At over 19,000-feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest summit. The trek to the Roof
of Africa is a strenuous and committing trek that requires proper preparation for
maximum success. To ensure the best chances of success on the mountain, it’s
essential to have a proper training plan and start getting shape for high altitude
trekking as soon as possible.
When starting to train for high altitude trekking, the focus should be on endurance,
strength and stamina. On the mountain, expect hiking days of 6 to 8 hours, with
summit day being 12-16 hours, and carrying packs from 5 to 10 pounds. Please note
that porters will be carrying your gear minus your daypack, which includes clothing,
water, and food. The perfect training program focuses on the same skills and
conditions that should be expected on the trek. Thus the focus should be on
strengthening core and legs, plus hiking uphill for extended hours with a heavy
Workouts should alternate between cardio and strength training with a well-
balanced schedule of each. Plan a week of an hour to two hours of workouts each
day with one rest day or day dedicated to a ‘fun’ activity such as hiking, biking, or
cross-country skiing. In planning any major training program, vary different
locations and activities so that the program doesn’t become repetitive and boring,
which can be discouraging.
Start with aerobic activity to stimulate a healthy heart. Run stairs and climb hills as
much as possible while slowly increasing duration and intensity. The goal is to be
able to hike up to eight hours with minimal fatigue. Alternate between bike riding,
stair climbs, and climbing bigger hills to utilize different muscles and keep the
exercise varied. Budget for a minimum of 30-minutes per session. Over time,
increase the heart’s ability to pump more blood, thus supplying more oxygen,
especially at higher altitudes.
Endurance training allows the body to gradually accustom to moving for an
extended period of time. Incremental changes in the overall routine can help
accomplish this goal. Work on increasing weight in a pack while doing stair climbs,
setting “challenges” like trying to take time off a certain hill or trail, and increasing
the intensity of strength training.
Strength training should alternate between upper and lower body, with a focus on
building muscle that will power and sustain. As much of the Kilimanjaro trek focuses
on walking across uneven terrain, one of the key goals is to increase core fitness, not
just in the stomach but the back as well. Furthermore, work on increasing strength
in the shoulders and upper back in order to accommodate for carrying a heavy pack.
For the lower body, work on strengthening the calves through squats, wall sits, and
weighted step ups in addition to the interval and endurance training.
Given a proper training regimen, as well as a healthy diet and hydration,
Kilimanjaro, while still an intense and difficult trek at high altitude, is made much
more enjoyable. The goal of the program is to increase overall endurance and
strength, while increasing cardiovascular ability and carry a weighted pack over an
extended period of time. Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides is dedicated to
improving the overall fitness of each member on our team to maximize the best
potential for success.