thomson staffers climbing kilimanjaroHeather and Carolyn are getting ready for their 19,341-foot trek up Mount Kilimanjaro


Meet Carolyn and Heather, the Thomson staffers hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in October. With a “just do it” mindset from one and a “I’ll prove you wrong” attitude from the other, the pair may be motivated in different ways, but have come together to experience this bucket-list achievement. Arriving in Tanzania on October 19, we’ve asked them to share a variety of helpful workout tips and preparation tricks for their 19,341-foot ascent to the Uhuru Peak.

Q: Have you ever hiked a mountain before?

  • Carolyn: “Up until last Saturday, no, never. But I just climbed a small mountain — Mount Hale in New Hampshire [approximately 4,000 feet].”
  • Heather: “Yes. I’ve done five high altitude, multiday treks in Peru on separate routes and I’ve hiked all over New England.”

training hike for kilimanjaroCarolyn on a training hike with her dad on Mount Hale

heather at top of machu picchuHeather and her husband at the summit of Machu Picchu


Q: When did you start your Kilimanjaro training?

  • Carolyn: “I started trying to get myself in shape and break in my hiking boots in April, but I started my formal training in July. I’m working with Marcus from Fit for Trips, who put together a personalized plan for me ­– for example, ‘this is what you do on Tuesdays, this is what you do on Wednesdays, etc.'”
  • Heather: “I always do a lot of hiking, running and cycling. I’m always outside. But in August, I started taking CrossFit classes. Everything I do is cardio and legs, so I had to get ready for everything else…Now, I’ve been doing lighter weights and more repetition. That’s what we advise for Kili, low weights and more repetition.”
hiking boots for mt kilimanjaro


heather fat bike cyclingHeather (right) on a mountain biking trip in Vermont


Q: Can you give us an idea of what’s on your workout schedule lately?

  • Carolyn: “Lately, being in the peak of training, my weekly workouts include ‘ascending repeats:’ going to the top of a hill with an incline, walking down for one or two minutes, then running back up the hill; I do that at least 10 times. I’m also doing a lot of interval training: I work out on the stair stepper for a few minutes, then I get off and do crunches for a minute and a half, then do mountain climbers for a minute and a half. So, there’s a core period for every rest period. I hike on Saturdays and do the steps at Harvard Stadium on Sundays.”
  • Heather: “I have been waking up at 5:30 a.m. twice a week to do 1-hour CrossFit classes and I see a personal trainer once a week. Then on the weekends, I’m mountain biking, hiking or doing something active.”

thomson staffers on kilimanjaro training hikeHeather on a training hike with Thomson staffer Angela


Q: What has been the hardest part so far?

  • Carolyn: “Honestly, it’s not even the physical stuff, it’s been a big mental challenge. I’m someone whose mental, physical and emotional recharging comes from just sitting on the couch, relaxing. So, having to go home after an eight-hour day and two hours of commuting and still have the mental fortitude to go out to the hill and do all of that; getting in that mental attitude has been a huge shift for me. I’ve had to change my thinking into ‘this can be my mental recharge.’”

harvard stadium stairsTraining at dusk on the Harvard Stadium stairs in Cambridge


Q: What is keeping you inspired as you train?

  • Carolyn: “I’ve always been the type of person that just decides they want to do something and sets a goal for themselves; I take real pride in doing something that nobody thought I could do. A few years ago, I randomly signed up for a 10K and I did it! I felt really good about it. It feels good to be able to say you did something when you thought you’d never be able to. I’ve always lived by the quote, ‘if you want to tell interesting stories, you have to live an interesting life.’ And it doesn’t get more interesting than climbing Kilimanjaro.”
  • Heather: “I just want to get to the top of the mountain! I want to say that I climbed 19,341 feet. I love having something to train for – it keeps me moving.”

mount kilimanjaro summit signThe summit of Mount Kilimanjaro


Q: Any advice for the training process or just getting ready in general?

  • Carolyn: “This is coming from someone who had no workout plan before and really didn’t do anything physical; it’s a mind shift that you have to get used to. The physical stuff can be overcome, with enough training, you can get to the point that you need to be at. I think it’s really easy for people to put their workouts off and to say ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll do it tomorrow.’ But you have to keep with it and get to it. Especially if it’s something you’re not used to.”
  • Heather: “Listen to your body and work your way up to your goals. Doing too much too soon can cause an injury and jeopardize your chance of summiting.”

What could possibly be sweeter than reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro? Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, plus a safari adventure to top it off. Thomson staffer, Heather will be trading in her hiking boots and fleece for some sunglasses and a t-shirt for her first safari with Thomson. Heather says she’s really looking forward to a bit of downtime after an active week of trekking and is excited to see an abundance of wildlife in their natural habitats. The cherry on top of her two-week Tanzanian adventure? A hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at dawn. Picture perfect!