In the coming months, I’ll be realizing a decades old dream of finally traveling to Tanzania to trek and summit Mount Kilimanjaro and to be honest, I still can’t believe I’m going (even though I have my plane tickets and travel visa in hand). This is just one of those mega trips that on one hand, feels so personal and epic while on the other hand, is a path that so many people before me have taken. So while the trip itself isn’t unique, I expect that the personal experience and what I take away from this voyage will be.
If you’re planning to trek Kilimanjaro, you’ll quickly realize that it takes quite a bit of planning and there are plenty of guides and websites dedicated to choosing the right gear to bring along. You need to literally plan everything from your head to your toes and that includes getting in shape for the main event. And no, running around from store to store does not count!
Physically, I’m already in decent shape without being “ripped”. I cycle regularly, walk, and throw in some yoga from time to time. And of course, I consistently keep my own Tiny Workouts in mind in order to keep sedentary tendencies at bay. That said. having never done a trek as demanding as Kilimanjaro before (5 days in Yosemite will not even compare), preparation will require some extra conditioning and training, especially where legs and lung capacity are concerned.
During the year, I didn’t change much in regards to my regular regimen but I did kick things up notch in these past 2 months leading up to the trek. This is what I’ve been doing to prepare for Kilimanjaro:
We all know that cycling is a great way to hone your cardio as well as to build up your quads. For something intense like trekking Kilimanjaro, you need to be fit overall, and while doing many hikes in preparation is a good thing, there’s nothing wrong with mixing it up and throwing in some cycling. What type of cycling you ask? I’ve mainly been focusing on slow, steady hill climbing and this is all within the city. Distance cycling is fine, but we need to build our quads while also practicing our breathing. I prefer city cycling because it includes many stops and starts. If you’re a city cyclist, I recommend following the rules and actually stopping at stop signs and lights. This will force you to use your core muscles to stop, balance, and push off again from zero, pick up speed, and stop again. In fact, if you want to take it a step further, check out the Oxygen Advantage and how you can work in breathing as a way to simulate altitude training:
The obvious training you will want to do to prepare for Kili is hiking. Living relatively close to sea level, and with a barely 700 foot mountain nearby, I’ve got only one choice: Put about 20 pounds of weight in my day pack, throw on my hiking boots, and hike up and down that 700 foot hill numerous times. This is also a great way to test out your gear and make sure your day pack is comfortable and that your feet feel good in those boots.
If you’ve been around this website before, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of yoga for building up strength and to balance out my breathing. I will always trun to yoga for two things: to build up strength and to stretch out and relax from other intense exercise. Following a yoga sequence can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Do it slow, and do it with focus. It’s a great way to build strength while bringing you back the focus of the goal at hand.
Squats in the morning, squats in the evening, squats while brushing my teeth. You can incorporate squats just about anywhere and they will help you build strength into your quads while bringing stability and strength to the muscles in your hips and knees. I’ve discussed this in my Early Morning Tiny Workouts article and believe me, it doesn’t take much to add that extra workout insurance to your day.