The #1 Beginner’s Guide To Fitness Training For Kilimanjaro Blog

For the most part, you don’t need any fancy training since Kilimanjaro isn’t really a technical climb. Extensive cardio exercises and high altitude conditioning should have you prepared to reach the mountain’s summit with ease. That said, the challenge should not be taken lightly because an estimated 60% of hikers who climb the African mountain reach its peak. The trick here is to simulate your overall Kilimanjaro experience back home. This requires aerobics training, strength training, altitude simulation and working on your mobility. Being physically prepared will not only make for an easier summit ascent but it will also likely contribute to a much more enjoyable hiking experience.

Since Kilimanjaro hiking is a sport-specific activity, most of your preparation will be centered around uphill progressive training and altitude conditioning. This means you should set aside at least 2 months, leading up to your trek, in order to gradually develop cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and strength. Depending on your level of fitness and hiking experience, establishing physical stamina and mental determination should come easy for some compared to others attempting the hike. This is not to deter anyone planning this undertaking, but to mentally prepare you for the discipline required to condition your body and mind prior to your Kilimanjaro trek.


Man standing on rocks during happy with his Kilimanjaro hike
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How To Prepare For Kilimanjaro?

  • Training for Kilimanjaro’s altitude requires ajusting anywhere between 3,000-3,500m, if you’re a beginner hiking one of the long routes, and about 4,700m, as an experienced mountaineer opting for a shorter trail. Otherwise if you do not have easy access to mountains around your area, you could also engage in breathing exercises such as pressure breathing exercises, belly breathing exercises, breath-holding drills. These options will condition your body to better anticipate and adjust to higher elevation gains while on Kilimanajro.
  • Building physical endurance for Kilimanjaro requires extensive cardiovascular exercises such as trail running and light strength training workouts as simple as lunges with a weighted backpack. Training should be conducted outdoors because the pressure exerted on your knees and ankles differ significantly when training on uneven ground compared to flat surfaces. This will prevent unnecessary injuries such as sprained ankles from occurring when hiking Kilimanajro.
🚴‍♂️ Aerobics Training 🏋 Strength Training 🤸‍♀️ Stretching⛰ Hiking Sessions🌡Altitude Training
2x Per Week 2x Per Week 4x Per Week1x Per Week4x Per Week
📅 Weeks 1-25min Warm-up
30min Cardio
5min Cool-down
Total = 40min
5min Warm-up
45min Workout
5min Cool-down
Total = 55min

Weight: Body
Stretch for 5-10min
before & after training.

Hold each stretching
position for 60 seconds.

Alternative = Yoga
Distance 10km

Elevation Gain 155m
Engage in 3 different
breathing exercises
for altitude training.
2x Per Week 2x Per Week 4x Per Week1x Per Week1x
🗓 Weeks 3-45min Warm-up
40min Cardio
5min Cool-down
Total = 50min
5min Warm-up
45min Workout
5min Cool-down
Total = 55min

Weight: 10kg
Stretch for 5-10min
before & after training.

Hold each stretching
position for 60 seconds.

Alternative = Yoga
Distance 13km

Elevation Gain 300m
Hike a mountain that
sits at 3,000m-4,700m
in elevation.
2x Per Week2x Per Week4x Per Week1x Per Week4x Per Week
📅 Weeks 5-65min Warm-up
50min Cardio
5min Cool-down
Total = 60min
5min Warm-up
45min Workout
5min Cool-down
Total = 55min

Weight: 15kg
Stretch for 5-10min
before & after training.

Hold each stretching
position for 60 seconds.


Alternative = Yoga
Distance 16km

Elevation Gain 600m
Engage in 3 different
breathing exercises
for altitude training.
2x Per Week2x Per Week4x Per Week1x Per Week4x Per Week
🗓 Weeks 7-85min Warm-up
50min Cardio
5min Cool-down
Total = 60min
5min Warm-up
45min Workout
5min Cool-down
Total = 55min

Weight: 15kg
Stretch for 5-10min
before & after training.

Hold each stretching
Position for 60 seconds.


Alternative = Yoga
Distance 20km

Elevation Gain 1,000m
Hike a mountain that
sits at 3,000m-4,700m
in elevation.

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Step 1. Conduct A Kilimanjaro Fitness Test

Your test to fitness is the ability to travel at a pace of 400 vertical meters per hour with a 10kg pack weight. Eventhough this may not be achieved on the first go around, you can slowly build to this point over time. We suggest that you spend at least 2 months of your overall training engaging in regular hikes, in addition to building strength. This will not only be an excellent way for physical preparation, but also an enjoyable means to prepare yourself mentally.


6 people hiking the lemosho route
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Step 2. Start Preparing To Climb Kilimanjaro’s Altitude

Hiking at high altitudes is the best and most effective way to prepare your heart and lungs for what’s to come when you hike Kilimanjaro. If you are fortunate to live at or near high elevations, take advantage of the hikes in your area. Book a weekend climb on a mountain in your vicinity, or drive up to the highest elevation possible and spend the afternoon walking around in reduced oxygen. If you do not have access to the options above, what you can also do to adjust before Kilimanajro is:

Hike Mount Meru

Mount Meru sits at a height of 4,566m and is easily accessible from Arusha town. Hikers that attempt Mount Meru beforehand are often well conditioned and perform exceptionally well when they hike Kilimanjaro. The trip takes 3-4 days to complete and requires an additional budget. If you’re pressed for time or find yourself on a tight budget, you could always engage in breathing exercises at home.

