How to Train for Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro Training

Training for Kilimanjaro

“How are you training for Kilimanjaro ?” – This is the most common question I get asked…the other one being – “Are you ready ?” And my answer to my friends – “I am ready baby!”.

However deep within, I am unsure. What will it be like hiking 7 days in a row ? How does one train for high altitude hikes? After a lot of research online and speaking to folks who have done it before – the answer unanimously has been – you can’t! You cannot simulate high altitude training at low altitudes! It’s just not the same. But there are some things that can help.

The team has been practicing 3 basic things: Cardio & Stretches, Breathing Practice, Sleeping Preparation.

Cardio – On average, we will be hiking for 7 hours a day. On Summit day, its 14 hours – 7 up and 7 down. So getting cardio ready is critical to successfully summiting the mountain. The Paagals have clocked on average 20 miles/week for the last 3 months. This has been in the form of running on the treadmill, incline climb on the treadmill, stepper machine, eliptical, biking, swimming and skiing. While a steady 6 mile/hr pace is critical, some of us tried to take it a notch higher – 7 to 8 mile/hour. This helps to increase VO2 Max. To be able to run longer, take each breath deeply to fill your lungs completely, and keep your chest expanded while running.

Stretches – Its critical to stretch and warm up before and after the workout. Stretching the hamstrings and calves is what I find most critical.

Breathing – Deep Breathing is key for acclimatization and during hikes. At high altitudes, the oxygen content during each breath will be 40% less than sea-level breathing. So deep and long breaths on a consistent basis is essential. The goal is to saturate oxygen level in our bodies and keep the heart rate low. On average, I do at least 20 minutes of deep breathing practice daily.

Lying down to sleep – Imagine sleeping without the comfort of your pillow top mattress for 5 nights in a row. Most nights, the temperature will be below freezing with no campfires! Imagine sleeping on the back in a mummy shaped sleeping bag! For me, this will be the hardest thing. So what am I doing ? – I am practicing sleeping on the floor! To ensure that my back gets adequate support, I tuck a pillow under my knees and a thin pillow under my head. Ideally, use 2 pillows – one on each side of your hands. I will be sleeping on the floor every other night until I leave for Africa!

In summary, here’s what my daily practice looks like:

1. Warm up  – 5 min.

2. 5 mile run – 50 min on treadmill.

3. Cool off – stretch legs, back – 10 min – ideally in a steam room.

4. Deep Breathing – 20 min. ( Early morning/late night)

— The Countdown continues – 6 days to go!

4 thoughts on “How to Train for Kilimanjaro?

  1. Aditya Maheshwary

    Wow ! Good luck to all the members of team pagal. I personally know 3 of the 5 pagals and can vouch that they are indeed “PAGAL” !
    -Aditya

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