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Detailed training plans

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By Turtle - Posted on 28 September 2008

The Kilimanjaro fitness training plan officially endorsed by KiliTrekker.Com is a pretty simple one: Walk. Lots. Preferably hills. However we realize that some (many?) people find exercise and training distasteful, and will find all kinds of creative reasons to avoid or delay doing it. In these cases, a more structured training plan is called for. In this post I'm going to outline what I did to prepare for Kilimanjaro, as well as reviewing some of the other training schedules out there on the web.

Before you start your training, you should try to evaluate your fitness. We've pulled together some fitness tests and guidelines for Kilimanjaro climbers.

Turtle's Kilimanjaro Training Schedule

Monday: walk 30 minutes at lunchtime, plus run about 5 km (25 minutes or so) in the evening
Tuesday: walk 30 minutes at lunchtime, plus 30 minutes in the evening
Wednesday: walk 30 minutes at lunchtime
Thursday: walk 30 minutes at lunchtime, plus run about 5 km (25 minutes or so) in the evening
Friday: walk 30 minutes at lunchtime, plus 30 minutes in the evening
Saturday: hike 2-4 hours in hilly terrain
Sunday: rest

Well, it wasn't really as exact as that... things got shifted around depending on the weather and other commitments, but you get the general idea. I'll say I did this for 3-4 months prior to my Kilimanjaro climb, but really it's more a continuation of the exercise I had been doing previously. My wife followed a reduced version of this plan, with maybe half as much running and walking on the weekdays.

For the weekend day hikes, we sometimes did 2 or 3 laps on a steep local hiking trail (Lusk Falls trail in Gatineau Park, Quebec, Canada in case you're interested), or else a longer loop in the same park. We also did one long day hike in the Adirondack Mountains of New York: Adirondak Loj to Algonquin Peak with return via Avalanche Pass, around 20 km (12 miles) with 900 m (3000 feet) of elevation gain with some very steep and rough trails. My wife and I both found this day hike much tougher than any of our days on Kilimanjaro!

How did it work out on the mountain? I felt that I was physically very well prepared for Kilimanjaro, and didn't have any problems with the climb. My wife also made it without problems, although she felt that she was pretty much at her limit on summit day.

Other Kilimanjaro Training Plans

Destination Africa and Encounter Tanzania give very similar training schedules on their websites. They include a gym portion, with leg and abdominal exercises, and a walking portion. The walking portion starts with about 3 and a half hours per week (spread over three days), ramping up over an 8 week period to about 5 hours a week. The walking portion includes 3 minutes of walking "on heels lifting toes", and 4 minutes "on toes lifting heels" for lower leg development. I have to admit I never thought to include these particular exercises in my own training!

Tribe Safari also suggests a Kilimanjaro fitness program combining gym training with walking. Their walking program follows an 8 week schedule starting with 11 km in week 1, ramping to a peak of 60 km (over 3 days) in week 6, and then tapering slightly in the final 2 weeks. This is in addition to 4 weekly gym workouts (including cycling, stair climber, treadmill, leg and back exercises, situps). If you can actually find the time and motiviation to do all this, you will be in fantastic shape for Kilimanjaro!

Good Earth Tours have a gym plus walking training plan that's similar to Tribe Safari, but a bit more moderate. Their 8 week plan peaks at 10 km/day for 3 days in week 6, then tapers to nothing for the 8th and final week before the climb.

Whatever kind of training plan you decide to follow, make sure that you don't leave it to the last minute. Try to start training at least 2-3 months before your climb, and taper off in the last week or so before departure to make sure you're adequately rested. If you're not in the habit of regular exercise, start off slowly (and as early as possible) and gradually ramp up the duration and intensity over the weeks to avoid injury.

Turtle says "pole pole"