Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting Fit And Training For Kilimanjaro

By Casandra Newton

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is not very technically demanding. In fact, it is more of a hike. However, this does not mean that it is easy to do. Only about 40 per cent of the 15 000 people who climb this mountain every year actually make it to the top. If you want to be one of them, you need to do the right training for Kilimanjaro.

Kili, as it's popularly known, is the highest mountain in Africa, with its highest point at 19 341 feet above sea level. Getting to the summit of this point, called Uhuru Peak, is what climbers aim for. However, even the fittest climbers can suffer from the high altitude.

You can reduce the risk of getting altitude sickness by working on cardiovascular fitness along with your strength and endurance training. Walking is the best way to do this. Not only is this what you will actually be doing on Kili, but it is one of the best all-round exercises. It helps your body to cope with less oxygen and also strengthens your leg muscles.

You should begin your exercise regimen at least two months before your planned climb, but the sooner you start, of course, the better. This will give your body time to adapt to the conditions it will have to endure during the climb. Begin slowly and then gradually build up the duration and difficulty of the walks until you can walk about ten miles per day, on hilly terrain and for seven or eight days in a row.

It is a good idea to walk in actual hilly or mountainous country as much as possible instead of doing it on a treadmill in the gym. This will help you to deal with those things, like uncomfortable weather conditions or loose, rocky paths, that you can't simulate in a gym's artificial environment. However, you can supplement this in the gym, especially with treadmill and Stairmaster exercises.

When you train, wear the boots that you're going to wear on Kili. It takes a while for new boots to adapt to the shape of your feet. If you wear shiny new boots on the actual hike, you will probably have to deal with blisters on top of everything.

As your training program progresses, you also need to start exercising with the day pack you will be using. Gradually fill it with more weight until you train with about twenty pounds on your back, because this is the weight you will be carrying up the mountain. Training with your day pack will also help your shoulders and hips to get used to it. This will reduce chafing.

You can supplement your cardiovascular training with exercises like swimming, cycling or running. However, you need to start relaxing your exercise regimen about two weeks before you depart. From about four days before, you should rest so that your will have the energy for the real thing.

You can't go up Kili on your own, but have to do it as part of an organized trek. Most trekking companies have their own tips on training for Kilimanjaro and will be happy to share these with you. You now only have to put on your boots and start walking.

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