Training for Kilimanjaro

Our friends at Thomson Safaris interview Marcus Shapiro, the founder and CEO of Fit For Trips

uhuru peak mt kilimanjaro

Q: What are some of the concerns your clients have before climbing Kilimanjaro?

A: I commonly get asked about altitude. Although altitude issues can affect anyone, being properly fit can help Kili climbers deal with many of the discomforts associated with high altitude symptoms.

Simply making it to the summit is another common concern. In brief, climbing stairs, treadmill work, specific “trail fitness” resistance training exercises and hiking are essential to a successful summit.

.Q: What is the most important thing to remember while training?

A: Always be aware of how your body is adapting to the training demands. Are you constantly feeling tired and sore? If so, then you might be over-training and need to take steps to decrease your training intensity or volume. Once you have recovered, you can resume training in smaller doses. However, doing so will likely increase the amount of time needed to become properly fit for your trek. This is why it is helpful to start training in advance – 12+ weeks – of your departure date. Travelers who are already fit can be aggressive and ramp up the training quickly in the pre-departure phase, say eight weeks prior to departing.

Q: Do you think anyone can make it to the summit?

A: In general, any healthy person can make it to the summit.  The formula is rather simple: train properly + ample acclimatization time + a determined attitude = summit success.

It is difficult to quantify the parts of the equation; you might not be in good shape but have the mental toughness needed for a successful summit, or you might be in incredible shape but need support to deal with the mental rigors of the final summit push. Train in both areas now, and your Thomson Kilimanjaro guide will be with you, encouraging you from first step to summit.

-Q: What are the top 3 exercises you recommend to train for Kili?

A: Climbing stairs provides the trekker with the strength to ascend the mountain carrying their body weight.  Repeatedly going down stairs trains the muscles and joints to handle the rigorous demands of descending Kilimanjaro.

Walking on the treadmill at the highest grade is important as it conditions the foot, Achilles tendon and calf muscles to handle the constant stretch and forces associated with steep grades.

Lunges. The exercise: forward/reverse lunge hop combines balance, strength, power and mobility.

Photo: Uhuru Peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

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Category: Adventure, AFRICA

About the Author () is the online home of Marybeth Bond, a National Geographic Author, Blogger, travel writer. Google ranks Marybeth as the #1 expert on women's travel. In addition to Marybeth's popular travel tips, trip reports, and practical advice, the site features regular posts by Marybeth and guest posts by well-known travelers, filed from exciting destinations around the world

Comments (2)

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  1. helga ausman says:

    Excellent advise for the three different exercises in preparation
    for reaching the summit. A tough mental attitude is equally important if not even more so. Descending is more difficult than the ascent which can easily be conquered by being prepared.
    It is all worth it! Physically it is at times rather exhausting, mentally it is most challenging and spiritually it is highly uplifting. All is doable and enjoyable.
    helga ausman, at 78 the second oldest woman to reach the summit successfully

    • HELGA,
      Congratulations on Kilimanjaro. You’re my new role model!!
      And I agree that although it is exhausting, the challenge is also mental.
      Are you British? Australian? Bravo and keep up the gutsy life!
      Cheers, Marybeth

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