Several months ago I booked an epic journey with Kilimanjaro Tours to trek the ‘roof of Africa’. The question was how to prepare for Kilimanjaro, As exciting as it sounded, I had to be truthful with myself. It has been a dream to trek Kili for a good few years now and when I started to turn my dreams into a reality by paying the deposit, my head was still stuck in the clouds. So, it took a month or so for me to start to understand the challenge that awaited me and as soon as I did, my training plan came into action.
I broke the training and preparation down into four sections which were:
• Physical training
• Eating well
Research really comes first in all this. I am usually lastminute with all my holiday plans but knew I couldn’t afford to when it came down to this trek. I began by researching what the best exercise was to prepare your body for the long trek, what foods would benefit your body, what equipment you should invest in and how to prepare for possible altitude sickness whilst on the mountain. Also reading up about Jabs, visas, supplements you can take to promote better acclimatisation were all good elements of effective research in the build-up to the trip.
To get my body physically prepared, I had to plan out my training sessions in advance. Instead of the 3-week rush before a beach holiday/festival, I knew I would really have to invest in some consistent and effective exercise beforehand.
Thanks for a recommendation from a fellow trekker, I started my training pretty simple with the Ultrabreathe respiratory trainer. This was great as you can do it in the comfort of your own home and you see the improvement in your breathing pretty quick. The better my breathing power I thought, the better the chances of me not running out of breath quickly during intense exercise sessions which would speed up the progress in my training overall.
I then planned out what equipment I was going to use at the gym that would help boost my endurance level and prepare the muscles I would be using mainly for the trek. For example a mixture of weights, stretches, stair-master (you will love it by the time you have finished training trust me!), treadmill on an incline and complete body workouts such as the rowing machine were key to my regular workouts. I then complimented this with trail-running; conditioning my legs on uneven surfaces to prevent injury and then building up my cardio simultaneously. However, remember not to push it too hard. Listen to your bodies warning signs if you overdo-it, take it easy for a week or so then work back up to the intensity you were at to avoid injury.
I also found a couple of sessions with my personal trainer quite handy in suggesting great exersizes to help build the strength and condition of areas which I was weakest in. Having a professional assessment of your level of fitness can go along way in your training.
As the thought of altitude sickness really worried me, to be prepared as possible I booked a few sessions in the POD at the altitude centre in London. Although its pricey, its a great way to start the acclimatisation process before you climb. As the highest mountain I have trekked was Mount Snowdon (don’t laugh) I knew I had to test my body to see how it would react to higher altitudes before I hit Tanzanian land. It has been a great help and given me my warning signs so I can then buy medication to help lessen it. The Alti-vit they sell combines quite a few vitamins I was taking already such as Ginkgo Biloba and various vitamin C’s and B’s that helps the body use oxygen more efficiently during exercise.
I underestimated this part hugely. Because I had never been a serious trekker or camper, I literally started with nothing. Not even hiking boots. I didn’t even know about the ‘breaking in’ process. So after doing extensive research and using the essential equipment list on the Kilimanjaro Tours site, I built up my own personal list of things I needed to start buying and other things I could lend from the tour company as I was unlikely to use it again in the near future. It’s important not to over-buy however but remember you have to carry most of this with you. So only buy what is essential and remember you can wash clothes up there too so there’s no need for several changes in outfit.
So the final stage of my preparation was focusing on my diet. I bought a variety energy bars, nuts, protein bars, dried fruits that will keep me energised whilst trekking in the blazing Tanzian heat plus some cheeky snacks such as mini-cheddars which make the snacking a bit more enjoyable. Beforehand, I began juicing every morning and just before the trip cut out alcohol altogether. I made sure I added Kale, spirulina (a super-food in powdered form that can be easily added to juice) and spinach when I blended that all boost red blood-cell production which supports healthy oxygen transportation. You can add various sweet fruits such as strawberries and raspberries to make the taste a bit more palatable but you will often find that once you start the juicing craze, its hard to stop! I also upped my carb intake to help provide me with longer lasting energy during my workouts so topped up on the oats, bananas, berries, yoghurts and more!
Written By Melissa Hudson Climbing Kilimanjaro – 4th September 2014 – 11th September 2014