Training for Kilimanjaro

Last week, I summited Mount Kilimanjaro with some Marine Corps buddies.  The journey to Africa’s tallest peak took 7 days and brought us up to 19,341 feet of elevation.  Previously, the highest I had been was around 15k feet so this was a big step up.  To add to the challenge, being the dumb Marines we are, we finished the trip 2 days early.  We finished our summit push in 6 hours, well ahead of the usual 8-10 hours the guide said it takes.

That is the end of anything I can brag about.  Speed was not our friend.  This hike was beyond tough.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  There is a noticeable soul-leaving-the-body feeling that comes with the exertion and hypoxia.  I trained hard for this and I think I needed absolutely everything I got out of that training in order to summit this mountain the way we did.  

Below is a breakdown of what I did one month prior to this trip to get ready.  I had from the end of August to the end of September to drop the weight I gained during my honeymoon, ramp up my single leg strength, and ramp up my cardio capacity.  While I had put on about 5lbs on my honeymoon, I was otherwise building on progress from years of strength training and rucking/hiking regularly all year.  I’m highlighting the last month of training but I would NOT recommend training for only a month for something like this.

Also of note: By sheer coincidence, one of our awesome members Sarah hiked Kilimanjaro roughly the same time I was there.  I even spotted her once!  She and her group did awesome and she texted me to say “I got to this amazing gym that keeps me in great shape so hiking Kilimanjaro was a piece of cake!”  It is truly a testament to how badass she is that she called it a piece of cake!  The below prep is what I did but when you see Sarah, congratulate her and ask her what she did.

30 Days to Kilimanjaro:

  1. Strength train 3 days per week.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I lift.  No excuses.  Each workout was full body and included at least one push, pull, squat, hinge, and core strengthening movement.  I put extra energy in my single leg lifts.  Single leg strength is a staple of any of our programs.  I kicked those lifts into high gear before this trip because guess what hiking is?  Weighted single leg step ups until there isn’t any mountain left.  Overloading my legs in the gym meant I had plenty of power to charge up steep inclines on the mountain, even when tired.

  2. No booze, no sugar.  I lost just shy of 10lbs in September.  Half of that weight was what I gained during my honeymoon.  The other half just left me a little leaner and lighter for the mountain, which is what I wanted.  Losing weight while drinking and having processed sugar is darn near impossible.  Eliminating those things for a set period of time is the cheat code.  You reduce empty calorie consumption, reduce cravings, reduce inflammation, and improve recovery.  I felt great even with an aggressive workout routine and I dropped the weight I wanted to.  Wins across the board!

  3. Ruck 60 minutes 4 days per week.  It’s no shocker that getting some miles in with some weight on my back would prepare me well for Kilimanjaro.  Doing these rucks also enabled me to get into “no rest day” mode.  By removing the option of taking a day off, I cleared my mind to just focus on getting my workouts done.  These rucks were at an intensity that was closer to active recovery between hard lifting sessions.

  4. Go on harder hikes whenever possible.  On the weekends when I had time I’d go on a nice steep hike in the mountains.  The White Mountains of NH are the ultimate proving grounds.  There is physical fitness and then there is physical toughness.  You’ll get both in the Whites.  They have never failed to get me ready for an adventure.

  5. Drink 1 gallon of water a day.  I wrote about this in a previous article you can check out HERE.  In so many words, it was good for my joints, kept me from feeling hungry, helped me lose weight, and improved my daily energy.  It also got my body used to aggressive hydration, which is what I had to do on the mountain to prevent altitude sickness.  I drank around 2 gallons of water every day on the mountain.  It sounds nuts.  It was nuts.  Yet, every time I started to get a headache, drinking water quickly made it go away.

  6. Stress management and daily planning.  During this month I did not have a lot of spare time.  I had training demands, other preparations for the trip, and a mountain of work to do before I left.  To stay on track, I started using a handwritten daily planner.  In the evening, I would lay out the following day, blocking off my appointments, time for specific work tasks, my workouts, my meals, and quality time with Abby.  I did not allocate time to mindlessly scroll because I’m stressed or time to zone out in front of the TV streaming something stupid.  It’s such a silly, simple thing but the daily planner helped me focus on what is important, get everything done with less stress, de-prioritize the stupid stuff that isn’t worth my time, and get better sleep.

In so many words, what did I do to drop some weight and get ready for Kili?  Basically, I followed my own advice and tried to be my best client.  No secrets.  Half of this was what we do during our Fall and New Year PROGRAM.

When you’re ready to talk with a personal trainer about what mountain you want to get ready for, fill out the form on the top or bottom of this page and I will take care of the rest : ) 


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