Athletes who are training for a competition need to give themselves every advantage possible. One way that many of them do this is through high altitude training, which can be beneficial for a number of reasons.
How it Works
High altitude training results in an increase in erythropoietin or EPO, a hormone responsible for triggering red blood cell production. Hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells, also increases at a rate of around one percent per week. Greater amounts of red blood cells and hemoglobin result in more oxygen being delivered to the muscles, thereby improving endurance.
Training at High Altitudes: The Benefits
Distance runners, Olympic athletes and UFC fighters often engage in high altitude training, particularly when preparing for a competition or fight that is scheduled at an elevated location. There are a number of benefits to working out at higher locations such as:
Results that are noticed almost immediately. Some medical studies show that EPO production spikes within 24 to 48 hours after a person arrives at a high altitude location.
Can boost race performance by around one to three percent, and can thereby make the difference between whether an athlete or team wins or loses.
Altitude training alters the body’s physiology in a manner that does not change overnight after returning to sea level. The benefits of high altitude training can often be noticed for up to 20 days afterwards.
The body is forced to use oxygen more efficiently while at high altitudes, which means a person’s aerobic capacity is greatly increased. This can benefit all types of athletes and not just runners.
Working out at higher altitudes feels harder due to the inherent lack of oxygen. As a result, you are likely to push yourself harder and will learn to tolerate more discomfort even when you return to normal elevation.
Those who are out of shape may notice greater results than those who are already physically fit. Some medical studies show that non-athletes who already have lower hemoglobin levels to begin with tend to experience a larger increase than well-trained endurance athletes.
You can achieve the same results in a shorter workout, particularly in the beginning. Many trainers advise endurance runners to reduce their distance by up to 25 percent during their first three days of altitude training.
It may take ten to fourteen days for you to notice the maximum benefits from high altitude training. In addition, everyone reacts differently when coming back down to normal altitudes again. Some people will notice symptoms such as headaches or sinus congestion shortly after returning to sea level. However, these symptoms are normally very mild and should not interfere with you continuing to work out.
Just because you can’t get to the mountains does not mean you cannot reap the benefits of high altitude training. Using special equipment, you can simulate working out at higher altitudes and enjoy the subsequent improvement in performance regardless of how high above sea level you actually are.