Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is physically challenging, therefore you must prepare yourself accordingly
with a Kilimanjaro training program. It goes without saying, strong and well conditioned legs make it
easier to walk uphill and downhill for sustained periods of time. And this is where aerobic fitness allows
the body to function efficiently with less oxygen. When your body is fit, it will be able to withstand the
stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping. Finally, a positive mental attitude can work wonders
for you when fatigue and doubt sets in.
If you’ve ever wondered how hard it is to climb Kilimanjaro, then you might find it a little bit comforting
to learn that some people don’t train much and fair pretty well, while others engage in a disciplined
training program and succumb to the altitude in just a few days. We’ve heard marathon runners confess
that climbing Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Well, the best advice we can give is
to train adequately. You’ll want to get yourself in the best possible shape for hiking. The mountain is a
big unknown, and you won’t know with certainty how your body will react to the challenge until you are
Hiking is the best exercise for preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It is not necessary to indulge in
extensive cross-training programs featuring hiking, running, biking, swimming and weight training. Such
programs are unnecessary. The best and perhaps only exercise you need to do is to hike. After all, that is
what you will be doing on the mountain. Ideally, hiking on hills or mountains will simulate ascending
Mount Kilimanjaro. If you don’t have access to trails, you can train very productively on a stair master
machine at the gym. If you have no access to trails or a gym, then try to walk as much as possible, with
perhaps extended walks on the weekends.
Training for climbing Kilimanjaro should begin at least two months prior to your departure. And if you
have never hiked before, it is recommended that you space your training in shorter time intervals, taking
it in a slower pace and without a weight in your back, and then gradually increase the hiking and the
weight as your fitness level improves. Remember that on Mount Kilimanjaro, you will walk slowly for
prolonged periods, and carry probably no more than 20 lbs in your backpack. Therefore, ideally, increase
your time intervals and distance in training. Try to train for an hour a day three times a week. Once
you’re able to hike four to six hours, with perhaps moderate elevation changes (~1,000 ft/305 m) while
carrying a 20 lb backpack; or if you can climb a StairMaster for 1-2 hours, at 30 steps per minute while
carrying a 20 lb pack, then you’re probably ready for the Kilimanjaro climb.
But the best way to go about training is to do your longest and hardest workouts two to four weeks
before your departure, because you’ll want to taper off your training in the last two weeks, so that in
the final days, you can grab some rest so that your body has time to recover before the actual climb.
Supplementing the walking and hiking with running and cycling will also help to increase your aerobic
It is imperative, therefore, that during Kilimanjaro training, you wear the boots and carry the backpack
you intend to carry—for two reasons: your boots want to be sufficiently broken-in to prevent blisters;
and your shoulders, back and hips need to get used to the points of contact and weight, in order to
minimize chafing and soreness.
And last but not least, physical training is just one part of getting in shape. If you lead an unhealthy
lifestyle, try to use the climb to motivate you to change. Eat more fruit and vegetable. Reduce your red
meat consumption. Don’t drink or smoke. And try to get eight hours of sleep per night.