some cardio exercises you can do while training to climb Kilimanjaro are:
- Running or Jogging
- Biking or Spinning
- Hiking with a heavy pack
- Using the Stair Master
When doing these cardio exercises try doing them in intervals. For example, when running I do a 3 to 1 interval. I run for 3 minutes and do a 1 minute recovery walk . When running I push myself to really elevate my heart rate. No matter the cardio you choose to do (I’m a big fan of switching it up to not get bored) if you don’t get your heart rate up you won’t be helping yourself at all. I use my FitBit Versa to help track my heart rate when exercising.
When hiking you’re using your legs and without proper training hiking for 8-ish hours a day would be tough. These 4 exercises helped me gain more leg strength for my hike:
- Single-Leg Squats
- Jump Squats
- Bridge and Hamstring Curls
For more information and directions on how to correctly do these exercises check out this REI hiking training post.
Core and Back Strengthening
With all the cardio and strength work you’ll be doing during training take some time to do yoga to really stretch your body is important. In my opinion, all hikers should do yoga when training for a big hike and at the end of the day. Our bodies work really hard when hiking and they deserve the care that yoga gives them.
Below you’ll find a video from my friend Andrea from Ample Movement who is an amazing yoga instructor. This beginner yoga class is perfect for slowing down and relaxing your body.
Kilimanjaro Training Plan Day by Day
Below is an 8 day training plan that should be applied in rotation. You can choose the cardio, type of yoga, core, back, and leg exercises that work best for you and your body. However, if what you’re doing is always easy, you’re not really training. Kilimanjaro is no joke, and if you’re not pushing yourself during training you need to kick it up a notch. Not every session needs to kick your ass, but of the 6 exercise days a week half of them should really push you.
- Day 1: Cardio
- Day 2: Legs and Yoga
- Day 3: Cardio
- Day 4: Rest
- Day 5: Cardio
- Day 6: Core, Back and Yoga
- Day 7: Cardio
- Day 8: Rest
Repeat this 8 day plan for 2-4 months depending on your initial physical condition. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: please remember to talk to your primary care physician before starting any training regiment.
Kilimanjaro Training Plan
That’s everything I can share; the rest is up to you. You are the only one that can get you to the Uhuru Peak, so push yourself, get mentally tough, and just keep walking. Good luck and enjoy every moment.