Monday, 30 November 2015

How not to (and how to) train for climbing Kilimanjaro

I have yet to find a good way of preparing myself to tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am due to climb Kilimanjaro again in January 2016 and I have not yet surprised myself by any drastic behavioural change in my training schedule. Avoiding what I have done, and concentrating on what I failed to do, should provide guidance to a better way of training for Kilimanjaro.

Cigarette smoking

Once in a while, I smoke a cigarette. That in itself is the worst thing for preparing to climb Kilimanjaro. The trouble begins when one cigarette becomes a few, and before long it becomes a whole packet. My cigarette craving normally lasts for a few weeks and I have always possessed the will-power to quit smoking. This time it took a little bit longer and stretched to a few months. Quitting became a formidable challenge.

Cigarette smoking and mountaineering is not a good combination. The higher one climbs the less oxygen is available in any single breadth, and I felt when breathing that I was gasping for enough oxygen at the height of my smoking spree - even without the endurance of mountain climbing.
Photo credit: Philippa Willits
One study reports that smoking at high altitudes can impair acclimatization, and if inadequate acclimatization produces mountain sickness then a pleasant trek could very well become a nightmare. Ideally, a climb should be enjoyed. It should not be an agonizing experience.

But I do not need findings of medical studies to realize that smoking has far more detrimental effects to the body than merely messing up an enjoyable climb.

If you need suggestions on how to quit smoking read this excellent article:

Length of training

I always suggest to first-time climbers to devote at least three months of training prior to climbing Kilimanjaro. I admit I find it easier to prescribe this "medicine" then to take some yourself. So, as has become my custom now, I have not devoted enough time to any serious training. I plan to begin within the next hour and I hope I will report back about that great leap of willpower in the next post.

Mountain biking only

I have concentrated most of my training around cycling on my mountain bike. From my experience, a three-part well-rounded training regime requires a combination of building:

  • lower body strength (the bike serves this), 
  • upper body strength exercises (I hardly do these), and 
  • a good dose of exercises that builds cardiovascular fitness (these I rarely do, although cycling provides some benefit)

My problem is that I travel regularly and it is only when at home that I can train on the bike. Professional trainers would offer the best advice to meet the objectives that I mention.

On Google Search one can find a lot of useful information on these three areas:
  • Lower body exercises
  • Upper body exercises
  • Cardiovascular exercises

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