Kilimanjaro Fitness

A short note on preparing for climbing Kilimanjaro!


Climbing Kilimanjaro is a serious undertaking that requires good levels of fitness and endurance. That said, it is an achievable challenge for most people armed with the correct mind-set and ample preparation time.           

The secret to longevity is muscle mass so good preparation for this climb will make the expedition itself more enjoyable and could help you to live longer!                        

Most people will need to train specifically for climbing Kilimanjaro for at least three to four months. Climbing, like horse riding requires specific muscle groups so we need to activate them in advance. Mostly by going or simulating going ‘UP’.                       

Ultimately the goal is to be able to hike uphill for 6-8 hours a day on 7 consecutive days so there is no substitute for lots of walking and or running.                        

The more ‘miles in the legs’ the better, ideally with some weight on your back – during the climb itself you will carry your daypack and c. 3kg of weight – water, waterproofs, snack bars etc.                        

During your training, you should progressively ramp up your hike time, distance, and elevation gain (at roughly 10% per week) to safely and effectively build your trekking-specific conditioning and avoid fatigue and injury.                        

Aim for one one longer hike, walk or run per week. As you roll into the second half of the program then it is advisable to add in ‘back to backs’ – i.e. long hikes on 2 consecutive days.                        

And ideally try to plan 1 or 2, day climbs in the final month also – in the UK, Ben Nevis and Snowdon are great mountains to hone your fitness (and test your kit on). These are c. 1000 m of elevation gain – in the US and Central / South America there are more to choose from.

Training plans are different for everyone – dependent on age, fitness and time available. Plan for 3 – 4 sessions a week plus the longer hike on Sundays. 

There are lots of hacks. If you regularly commute to work for example – try switching to walking in! The 3 – 4 sessions should be a mix of cardio and core / strength training. The more you can carry the weighted rucksack the better. Cardio can be HIIT sessions like Barry’s Bootcamp or Spin Class or even on the Indoor Rower / Versa Climber. Obviously, time on the stair climber or the treadmill on incline is very good. 

The focus is on endurance so higher volume at lower threshold is better preparation. Do not over think the training. The more you can do the better. Similarly, do not do too much and risk injuring yourself. 3 months is a lot of time to prepare. 

Just keep moving.. Keep progressing..