Training for Kilimanjaro: what to do when you’re time poor

By Wednesday, September 10, 2014 0 , , , , Permalink 4

For those of us who have to, you know, work for a living, and keep up with general life commitments, it can be challenging to find adequate time to train. But all is not lost! If you look hard enough you will usually be able to find time in your schedule to do something. And doing something is much better than simply doing nothing.

In this post I will share some of the activities we’ve been undertaking in order to best prepare ourselves for our upcoming Kilimanjaro trek. We are very aware that if you fall victim to altitude sickness, there’s nothing you can do, but I’m guessing that becoming stronger and fitter is a whole lot better than remaining sedentary. If you want to know more, please keep reading.

Justin and I both work full time but are on quite different schedules. My job is your standard Monday to Friday office gig with reasonably consistent hours but Justin is a shift worker so his work schedule changes all the time. So we’re used to training together and training solo, doing long bushwalking/hiking days and short sessions at the gym or nearby. Basically, we take what we can get and hope for the best.

  1. Long day-walks / bushwalks / hikes
    Some of our hikes have been chronicled on this blog — they generally consist of an early morning wakeup and ~1-1.5 hour drive to a location, and about 6-8 hours of hiking. Lunch, snacks, and other day pack essentials are prepped the night before to minimise morning tasks (i.e. wake up, brush teeth, groggily slide into clothes already laid out, grab backpack, tumble into the car). These walks are really great for getting your body used to being out and active for a long period of time, and also getting accustomed to packing your day pack. After a few of these walks, you’ll realise what you need and what’s excessive, and the most efficient way to pack. You’ll also be treated to some fresh air and scenic views. It’s really a blessing when Justin and I manage to both have a full Saturday free, so we try to make the most of these rarities.
  2. Strength training at the gym or at home
    Whole body strength is important to maintain but there are some key muscles to focus on when you’re considering a trek. The obvious ones are your leg muscles (quads and glutes) but do not overlook your back and core, as these are essential for supporting you in your fatigue. My favourite exercises are squats and lunges with weights, one-legged squats, dead lifts and dead rows.There are multitudes of excellent resources that teach you proper form for these targeted workouts. It will just need you to spare about 45 minutes to an hour of your time.
  3. Cardio workouts anywhere
    There are so many options for cardio workouts, but what we’ve been doing is
    Running/jogging – whatever distance our time allows, but usually between 5-10km (takes about 1/2 an hour to an hour of your time). Try to incorporate interval training or run where there are some more challenging hills to train your legs for a more time-effective workout.
    – Doing the Mt Dandenong 1000 Steps (Ferntree Gully, Victoria) – I usually do 2-3 rounds and Justin does 3-4. Going up is difficult but by the time you get back down you feel re-energised. I still insist I could do 4 rounds but I haven’t yet done so! Personally, I have no time to do this during the work week, so I force myself to get there at 7am on a Sunday morning. That way, your workout is over and done with before 9am and you have the rest of your Sunday for errands and activities (and napping).
    Group fitness classes at the gym – this one’s just me. Les Mills group fitness classes like BodyStep and BodyPump aren’t the best or most tailored workouts, but they enable me to do something for a solid hour during the work week. Some manage to do these in the mornings, but I rush home after work, have a quick bite, go to the class, then I’m home by about 8:45pm for whatever I need to do.
    Cross-trainer/elliptical/treadmill – I use this for training at night when it may not be so safe to train outside. Set it at a high resistance level / high incline and go for your life! I try to spend between 1/2 an hour and an hour, alternating between a high level and a medium level.

When it comes to health and fitness, I believe that you should do what works for you. If you’re more likely to go to the expensive gym than the cheap gym, then the expensive gym is ultimately more valuable. If your home gym or workout videos keep you consistent, then that’s awesome. There’s great benefit in keeping in some variety in your workout to keep you motivated and to exercise different parts of your body, so do what you need to keep it interesting!

Let us know what you think, and what you do to train for a high altitude trek (or in general).

Thanks for reading!

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