Training for Kilimanjaro

While it is not necessary to undergo any specialised form of mountain specific Kilimanjaro training, we do strongly recommend that if you’re planning to climb Kilimanjaro training should be at the forefront of your mind.

Why should I train for Kilimanjaro?

The principal reasons for undertaking an appropriate regime of Kilimanjaro training are that if you are reasonably fit when you fly out,

  • your body will deal with the rigours of adapting to high altitude much better
  • you will enjoy the whole experience much more
  • you will be much more likely to reach the summit

An unconditioned body can usually be pushed to the summit one way or another but considerably more suffering than necessary is involved and less is gained and remembered from the experience.

The difference between having an awareness and appreciation of your surroundings or else having to concentrate on your breathing to the exclusion of almost everything else, will normally boil down to the simple issue of whether you have chosen to take your Kilimanjaro training seriously in the months leading up to your expedition.

Some frequent remarks we hear are ‘I wish I’d trained more seriously for this,’ and ‘I didn‘t realise it was going to be this hard,‘ and ‘I’m going to have to come back to try this again!’. Too often the adventurer will procrastinate, waiting for a piece of kit before starting, or allowing themselves to be let down by team mates. We advise climbers to guard against this and start their Kilimanjaro training today, even if this just means a little truck strengthening by doing an 8 minute abdominal lesson off an old DVD.

While we’re happy to welcome climbers back for a second attempt, we want your climb to be successful the first time round.

Starting Your Training for Kilimanjaro

Many will want to climb Kilimanjaro but may imagine that the necessary standards of fitness and strength are simply unrealistic for them. Unless you suffer a debilitating medical condition this simply isn’t so. Indeed even if you do suffer a debilitating medical condition this still may not be so. We have guided several climbers to the summit who have only enjoyed the use of one leg.

While none of us would ever describe an ascent of Kilimanjaro as ‘easy’ (and we do it 200-300 times a year) nonetheless we can reassure you that it is something that is attainable by all able-bodied people following a modest course of Kilimanjaro Training.

Think of all training as being simply a process of your body adapting completely naturally to a new demand that it is already perfectly designed to perform, but that it is yet to be ‘told‘ it is required to perform. Your Kilimanjaro training should begin today and should be progressive.

The Multi-Stage Fitness Test, or ‘Beep Test’

Begin by determining what level you’re presently at. The most comprehensive and informative way to do this is by performing the Multistage Fitness Test. This is a simple test that you can do on a nearby playing field or even on the pavement outside your house. However, if you choose not to perform this test it’s a good idea at least to do a timed run that you’ll have the opportunity to repeat as your training progresses.

To do the MFT you’ll need:

measuring stick or tape

personal mp3 player

20 metres of flat ground

2 markers

running kit

1. Right-click here and ‘save target as’ to download the test (this is a wma file of 2.1MB). Or to save the file in an iPod compatible format (MP3), please right click here. *

2. Mark a shuttle run course 20 metres in length, position a marker clearly at either end (a bollard is ideal)

3. Stretch off starting with your ankles, working through your body towards your neck

4. Listen to the mp3 file. When the test begins start running slowly from one marker to the other, aiming to reach the marker as the narrator’s voice announces the next increment

5. As you reach a marker immediately turn around and run to the other marker

You’ll be running continuously back and forth until eventually you find the increasing pace impossible to keep up with. When you fail to reach a marker in time for the narrator’s voice to announce the start of the next shuttle, for example “Level six, three”, you need to deduct one from your failed level and remember this score. In this example your score would be six point two.

6. Now enter your score into the calculator: the level number (eg. 6) into the first box, and the last successful shuttle number for that level (eg. 2) into the second box.

7. Press ‘calculate’ and make a note of your predicted VO2 max score. This is a very reliable method of estimation and appears to be accurate to within 0.1 ml/kg/min when compared with laboratory testing.

8. Compare your score with researched standards for different ages and the sexes by clicking here.

9. Now start your Kilimanjaro training in earnest by aiming towards running, cycling or swimming three times a week for a minimum of 30 continuous minutes per session.

10. Once a month aim to walk in the hills for 5-6 hours at a time. Begin light and add weight as your fitness progresses. You should aim to increase time spent on this endurance element of your Kilimanjaro training in the final two months of preparation, to sessions of 7-8 hours once a fortnight.

11. Repeat the MSF test from time to time in order to gauge the progress you’ll be making with your Kilimanjaro training.

*our sincere thanks to Ram at Hidden Tao Ltd for kindly converting the original sound file and removing some of the static.

Kilimanjaro Training Programme

You can download a suitable 12-week Kilimanjaro training programme here.

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