Ever wondered just what is high-altitude training? Perhaps you’ve asked yourself just how it benefits runners? Both questions are perfectly reasonable since they touch on an interesting topic in the running community: running in high altitude.
Maybe you have heard of many professional athletes who train in locations high above sea level, as means of boosting their oxygen reservoir and improve their race performances. You might be thinking, “just what is my altitude?” as well as wondering if you could do the same thing for yourself.
While high-altitude training isn’t for everyone, that doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from doing it. In this article, we’ll give you the details on how high-altitude training works, benefits your body, and how to get started. Soon enough, you’ll be heading for those places in no time.
Training at altitudes 2000 feet or higher has been shown to enhance athletic performance when performed at sea level. All of the effects of training at high altitudes are due to how the body reacts and acclimatizes to the change in oxygen supply in a different location.
In other words, the higher up you go, the less oxygen there is. Naturally, we need oxygen to breathe, but as athletes, we need more of it in order to generate blood flow to our body’s muscles, in order to propel us forward.
That said, when there’s less oxygen in the atmosphere, the oxygen that is there gets diffused into the bloodstream more slowly, which leads to a drop in VO2 max, or “maximal oxygen intake.” However, instead of decreasing athletic performance, low VO2 max actually increases it.
How does this work? Again, this is due to blood flow: less oxygen equals a decreased VO2 max, but leads to an increase in erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. The more red blood cells you have, the more oxygen you can store and the more your body builds up endurance.
To learn more about how high-altitude training works, check out this video here:
By having fewer resources to oxygen supply at high altitudes, our bodies learn to adjust to the change. Red blood cells increase, thereby leading to more blood flow containing oxygen throughout to the muscles, allowing them to work better and harder.
Therefore, we build resistance, ultimately getting conditioned to low oxygen which will then serve well for racing faster at sea level when oxygen supply returns to normal again. In the end, it’s all about conditioning.
For more information on high-altitude training benefits, watch this video here:
While the whole idea of having less oxygen to breathe during workouts sounds intimidating, know that it’s important to slowly ease into it and take your time doing so. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but rather over a span of several weeks before your body gets used to it.
Start by figuring out just how high you would like to train at. Be warned at heights of 5000 feet and higher can actually have more detrimental effects than beneficial ones on your body; there’s so little oxygen up there that your body starts to eat away at your muscles to conserve energy.
While not the most pleasant experience, professional athletes have still trained at altitudes that high before, so it’s a matter of your running abilities at this point. For beginners, it’s recommended to start at 2000 to 2500 feet before working your way up to higher altitudes.
Next, take it slowly. Since there’s less oxygen at high altitudes, you might find it harder to breathe, let alone force your muscles to push yourself forward. You’ll find that your running times will slow down significantly compared with those at sea level. The higher the altitude is, the slower you’ll become.
However, this is not to say that you should be discouraged if you’re breaking your mile times at high altitude; in fact, you shouldn’t expect to get faster results than those at sea level. Again, this is all about conditioning yourself to run better at sea level, so being patient is important to high-altitude training success.
Finally, take precautions when training at high altitudes. Regarding of whether you’re running or not, getting altitude sickness is a huge possibility, so it’s encouraged to take medication when you climb up to the elevated level.
Additionally, take iron supplements to boost your red blood cell levels, as you’ll need to get used to the low oxygen for the first few days before the benefits start to kick in; your body will thank you later for it!
For more information on how to prevent altitude sickness, check out this video here:
Some athletes who train at high altitude can go for training camps that last as long as five to six weeks. However, if you’re finding it too difficult to last that long, then even a week’s training is good enough to get the benefits from it.
Essentially, listen to your body: if breathing is becoming way too hard or if you’re getting physically sick after workouts (e.g. feeling dizzy, headaches, vomiting), then give your body time to rest for a few days before trying again. In the end, it depends on your abilities to go far in this type of training.
High-altitude training has been thought to increase athletic performance at sea level, and you might be interested in trying it, too. However, one shouldn’t just rush into it, instead taking some steps beforehand to ensure good benefits:
what you’ll need to follow this tutorial. For tips and ideas on how to get good running items, check out our article here:
Comment below if you have any questions!