Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was something I had wanted to do since doing three riding safaris in Africa in the period 1996 – 1998. I have been lucky enough to ride in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Mara Plains in Kenya and across the Namib Desert in Namibia. On those safaris I fell in love with the huge open spaces and incredible energy that these places had, an energy totally different to anything you might find in the Western world. Also, the value of being on a riding safari was that you could go to incredible places on the horses that a land rover could not get to and, as the wild animals smelled the horses, not the humans, we were able to get much closer to them. So when some old school friends asked me if I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro this year with them, I jumped at the chance!
With its usual synchronicities that the Universe gives you when you are doing something that is in alignment with your flow, I met up with a friend the following day who told me that her Coach had climbed Kilimanjaro the previous year and had been really impressed with the company, Go Kili, he had gone with. This company had gone out of their way to build close relationships with the trekkers and put a huge emphasis on looking after all their porters really well (something that apparently does not happen in many trekking organisations) and they also took utmost care of the mountain environment during their treks. I “knew” that this was the company that would be perfect for me to go with and that I did not need to research it any further.
As this trek is one of the top 10 treks in the world for difficulty, I knew I would have to increase my fitness and so I set the intention to the Universe that I wanted to be at the level of fitness whereby I could enjoy climbing Kilimanjaro. I didn’t know how fit that would be yet – as with all intentions, the important thing is to let the intention go and allow yourself to be guided from within on how it should be fulfilled. So I didn’t have any kind of fitness plan, but let my inner wisdom guide me about how much, and what type of fitness work I should do each week.
I noticed that over the six months that I have taken preparing for the climb, I had 2.5 months initially where I increased my fitness quite a lot, increasing the aerobic work I did in the gym and also the length of walks I covered out in the Surrey Hills; I then had a 2 month period where I took it much easier, where I just seemed to have much less energy and then in the last 4-6 weeks (which is where I am right now) I found that quite easily and naturally I was able to do much more, increasing my aerobic exercise in the gym to an hour per session, 2 or 3 times a week. I have started to run regularly on the treadmill set on continuous hills and I found this was brilliant for increasing my lung capacity (which will help me cope with the thin air on Kilimanjaro) and overall fitness. I am hoping to be able to run on hills for 30 minutes prior to going out to Kilimanjaro, and so far I have been able to do 28 minutes – so I am nearly there! Every time I did this gym work though I would listen to my body/inner guidance about how much I could do in each session, rather than going to the gym with set intentions/goals beforehand. I knew I had to trust my body’s innate intelligence and the overall “inner plan” for getting me fit enough.
I also found a trekking company nearby (Trek UK based in Shere, Surrey) who offered 17 mile hikes on decent hills which were specific training for big treks like Kilimanjaro. These long hikes are important as you have to be able to climb for up to 8 hours a day on the mountain, so walking for 6 hours on these hikes was so valuable. Additionally, on the hike the leader, Mick Cain, gave us really invaluable information about climbing the mountain and dealing with the altitude. Having done two of these I felt much more confident that I was actually at the level of fitness required.
Another aspect of my fitness preparation that I have noticed especially when I have been at the gym doing the aerobic work is how important it is to your energy levels to keep your thoughts of a high vibration (i.e., positive, kind, loving). I realised this early on when I was on the cross trainer which constantly monitors your heart rate. I saw that if I started thinking negatively, my heart rate would go up, even though the level of exercise I was doing remained unchanged, and I felt as if I had less energy. So I have now got into the habit of doing some form of meditation (with my eyes open with a soft focus) or some inner work while I do my training, and this way my energy was not being zapped by any negative thinking and my heart rate stays lower. It also means that I am not constantly looking at how long I have done and how much longer I have to go for!
The whole process of getting fit has been a great exercise for me in trusting totally in my inner wisdom that knows how fit I have to be and just allowing it all to be worked out for me. It is tempting to have fitness plans and work really hard at getting fit, but as I believe in the Eastern philosophies of effortless accomplishment, achieved by following your inner wisdom and flow at all times, it has been a really easy and enjoyable process.