Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. With all the information you have, added to being physically prepared, your chances of reaching the summit have substantially increased. The tests of physical endurance and mental stamina will determine, to a great extent, whether you will be successful in your quest to conquer the Roof of Africa. Being physically prepared for the trek will also greatly contribute and make a world of difference to the most valuable benefit of your preparation – your mental confidence and strength! Therefore a fitness program will help you prepare for this.
How fit do you have to be?
The type of fitness is more important than the degree of fitness. Kilimanjaro is a hike, so the best preparation you can do, is to hike, preferably under simulated conditions. While running helps to some degree, it does not fully prepare your muscles for a strenuous 6-day hike. We suggest that you spend some of your training time by simply walking. Going for walks, in addition to regular gym work in order to also stimulate some muscle development, has proven to be the most successful preparation. Try to do a one or two day local hiking trial in your area, which will not only be an excellent way of preparation, but also most enjoyable.
We have therefore developed a practical (in terms of time and costs) fitness preparation guideline, which will assist you greatly in preparing you body for your Kilimanjaro summit attempt. This guideline contains both a gym, as well as a hiking program which should be followed simultaneously over an 8 week period.
Important points to remember – Before you start!!
Before embarking on a fitness program, it is always wise to seek the approval of your family doctor. By all means show him this program so that he can see exactly what you are talking about. Chances are that he will be delighted that you will be exercising regularly.
In essence this gym fitness program consists of regular performance of progressive resistance exercises with either free weights (barbells and dumbbells) or free weight machines as found in gymnasiums. The idea behind progressive resistance is that your exercise can be tailored to your age, condition and strength, and can progress to higher resistance or weights as you develop.
Because progressive resistance movements are tailored to your strength levels the program is potentially safe. However, it is essential that all the exercises are performed correctly and that the basic safety procedures are followed. It is always a good idea to invest in a book on physical fitness or to ask the local gymnasium instructor to show you how to perform each exercise correctly and safely.
Sets and Reps
Your workout is made up of repetitions (reps) and sets. A rep is a single count of an exercise, i.e. going down for one squat movement. If you perform a series of reps (the average is 10 to 12) and then stop for a breather, this is known as a set.
You should always warm up your muscles before any exercise routine. This means putting your body through a variety of stretches to warm up, strengthen and progressively challenge the tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles. Stretching is the best and most important way to prepare you for an injury-free workout.
Other important gym guidelines
1. The above represents a guideline and can be adapted to your time schedule and current fitness level, but it will give you a good idea of which muscles you should concentrate on.
2. Unfit people should utilize light weights during the first two weeks of this program.
3. To stimulate sufficient muscle growth and development, the weights should be increased progressively at least every two weeks.
4. For effective muscle development every muscle or muscle group should be given a resting and recuperation period of at least 48 hours after every strenuous exercising session if weights were utilized.
5. It is important to execute the various exercises in the same order as listed above.
6. The above program can be adapted for home gymnasiums – we will gladly advise you on request.
7. If time permits it is always a good idea to include some upper body development exercises in your program, in order to achieve a more balanced and overall body development.
It is advisable to go for frequent walks which should include some uphill and down hills sections. Take your daypack with you and carry at least three liters of water or three kilograms with you. This will simulate the conditions you will encounter. As mentioned before, doing a one or two day local hiking trial in your area is not only an excellent way of preparation but also most enjoyable. We have developed an adequate hiking program of least 8 weeks to ensure an adequate level of fitness.
If your local weather conditions do not always permit outdoor activities, you can do part of it on a treadmill and simulate the flat, uphill (inclined) and downhill (declined) sections. Terminate your hiking program at least 4 days before the start of your summit attempt to ensure sufficient rest before the climb.
The above training program will prepare you physically for Kilimanjaro to the extent that you are capable of hiking 100 kilometers in one week. If you are fit enough for this, rest assured that your body will still give you more when you need it. If you follow the guidelines for both the gym training as well as the walking routine, you are definitely ready for Kilimanjaro physically. You can now concentrate on being mentally ready.