Endurance: Key #5 to Summiting Kilimanjaro

Tough times never last, but tough people do. -Dr. Robert Schuller

Roundtrip up Kilimanjaro and back down on the route I took is about 60 miles over 9 days. That is an average of just over 6 miles a day, which frankly isn’t that far. I know lots of people where 6 miles is their daily run.

Kilimanjaro is a very doable mountain for people in reasonable shape. No question about it. I outlined what I considered to be my 10 Keys to Success in a post a few weeks ago, but honestly most of it comes down to preparation and common sense.

Having said that, I do consider Endurance to be one of my keys. There are three different aspects of Endurance I think are important.

Injury Prevention & Rehab

A rolled ankle, back pain, knee problems, or some other injury can be the difference between making the summit or not. One of my climbing partners had a bad right knee. And while he wasn’t limping at the beginning and no single day was a dealbreaker for him, the aggregate mileage and constant climbing up and down as we wound our way around the mountain on the way up meant that he didn’t even attempt the summit.

I do a lot of movement practice — working on making sure my body is strong and safe in unusual positions. When most people get hurt, it isn’t doing anything special. It’s doing the everyday stuff that goes horribly wrong. Missing a step, catching something that is falling just out of reach, or slipping on a wet floor. Our bodies end up stretched, twisted, or turned in a position it’s not used to, and tendons, muscles, and ligaments get pulled in directions they are used to being pulled in at speeds they aren’t used to moving. If you are interested in getting started, I highly recommend taking a look at Z-Health’s R-Phase product or Neural Warm Up 1.

Since I’m not terribly keen on being hurt, I have a movement template that practice moving in so my body is more accustomed to being in those odd positions. So, when I do miss a step it’s not a big deal.

While climbing I rolled my ankle a couple of times, fell a few times, and started having shoulder problems from my pack at one point. In each case I used my training as a Z-Health Master Practitioner to quickly nip the pain in the bud before they actually became problems and hindered my progress. Being really resilient against injury and being able to immediately address the two or three things that did come up was really cool!


I said this in my post about attitude, but I’m going to repeat it here — attitude is key. A bad attitude makes you more likely to get hurt and more likely to really wallow in those mishaps you may have along the way. A bad attitude also makes you really not fun to be around. Just sayin’.

Muscle Recovery

I talked about this a bit in my post about preparation, but it is also worth mentioning again. The mileage accumulates pretty quickly without any rest days for recovery. So, I attacked that twofold:

First, I had muscle recovery drinks and amino acids to aid in muscle repair and rebuilding.  Turns out I really like Accelerade. :-)

Second, during my training I specifically put some of my runs the night before my long hikes so that my body could begin the adaptation process of hiking on tired legs.

Endurance gets looked at quite differently based upon the event. In the case of Kilimanjaro, it becomes a matter of making sure you can keep your body injury-free for 9 consecutive days.

About Jen Waak

Jen Waak is a health, wellness, and fitness coach that works with entrepreneurs and other crazy-busy professionals to help them have the bodies they want without having to give up their lives. Also the author of the Keyboard Athletes Guide to Pain Relief & Prevention, Jen lives, trains, and coaches in Seattle, WA.

Sign up for her free How to Have the Body You Want (Without Giving Up Your Life) course today.


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  2. [...] Endurance: The total climb was approximately 60 very hilly miles over the course of 9 days. The longest day was the summit day, which was about 13 miles — with low oxygen levels. For that many miles over that many days, it’s all about just having a body that can hold up. Click here for more on endurance [...]

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