How does a non-climber prepare for the mountain trek of a lifetime? Erin, the next Thomson staffer scheduled to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, is a bit of a trekking novice.
“I haven’t hiked or camped since I was in girl scouts!” she laughed.
After being motivated by the many Thomson guests who have summited the highest peak in Africa (Thomson has a 98% summit success rate), Erin is excited to follow in their footsteps and embark on her own life-changing adventure.
“Talking to staff and guests who have had such amazing experiences really gave me the push I needed,” she said. “I set out to climb in a couple of months, and I can’t wait!”
While you don’t need previous climbing experience or extensive training to climb Kilimanjaro, it’s a good idea to prepare so you have the best chance at summit success. Here’s what Erin is doing to prep for her trek.
As a beginner to the world of trekking, Erin immediately started working with personal trainer Marcus Shapiro from Fit For Trips, an online fitness program designed to prepare people for adventure travel. Together, they mapped out a personalized wellness regimen that took into account fitness level, lifestyle, and time to dedicate to exercise. The workouts combine cardio and strength training, and focus predominantly on strengthening arms and legs – the two areas of the body used most during a trek.
At Marcus’s recommendation, Erin began researching local hiking trails and scheduled one or two hikes every week. She wears hiking boots and carries a 20-pound back pack during hikes for an extra challenge, though she won’t be carrying a bag on Kili.
“I opted for a personal porter on my trek to give me peace of mind,” she said. “There’s no real way to prep for altitude, but you can line yourself up for success by getting everything else taken care of. That way, all you have to focus on is putting one foot in front of the other.”
Her hikes increase in intensity and duration as the trek approaches. At 90 days out, she was averaging two 1.5-hour hikes every week. Now that the date is about 60-days out, she’s increased them to 4 hours. Long hikes help prepare the body for what it will experience during the trek.
“Fitness training has given me the confidence to know that physically, my body can make it up the mountain,” Erin said.
While you might assume that climbing the world’s tallest free-standing mountain requires mostly physical strength, the reality is that your mind plays an equally crucial role. When training for Kilimanjaro, it’s important to mentally prepare yourself just as much as you are physically.
How do you mentally train? You establish a support system, practice meditation, and think positive thoughts.
“It’s been helpful knowing that everyone in the Thomson office has my back,” Erin said.
Cheerleaders aside, she’s preparing herself by being mindful and staying in the moment – one of the key philosophies of meditation. It’s not a coincidence that the actual trek to the top of Kilimanjaro is a meditative experience in and of itself. For that reason, yoga and other forms of active meditation are great ways to mentally prepare for your climb and meet any anxious thoughts with calm, positive reassurance.
“I sometimes get a little nervous when I’m hiking alone and left to think about the intensity of the trip,” Erin admitted. “That’s when I force myself to stop overthinking everything and just enjoy it!”
Join us in wishing Erin good luck on her trek!