Simulate High Altitudes

Unlike altitude simulator masks or altitude simulator tents, breathing exercises are a great way to simulate higher altitude conditions. Breathing exercises will train your lungs to make the most of the limited oxygen at higher altitudes and better prepare your body to cope with the side effects of taking in less oxygen. Three breathing exercises that are great for Kilimanjaro training are belly breathing, pressure breathing, and breath-holding drills.

  • Belly breathing is what we do when we are babies. In order to re-acclimate yourself to this type of inhalation, it takes some practice. Spend 5 to 10 minutes practicing this type of breathing each day until it becomes natural, especially right before undertaking physical activity. To do so, lie down on your back with bent knees; place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly; and upon inhaling, instead of taking the air towards your chest, take it towards your stomach. This allows more oxygen to be pumped through the body and prevents the buildup of cramp-causing lactic acids.
  • Once you’ve mastered the belly breathing exercise, engage in pressure breathing by adding resistance to your exhalation. This is done by pursing your lips and exhaling forcefully outward. This helps combat the decrease in atmospheric pressure when you’re at high altitudes. Again, spend 5 to 10 minutes practicing this type of breathing each day until it becomes natural.
  • Breath-holding drills are another technique that can help you cope with high altitudes. A simple way to start is by inhaling to your maximum capacity, then holding for 3 counts, exhaling fully, and slowly increasing the counts as you progress. However this should be practiced with an appropriate amount of caution.

Woman standing on a rock during the best time to hike Kilimanjaro
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Step 3. Execute The Following Kilimanjaro Workout Plan

Hiking up and down hills with a 10kg weighted pack is by far the best training you can do for Kilimanjaro. Note that this is not a lifestyle training plan where you burn fat and develop toned muscles, but routine exercises that are bound to develop endurance and strength required to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Just remember to wear your trekking gear whenever you’re in training so you get a good feel of what’s to come on the mountain. Especially if you need to break in new boots.

Remember that training is as much about caring for your body as it is about targeting certain muscles or increasing endurance. Push yourself, but respect your body’s limits and raise the intensity of your workouts responsibly. Always warm up before an exercise and always stretch your muscles afterward.

Stretching & Warm Ups

Make sure to always warm up the muscles with light exercises such as hip rotations, leg swings, knee to chest and knee circles before beginning strength training or targetted aerobic activity. While you’re at it, you should also include short stretches in-between and after every workout. This helps avoid muscle strains, pulls or even worse, a tear! There’s no point in having to sit out a week or two recovering from a muscle injury just because you skipped a five-minute warm-up at the beginning of your daily training.

Hiking Up & Down

Start light by building up your hiking endurance with a 3 hour hike week. Once this gets comfortable, gradually increase the amount of hiking hours until you can easily hike up to 8 hours per week. This will help develop all the muscle groups that are regularly engaged on Kilimanjaro hikes such as your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hips. Gradually increasing the duration of your walks will not only build your stamina before the hike, but it will also assist in simulating long distances you’ll likely cover on Kilimanjaro. The target of this training should cover 1,000m ascents per day. If the target seems unapproachable, start with smaller targets such as 400m ascents and gradually move toward the 1,000m mark. Again, increase the intensity of your workout with an ounce of caution.

Aerobic Training For Kilimanjaro

Every hiker should engage in regular jogs, runs, or even cycles when preparing for Kilimanjaro. These are effective exercises because they’ll help improve your oxygen flow and also increase your maximum oxygen intake on the mountain. A good hour every 4 days per week should be enough training to get you in great shape for your Kilimanjaro hike. Preferably exercise in the outdoors because the pressure exerted on your knees and ankles differ significantly when training on uneven ground compared to flat surfaces. This will prevent unnecessary injuries such as sprained ankles from occurring during your Kilimanjaro trek.

Strength Training For Kilimanjaro

Set aside 2 sessions a week for lunges, crunches and squat workouts. These exercises will strengthen your back, legs and core muscles. Remember you’ll be hiking up to 8 hours at a time, so your body will require a strong core for proper coordination, as well as strong leg and back muscles in order to sustain a 5 to 9 day Kilimanjaro hike. These muscles don’t require equipment and can be conditioned at home, gym or a nearby park. As the exercises get easier, don’t forget to cautiously increase the workout intensity by incorporating additional weight to your routine.


Kilimanjaro Hiking Equipment
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Step 4. Rest & Mentally Prepare For The Climb

Resting 2 days a week allows your muscles to recover and build from the wear and tear of your weekly exercises. This is what makes your training progressively easier over time. While you’re at it, fuel your body with plenty of carbs, protein, healthy fats and loads of fluids in order to get the energy required to keep moving.

Thinking in little increments is the greatest approach to mentally prepare yourself for Kilimanjaro. Every little goal you complete reinforces training patterns and boosts your work ethic. This will in turn help maintain discipline on Mount Kilimanjaro because, instead of focusing on the huge summit finish, you’ll concentrate on the tiny victories that you’ll encounter on a regular basis. Doing so will encourage perseverance and deter you from giving up on yourself.


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