read High Altitude Training

High Altitude Training

High Altitude Training

Ever wondered why top runners head to the mountains, training way up in the sky where the air is thin? What’s the magic up there that turns good runners into great ones? Whether you’re chasing Olympic dreams or just jogging for joy, let’s unravel this high-altitude mystery together. Ready to learn how a bit of altitude can add a lot of oomph to your run?

What is High Altitude Training?

High-altitude training is when runners and other athletes train at places much higher than sea level. Usually, they train at altitudes ranging from 7,000 to 8,000 feet, and sometimes even as high as 10,000 to 12,000 feet. This type of training is popular among endurance athletes, including marathon runners, triathletes, cyclists, cross-country skiers, and swimmers.

What Is The Purpose Of High Altitude Training For Runners?

If you’ve ever visited hilly areas in India, like Shimla or Darjeeling, you might have noticed how the air feels “lighter” and it’s harder to catch your breath. Even a slow walk can make you pant, let alone a tough running workout.

In these high areas, there’s not as much oxygen in the air as there is down at sea level. So, when you breathe in, your lungs don’t get as much oxygen as they normally do. Your body tries to fix this by making you breathe faster and deeper.

The whole point of training in these high-altitude locations is to get your body used to low oxygen levels. After you’ve gotten used to it, when you come back to run in the plains, like in most parts of India, breathing feels a lot easier. This means you can run faster and longer without running out of breath so quickly, improving your overall running performance.
This is not all you will get from High Altitude Training, here are some more benefits from High Altitude Training for runners:

Benefits Of High Altitude Training For Runners

Training high up in places like the hills of Himachal or the mountains of Uttarakhand can do wonders for runners. Here’s how training in less oxygen up there can really boost your running performance:

  1. Makes More Red Blood Cells: In the thin air of hilly areas, your body works harder to get oxygen to your muscles. This leads to an increase in red blood cells, which are like tiny delivery trucks carrying oxygen. More red blood cells mean more oxygen for your muscles, helping you run better.
  2. Improves Your Stamina: Training up high can boost your VO2 max, which is a fancy way of saying the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise. Better oxygen use means you can run longer and stronger.
  3. Better at Handling Lactic Acid: Lactic acid builds up in your muscles when you run hard and makes you feel tired. High-altitude training helps your body get better at dealing with this, so you can run faster without feeling as worn out.

Drawbacks And Precautions With High Altitude Training For Runners
Training up in the mountains can have its downsides and requires some caution. Here’s what runners need to watch out for:

  1. Harder to Maintain Intensity: When you’re up high, the thin air makes it tough to run as fast as you do at lower altitudes. You might need to slow down, but if you slow down too much, you might not get all the benefits of your training plan.
  2. Takes Longer to Recover: With less oxygen available, your body takes longer to recover after workouts. This means you might need to do fewer tough workouts and take more rest days.
  3. Risk of Dehydration: Breathing fast in the dry air of high altitudes means you lose more water. Men can lose up to 1900 mL and women about 850 mL of water per day just through breathing, plus up to 500 mL more in urine. It’s tricky because you might not feel as sweaty, but you need to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.
  4. Altitude Sickness: If you go too high too fast, you could get altitude sickness. This can range from feeling a bit off with a headache and nausea to serious stuff like swelling in the lungs or brain.

Effective way of doing High Altitude Training:

  1. Find the Right Altitude: Aim for training between 5,900 and 9,800 feet (1,800 to 3,000 meters) above sea level. Going higher might hinder sleep and recovery, while lower altitudes may not trigger the desired adaptations. Spend at least 200 to 300 hours over a couple of weeks at this altitude for optimal results.
  2. Understand Individual Responses: Not everyone responds to altitude training in the same way. If possible, monitor your physiological responses to determine if altitude training benefits you. Some athletes may take longer to show improvements. Using an altitude tent or chamber can be as effective as physical altitude. However, you need to commit to spending 12 to 14 hours daily in these simulated conditions to see significant benefits.
  3. Ensure Adequate Iron Levels: Since iron is crucial for red blood cell production, make sure your iron levels are sufficient before training at altitude. Women should have at least 20 micrograms per liter and men 30. Consider iron supplements while at altitude, especially if you’re borderline.
  4. Modify Your Training Regimen: Altitude adds stress to your body, so reduce your training volume by about 25% in the first week. It’s important to balance the stress of altitude with your usual training load to avoid overtraining.
  5. Plan the Timing Carefully: The timing of your altitude training in relation to your goal race is key. Generally, racing right after coming down is beneficial, but the second week might see a dip in performance as your body readjusts. Aiming for a race three to five weeks after altitude training can be ideal.

In summary, high-altitude training is a powerful tool for runners looking to boost their performance. Training in higher elevations improves stamina, oxygen use, and efficiency. While it offers great benefits like increased red blood cell count and improved aerobic capacity, it also requires careful planning to manage challenges like slower recovery and dehydration.. Whether you’re an aspiring athlete or a casual runner, integrating high-altitude training can significantly elevate your running game, provided it’s approached thoughtfully.