Week of January 12-18, 1996
Training for Mt. Kilimanjaro
Q: I'm planning on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1996. What can I do to minimize the chance that I'll have problems with the altitude?
A: For best results, we recommend starting your pre-trip training about three to four months before the trek. Begin gradually by hiking, running, or biking on a regular basis to improve your overall level of fitness and aerobic capacity. Indoor alternatives for building leg muscles are stair machines and stationary bikes. Better yet, if you have access to high-altitude mountains, try to get in some fairly frequent climbs as the trip approaches. (You're an East Coaster, Art, but don't worry. Even 4,000-footers are better than nothing.) People who live in the flatlands should be sure to increase the length and severity of their regimens to compensate for low-altitude training.
A word of warning, though, before you get caught up in an ambitious training program: Be careful not to overstrain yourself in the weeks immediately prior to the climb. Finally, even if you arrive at Kilimanjaro's base camp in phenomenal physical condition, it's impossible to predict how you'll adapt to the altitude. Most people--even world-class athletes--feel some effects, such as headaches and nausea. It's a good idea, then, to pace yourself at a comfortable speed and drink plenty of water during the ascent. You may also want to ask your doctor about Diamox (Acetazolamide), a prescriptive drug recommended by some experts for relieving the mild symptoms of altitude sickness. If you're signing on with an outfitter, we suggest contacting them for additional pre-trip preparations.