How much training do you need for Kilimanjaro?
Training for Kilimanjaro is essential for any climber who attempts to climb Kilimanjaro should prepare mentally and physically with an exercise regime and an understanding of altitude.
Every year an estimated 35,000 or more climbers take on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, statistics show a failure rate of anywhere from 30%, to even as high as 50% of all climbers. Meaning anywhere from a third to a half of all climbers turn back.
Hikers should be physically fit, but at 19,340 feet (5,895 m), simply being in top physical shape may not be enough. Training for Kilimanjaro is essential for a safe and successful summit.
How to Prepare for High Altitude?
Climbing a mountain is not merely about one’s cardiovascular endurance. Lower saturation of oxygen experienced at higher altitudes has a physical effect on all bodies; even the most athletic. While cardio exercises certainly help prepare the body for the physical activity every hiker will engage in during the climb, aerobic exercise alone cannot fully prepare for the conditions at 19,000 feet/5790 meters.
How fit do you have to be to Climb Kilimanjaro?
The type of fitness is more important than the degree of fitness. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is a hike, therefore the best preparation one can do is to hike, preferably under simulated conditions. Although jogging could be beneficial to your fitness level, it does not fully prepare your muscles for a strenuous 6-day hike.
For the best results, plan for 8 weeks of training before your Kilimanjaro Trek. This will allow you to build your endurance and strength. In addition to regular gym workouts, make sure you also go for walks in order to stimulate relevant muscle development.
Try to do a one or two day hiking trials in your area. This will not only be an excellent way for physical preparation, but also an enjoyable means to prepare yourself mentally.
We have furthermore developed a practical (in terms of time and costs) fitness preparation guideline to assist you in getting your body ready for a Mt. Kilimanjaro summit attempt. This guide contains a gym and a hiking program that should be followed simultaneously over an 8 week period.
Tips for a successful Kilimanjaro climb
Before embarking on a fitness program, it is always wise to first seek the advice of a medical doctor. Feel free to share this program with your family doctor for input. Chances are, your doctor will be delighted to know that you undertake to exercise regularly.
In essence, the gym section of our fitness program consists of regular and progressive resistance exercises with either free weights (like barbells and dumbbells) or free weight machines that are readily available in gymnasiums. The idea behind progressive resistance is that your exercise regime can be tailored to your age, physical condition and strength, steadily progressing to higher resistance level as you develop.
Strong, conditioned legs are an invaluable asset when climbing Kilimanjaro! You’re climbing (and then descending) roughly three vertical kilometres, after all! You also want a strong core to prevent any injuries.
Some of the most effective leg-conditioning exercises which you can do with just your body weight (i.e. you can do them anywhere!) are:
- Side lunges
- Toe ups
- Wall sitting* This is where you lean your back against a wall and slide down into a chair-like sitting position. You then hold the position for as long as you can. Feel the burn!!
Aerobic training is about getting your heart rate up. This is a really good aspect to include in your training for Kilimanjaro as it helps your body to function well on less oxygen.
Some highly effective aerobic exercises (which cost nothing) are:
- Stair running
- High-knee, on-the-spot running
- Box jumps
- Jumping jacks
- Jumping squat.
Ideally, your training hikes should mirror the challenges of climbing Kilimanjaro as much as possible. Think:
- long duration
- steep inclines
- uneven footpaths and scree
- very cold conditions
- high altitude
Of course, start off simply and increase the various aspects of difficulty listed above as your fitness grows. This is another reason why it’s important to start training early: you have enough time to build up your hiking fitness.
Ideally, we recommend that you make hiking your regular cardio workout. So that would mean one or two short hikes during the week, and one or two longer ones on weekends.
A couple of overnight preparatory hikes will also get you used to sleeping in tents, if that’s something that’s new to you.
Wear your daypack
During your training hikes, carry the daypack you intend to bring to Kilimanjaro to ensure it’s comfortable. Also carry the sorts of items you’ll bring along, and three litres of liquid. This will help you get used to the extra weight.
For ideas of suitable daypacks, please read our Kilimanjaro packing list.
Wear your boots and socks
Also wear the socks and hiking boots you intend to wear on the trek. This is very important. You need to break in your boots properly. Your training hikes will help you to determine if there are any issues or niggles with them or your socks.
Please only head to Tanzania with hiking boots that you’ve worn on multiple hikes, for hours at a time. A pair of boots that’s comfortable for a one-hour hike might not be right for a 10-hour hike. Again, the more you can mirror the conditions of Kilimanjaro during your training hikes, the more likely you are to have a comfortable trek.
Frequent asked Questions
How Long Should You Train For Kilimanjaro?
We suggest training a minimum of 8 weeks before your scheduled climb, but please note this is the minimum. The sooner you begin training the better your chance of success!
Don’t expect to go from zero to 100 in a few weeks; if you are already fit and include cardiovascular exercise throughout the week, increase the intensity and length at least 4 times per week for targeted training for your Kilimanjaro climb.
If you haven’t been active in some time, begin as soon as possible. Make sure to include aerobic exercise and strength training in your routine, and aim for 4 or more days a week until your Tanzanian adventure begins.
Can You Climb Kilimanjaro Without Training?
In short, yes.
Many trekkers have reached the summit without prior training. However, thousands of climbers turn back every year without reaching the top.
What Is The Best Climbing Workout Routine?
While hiking at high altitudes may be the best workout routine, most schedules don’t allow for 6-hour hikes during the week.
Instead, prospective climbers can aim for 3 gym days a week that include cardio and strength training exercises, and complete 2 longer hikes each month. Throw a weighted pack on during that hike, just for good measure.